The roller coaster ride continues. As tension mounts between characters and countries, Homeland viewers find themselves slowly climbing the latest hill. With each episode, the kinetic energy builds more and more as the hills get higher and higher. Sooner or later, we’ll be rocketed into what promises to be an insane, chaotic finale.
Max (Maury Sterling) has been captured, and the flight recorder he obtained from the Presidents’ helicopter is missing, having been pawned by his captor. Carrie (Claire Danes), desperate to find him, meets again with Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin), asking for his help. Gromov agrees to help, but only if Carrie is able to shut down U.S. surveillance in that sector for two minutes.
Carrie manages to shut down the surveillance as requested, but all of her shenanigans have caught the eye of her superiors in the Kabul field office. Having obtained the audio from one of her previous meetings with Gromov, they realize just how deeply she may be compromised, and share the information with Saul (Mandy Patinkin). Saul is given little choice but to send Carrie back to Germany. But Carrie never makes her flight. Instead, she slips away before boarding the plane and is picked up by Gromov.
Meanwhile, President Hayes (Sam Trammell) reaches out to Afghanistan President Abdul G’ulom (Mohammad Bakri). Initially, he tries to convince G’ulom to tread carefully with the declared martial law, to remember that he still must maintain the rules of a civil society. Within minutes, however, G’ulom is able to convince President Hayes that an iron fist is the only viable path forward.
Homeland‘s Final Season
There’s a reason that with Homeland, I keep using the metaphor of a roller coaster. I’ve rarely seen a show that so perfectly represents that same slow, terrifying buildup of energy you experience when going up that first hill. Homeland brings its own mini drops, of course, but each new hill seems to get higher and higher. In “Two Minutes”, the most quietly powerful episode so far this season, we find ourselves slowly moving upward, hearts pounding as we anticipate the inevitable plunge.
The show’s single biggest weakness remains Carrie’s unjustified position in U.S. Intelligence, but finally, with this episode, the problem was given some attention. Jenna (Andrea Deck) and her team were able to clean up the audio they recorded from Carrie’s meeting with Gromov, and it reveals some pretty worrying things, not the least of which is that Carrie’s own report of the meeting was completely false. Mike (Cliff Chamberlain) points out that Carrie’s pitch to President Warner (Beau Bridges) to visit just after having the conversation with Gromov is highly suspicious. “She may have unwittingly helped [Gromov] assassinate the President of the United States.”
Again, all these things were a problem with Carrie long before she was “turned” into being an unwitting Russian double agent. She should not have been there in the first place, let alone have been the one to suggest that the President visit Afghanistan. But so the story goes when you need a main character to be at the center of the action.
Still, Saul finally takes some responsibility for this when Mike brings the information to him. After hearing the tape for himself, Saul confronts Carrie, in one of the most intense and well-acted scenes in the entire series. He apologizes for having brought her in against the advice of her doctors in Germany, and tells her he has no choice but to send her back. She argues that she is the only person who can find a lead on Max, but that she needs Gromov’s help to do so. Saul promises to look into the lead Gromov has but tells her “You are vulnerable to him in ways neither of us can imagine.” The quiet anger between Saul and Carrie in this scene is incredible; I almost expected the room to catch fire.
Haqqani (Numan Acar), still in hiding after failing to make it through G’ulom’s police perimeter, learns that G’ulom is threatening to kill 300 of the Taliban insurgents he arrested if Haqqani does not turn himself in. Determined to do the right thing, Haqqani decides that he will turn himself in, but to the Americans. This way, he hopes, he will be granted a trial, where he can be heard arguing for peace. The decision to make Haqqani, the former head of the Taliban, a hero for peace in this last season, is powerful. Whether he dies a tragic and needless death, or he is eventually able to make his case, as he hopes, the message behind his character will be the same: peace is worth any cost.
The Purpose of a Constitution
The greatest moment in this episode, possibly in this season, was done almost as an aside, as an off-the-cuff remark. Saul and his fellow delegates are advising President Hayes on how to speak to G’ulom; specifically, how to address G’ulom’s discarding of basic rights in the name of the martial law he declared last episode. They suggest that Hayes call G’ulom and remind him that Afghanistan now has a constitution that must be followed.
This moment has incredible power. President Hayes, uneasy in his new role, and desperately looking for any possible way to save face, seems angry about having to submit to the expertise of those around him. Concerned with image over all else, he pays attention only because he must, as part of the duties he is now required to fulfill. Consequently, the power of what his delegates are saying is completely lost on him. Pay close attention to what they say concerning the purpose of a constitution, the reason such a document is an absolute necessity for a democracy to work.
Scott Ryan (Tim Guinee) explains: “It enshrines rights like due process… They have a judiciary. They have a framework for civil society. None of that can be ignored, even in the face of a crisis.” Now, the brilliant moment. Saul interjects, quietly, almost as an aside, one of the most important messages this show can deliver. He adds: “Especially in the face of a crisis. That’s why it’s there. It’s for your enemies, not your friends.”
This moment, almost deceptively delivered as an off-the-cuff remark, is the entire meaning of the show. The constitution is there “for your enemies, not your friends.” It protects the vulnerable, especially those who are vulnerable due to the ire of the people in charge, who may want to unjustly preserve power by destroying exactly such types of “inconvenient” enemies. It doesn’t matter who the affluent believe should or shouldn’t be protected. It doesn’t matter whether or not the powerful agree with sources of information, or which of those sources leadership may think should or shouldn’t be censored. Mr. President, the constitution is there to protect the powerless, not the powerful. It is there to protect people from you, not the other way around.
President Hayes makes the call. As a shocked Chief of Staff David Wellington (Linus Roache) watches, President G’ulom is able to convince Hayes that due process is exactly the opposite of what the situation calls for, and within minutes, has purchased Hayes’ loyalty. The price? He promised to make Hayes look good.
Consider Hayes’ qualities as a leader. Paranoid. Overly concerned with negative press. Expecting everyone else to make him look good (Hayes: “Somebody in there better come up with something for me to do and quickly.”) Takes unverified claims as fact (as long as they help promote his agenda). He doubts the word of the experts around him. Exclusively concerned with personal image above all else. And, of course, submissive to a foreign power. Sound familiar?
Homeland Season 8 Episode 6: Two Minutes aired on March 15, 2020 on Showtime.
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