After a run of brilliantly directed, excellently paced episodes with the kind of twists and set pieces that Homeland does best, last night’s ‘New Normal’ was disappointingly, well, normal.
The episode began with a short sequence of tracking shots as two men swapped a suitcase in a most suspicious manner. Perhaps this is what made the next hour so underwhelming, because said ominous suitcase failed to return. What the episode mainly focused on was the aftermath of Quinn’s gruesome subjection to sarin gas and Saul’s struggle to contemplate Allison’s actions prior to ‘New Normal’.
Mandy Patinkin put in another superb performance as the ever bitter and conflicted Saul. “You’re angry by nature, one of the angriest men I’ve ever known” said Miranda Otto’s Allison, and she was proven right moments later when he snapped and held her up against the wall as he named those that had died at her expense. Though we can understand Barensen’s rage, his actions did him no favours and led most, including Dar Adal, to feel sympathy for his ex-lover.Though the idea of characters clashing over Dar’s ‘innocent until proven guilty’ stance was an interesting one, having Alisson back in the team so swiftly as they dealt with the imminent attack in Berlin was a bit much. It all got a bit soap opera as she and Saul exchanged judgemental glances and her “babysitter” told her “I don’t believe what they’re saying about you, none of us do.”
The main focal point of the episode was Quinn, and the broadcasting of the jihadi group’s video across German media. Knowing how real these types of threats are, the danger did give the episode a real sense of urgency, however some of the real-life allusions felt a little forced. “Nobody wants to see another Paris” was such a stupidly obvious line that it’d be funny were the subject matter not so painful, whilst “An attack here is gonna make Tokyo look like a rehearsal for the real thing” was just a plain weird thing to say.
We know the show is trying to keep up with contemporary issues and everything, and sure, maybe you need to reference past events to assure uninformed viewers that sarin gas is a thing (although Tokyo proved that it is mighty hard to effectively weaponise), but some of the script really did smack of desperation. It would have been preferable for them to just have “SOMETHING REALLY BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN” flash up in big red letters between scenes.The storyline involving Jonas, Düring and Laura Sutton was a pretty dull one for the most part, though it did provide the episode’s best dialogue as Laura drew a poignant comparison between contemporary events and those of the last decade: “We started two wars, tens and thousands of people died, on both sides. And for what? We’re still killing them, they’re still coming after us.” Its conclusion was highly effective too, though anyone that saw the recent film adaptation of of Le Carre’s A Most Wanted Man will have got a strange sense of déjà vu; same country and everything!
Not the worst episode Homeland has ever produced, but hardly a classic, ‘New Normal’ felt very much like a set-up for what will hopefully be one of its most thrilling finales yet. It’s fair to say that last night’s episode was a mere bump in a road that has thus far led us to some very interesting places, and should continue to do so in season five’s penultimate instalment.