Time is running out. Government corruption will soon doom to failure an already fragile peace. Tighter and tighter, the skilled team behind Homeland continues to weave an excellent spectacle.
Carrie has gone rogue (again). Using Gromov’s contacts, the pair are able to find where Max is being held. Carrie (Claire Danes) calls for a strike team to help with the rescue, but it may already be too late. Jalal (Elham Ehsas), Haissam Haqqani’s son and likely de facto new leader of the Taliban arrives. Max (Maury Sterling) is forced into an orange jumpsuit as Jalal prepares a camera. Gromov (Costa Ronin) prevents Carrie from rashly charging in, which would certainly get her killed.
Meanwhile, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is doing everything he can to delay Haqqani’s trial, in order to buy the time necessary to ensure due process. His efforts are thwarted, both by U.S. President Hayes (Sam Trammell) and Aghani President G’ulom (Mohammad Bakri). In mere minutes, Haqqani (Numan Acar) is sentenced to death. Outside the building, Saul sees a large crowd forming in protest. The threat is growing. Very soon, Saul fears, the short-lived ceasefire will explode into unprecedented violence.
Homeland‘s Final Season
Homeland is consistently compelling, and one of the main reasons for its success may be the writing team’s skill in handing tension. They place exactly enough information in front of viewers to keep us guessing, but also ensuring us that there is an endgame in mind. This can be a double-edged sword. Many shows of the past have done everything possible to generate mystery, purchasing intrigue with half-cocked concepts that were only interesting due to viewers’ (not unreasonable) assumption that there would be some kind of satisfactory payoff. In short, viewers assumed the mystery would actually go somewhere, and were disappointed when it didn’t. Lost is a prime example, but is certainly not the only one.
Homeland viewers have come to expect the opposite. Every thread pays off, over and over, every season. This precedent forms itself into a promise that creates the tension we feel as we watch these last few episodes. Simply put, we know these various threads will come together in explosive ways, and so we remain glued to the screen, afraid that by looking away we will miss a critical clue. Hints are sprinkled throughout each episode, scenes in which we see just enough to question motives, but not enough to condemn any character.
A prime example in this episode is Tasneem Qureshi (Nimrat Kaur), the Pakistani official who earnestly (or so it seems) promises to help Saul. “I don’t want to watch the world burn,” she tells him. However, the two have been at odds since the beginning of the season, and just prior to her promise of help, her father and mentor had been lecturing Saul on the inconsistent nature of America’s fickle, flakey “friendship.” Moreover, this episode marks the first time we’ve seen Jalal Haqqani since he was picked up in the middle of nowhere by Qureshi, the very woman who is currently with Saul Berenson, claiming she wants to help. The manipulation runs deep.
And yet, her willingness to help seems, so far at least, to be genuine. But we’ve been given clear reason to believe that she has an agenda very much against Saul’s. So is her true intent to disrupt Saul’s plans, and her promised “help” only a means to that end? Perhaps. Indeed, any help she does provide proves fruitless in the end, when the judges at Haqqani’s trial are switched. While Saul works with Qureshi, the viewer knows she’s up to something, but we have no idea what.
Throughout the show are fantastic examples of this subtle manipulation. Imagine the disappointment, however, if even one of these threads ends without a satisfying payoff. Even one loose end in a tapestry can destroy the entire piece, and so it is with Homeland. I desperately hope, therefore, that the Yevgeny Gromov arch will turn out to be more than we’ve been given so far. The episodes ending season 7 and starting season 8 promised a lot with these Russian influences, but the episodes since have offered very little. Here’s hoping the team behind the show continues to rise to the occasion as they always have.
A Strong Commentary on American “Exceptionalism”
A strong theme throughout this episode, and the season as a whole, is various commentary on American hypocrisy. Every chance he gets, G’ulom comments on the fact that American “friendship” is anything but. As mentioned above, Bunny Latif (Art Malik) lectured Saul this episode about America insisting they are friends “only when you need something.”
In searching for contacts to help find Max, Gromov brings Carrie to the site of the wedding party bombing from season 4, prompting Carrie to accuse him of “fucking” with her. Gromov responds that Russia’s contacts most frequently come from places with reasons to hate America: “Every time America comes in and bombs a bunch of civilians, it’s an opportunity for us.”
Now, both in the show and in the real world, things are more dangerous than ever. As F**ker Shot Me and the preceding episodes depict, the only thing “exceptional” about America is its hypocrisy. Thanks to G’ulom’s nudging, Hayes begins questioning loyalty. Putting everyone on “sides.” Anyone who butters him up, makes him feel good about himself, stays on. Anyone who dares tell the truth is in danger of being kicked out.
Presidents G’ulom and Hayes are a perfect representation of how corrupt people can become leaders. Through subtle maneuvering, manipulation of the message, and a few powerful connections, democracy falls. It’s scary how easily it can be done. It’s even more terrifying to consider that it’s happening right here, in America, right now.
Homeland Season 8 Episode 7: F**ker Shot Me aired on March 22, 2020 on Showtime.
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