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‘The Tradition of Hospitality’

What’s really impressive about this fifth season of Homeland is the short amount of time it has taken to flesh out and intertwine a number of distinct plotlines. After a well-paced first episode established the show’s new direction, The Tradition of Hospitality wasted no time in moving things forward, with all four major arcs experiencing seismic changes that already look set to dictate the future of the show.

The school trip to Lebanon turned out to be as hazardous as expected, with Carrie, Düring and newly-acquired security man Mike (Max Beesley), having to escape a rather explosive situation after their hosts’ promise of safety was broken. Political background graffiti aside (graffiti artists are reported to have written ‘Homeland is racist’ in Arabic after being hired to help design the set), the scenes in Lebanon were a return to the show’s claustrophobic best, forcefully conveying the sense of paranoia and anxiety that can only come with being vastly outnumbered in foreign territory and unable to trust anyone. They were similar to Saul’s attempted escape from capture last season, unbearably intense and enhanced by the knowledge that, based on the show’s own ruthless standards, no character is absolutely safe.

Carrie and co. did make it out fairly unscathed however, even receiving a cheeky refund for the Hezbollah man’s betrayal. Despite this, things are far from settled, and as she committed to staying in Lebanon to figure things out, viewers witnessed the first cracks in the protagonist’s new persona. Carrie may have had legitimate reasons to stay, but one can’t help but feel that ultimately the allure of the Middle East seemed a little more appetising to the ex-CIA woman than her office back in Berlin. Staying was a mistake, and in the first of two examples in this episode of Carrie’s past coming back to bite her, it was revealed that she was in fact the target of the attacks that day.

Back in Germany journalist Laura Sutton was forced to deal with the repercussions of her actions after being interrogated by German agents. The men who found the information she leaked argue over whether to make money from their exploits and the CIA are forced by Germany to take internal action over the revelation of their special relationship.homeland-season-5-episode-2-2It’s probably a good thing that those graffiti artists sabotaged the episode because otherwise it’s hard to find a scene where America looks bad. The whole affair between the hackers, journalist and German intelligence agency is morally dodgy ground, and nobody really seems to come out well from it. However the CIA’s involvement causes little in the way of real consequence, with Saul or Allison (Miranda Otto) set to be sacked, replaced by someone new and posted somewhere else.

Everyone, including the writers, seems to be pointing the finger at either German security for getting America to spy for them or at the whistle-blowers for exposing them, not at the people who were doing the actual spying in the first place. As a show that has been harshly accused of jingoism in the past, it’s disappointing to see it represent the US in such an innocent and invincible manner.

Nonetheless, narratively and cinematically the episode possessed all the pace and conviction that we have come to expect from a quality Homeland instalment. Quinn’s tracking down of prospective ISIS trainees and execution of their recruiter was a classic slice of stealthy espionage, and his transformation from the tortured soul of last season back into cold blooded and obedient assassin is a testament to Rupert Friend’s supreme talent and versatility. Well we now know Quinn’s next target (M-A-T-H-I-S-O-N, if you missed it) and this one should prove a little more problematic. Hell, we might even get a word or two out of him in the next episode!

“This is really getting old. The CIA saying I’m a traitor, you saying I’m still working for the CIA” said Carrie last week, as if foreshadowing events of the near future. She’s surrounded on all sides now.

★★★★

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