‘The Litvinov Ruse’
…And we’re back. After last week’s narratively dubious instalment of spy show Homeland – the episode’s revelatory conclusion revolved around a mere aside spoken by a character over ten years ago – ‘The Litvinov Ruse’ saw the show back on top form, as Allison sought to evade the CIA and get to a Russian safe house, using some of the oldest tricks in the book. We do love it when it gets all old-school spy-y, don’t you?
If last week’s episode was ‘All About Allison’, then this week’s was all about Allison’s men. And there have been plenty of them. The episode began with the reunion of Carrie and Saul, as the two embraced for the first time in a good few years. Once the pleasantries were over however it was business as usual, Carrie being tasked with persuading Saul that his colleague and (unbeknownst to her) lover Allison is in fact in league with the SVR.
She explained the reason for her suspicions (if you missed it, Carrie saw a picture of another of Allison’s previous blokes at a cocktail bar she had mentioned back when they worked together in Iraq), and this reviewer can’t have been the only one thinking “THANK YOU!” when Saul replied by telling her “That’s hardly definitive, Carrie”.It was a painful episode for the man that Miranda Otto’s character had “woke” up, as he watched live footage of her making love to a previously unseen partner, and later saw her retreat to the Russian safe house where another romantic interest, agent Ivan Krupin was waiting for her. The emotional toll of Carrie’s work this season was best emblemised at two points in the episode: at its beginning when Saul admitted “because I don’t want to” when asked why he was so reluctant to believe Carrie’s theory, and after Allison had been caught, where a simplistic shot sees a lost-for-word Saul look towards Carrie who helplessly sighs. Not only had their agency been breached, but their friend was the one that betrayed them.
Peter Quinn had a relatively minor role this week, and spent most of the episode tied up or with tape over his mouth. Let’s hope that injection worked, because whatever chemicals he was subjected to at the episode’s conclusion looked like a nasty way to go. It would also be incredibly unbefitting of the character to go out without a considerable bang.In terms of its direction this was Homeland at its very best. The vast majority of the episode focused on Allison’s evasion techniques, and was better off as a result. Single shots rarely lasted more than three or four seconds, and used a variety of techniques from handheld to CCTV footage to give the episode a great deal of pace, urgency and tension. Allison’s sending out of coded distress signals, jumping on and off trains and generally doing what spies do best as the show emulated a mix of espionage greats from Le Carre and Fleming to Spooks and Jack Bauer will have been delicious viewing for fans of the genre.
Season five of Homeland has certainly gone in different directions to those which we may have expected, and some may bemoan the departure from the more current themes of hacking and investigative journalism that made it feel so refreshing to begin with. However, one can safely say that the action has made up for this, and if the two styles of political commentary and straightforward espionage fiction can intertwine as they often do in Homeland in its remaining instalments, then we should be set for a truly thrilling finale.