‘Oriole’ & ‘All About Allison’
Episodes seven and eight of this year’s thrilling season of Homeland took its story to new places, avoiding some of the routes it had been previously taking and placing specific emphasis on Carrie and her past. Whilst Oriole was a more balanced affair, depicting the interwoven plots involving Carrie, Quinn and Saul in equal measure, All About Allison lived up to its name, focusing almost exclusively on Saul’s defective lover and her connection to Carrie.
The former of these two instalments was a more straightforward affair than that which followed it. It continued the several narrative strands of the season by having Quinn assist his new friends in travelling to Syria (allowing him to get close to a major CIA target), whilst Carrie discovered that, despite popular belief, a person from her past was still alive. Meanwhile Saul confided in Allison before being whisked away by Israelis.Oriole served very much as a filler episode, setting up All About Allison but not offering a great deal in and of itself. The main highlight was its final five minutes as Saul “defected” and Carrie was horrified to find her taxi-driving friend murdered after escaping a close shave herself.
All About Allison was definitely the more impressionable of these two episodes, though not necessarily the best. Its most striking aspect was the use of flashbacks, which saw Carrie meet Allison for the first time as she took over her role in Baghdad. There she also made acquaintance with Ahmed Nazari, the seemingly resurrected Iraqi lawyer from the previous episode, and we got to see how Allison came to be in league with the cringe-worthily sinister Russian bloke she keeps meeting up with.Though it’s always good fun when we delve into years of Carrie’s life before we met her in season one, the way the flashbacks functioned with regards to the current plot was a little problematic. Firstly, the reference to Nicholas Brody was incredibly boring; people were struggling to care about him in season three when he was still in the damn thing, never mind two years after he left. More disappointing though was the episode’s use of minute details from years ago to move things forward. Would Carrie really have remembered the bar in San Lucia that Allison mentioned in passing? Why would Alisson take the officially deceased Nazari there if it was the kind of place she’d talk about to people she had just met? And why on Earth would you have it as your computer screensaver?
Though a nice idea, some lazy scriptwriting meant that the use of flashbacks was executed a little sloppily and for such a crucial moment in this season’s narrative (Carrie realising Allison’s involvement in recent events) to rest on a sequence of events that can be very mildly described as far-fetched does not do an otherwise brilliantly written season justice.Equally nonsensical was the decision to have Quinn turned on by the Syrians as they chose to head back to Berlin (surely rendering the last episode completely redundant), whilst Saul may as well have not been in an episode that had him sit around and talk about defecting a little more. Or was it not defecting he was on about? I don’t think even he knows.
So perhaps how we got there wasn’t a stunning example of TV writing, but these two episodes served as a real turning point as we enter the final stages of this season’s overarching plot. Carrie now knows what the deal is with Allison, but more importantly we as an audience understand the complexity of her situation a little better than we did. As season low points go, this one can certainly be forgiven.