HOMELAND (S8E9) “In Full Flight”: Setting The Stage For An Explosive Finale

Only three episodes remain for Homeland. In typical fashion for the show, a thrilling conclusion is in the cards, and with In Full Flight, we’re starting to see the final elements come together. Homeland’s greatest strengths, as well as its greatest weakness, are in full view as we round the final base for the home stretch.

Episode Summary

Carrie (Claire Danes) and Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin) track down the flight recorder Max (Maury Sterling) died trying to protect. Carrie grows suspicious of Gromov’s intentions, and so sneaks away to secure the flight recorder herself. She learns by listening to the recording that the crash, now being used to justify another war, was due to nothing more than mechanical error. But Gromov and his team crash the party, and take the recorder, leaving Carrie with nothing to show for her many desperate measures. Saul (Mandy Patinkin), meanwhile, is called back to Washington D.C., where he is met with a wall of unearned audacity from President Hayes (Sam Trammell) and newly-appointed Adviser John Zabel (Hugh Dancy).

HOMELAND (S8E9) “In Full Flight”: Setting the Stage for an Explosive Finale
source: Showtime

Tasneem Qureshi (Nimrat Kaur), Director of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), learns that the late Haissam Haqqani’s son, Jalal (Elham Ehsas), has quickly risen to a dangerous level of power beyond her ability to control. She decides to ally the country with Jalal, and Pakistan returns President Hayes’ threats with counter-threats of their own, in the form of a nuclear armada.

Affairs and Incompetence and Irrationality, Oh My!

While Homeland continues to display its great strengths in weaving together an excellent spectacle, one of the main devices used in crafting the story continues to be a nagging frustration. Imagine riding a thrilling roller coaster after standing in line for hours. The ride has great loops and exciting twists, but the cart keeps bumping and jostling due to small inadequacies in the coaster construction. While the ride itself may be great, you’re unable to ignore those annoyingly constant bumps along the way, and you can’t help but feel at least a little cheated.

We’re given a great example early in the episode, wherein Saul angrily berates CIA Station Chief Mike Dunne (Cliff Chamberlain) for continuing to… be realistic, and assume Carrie is volatile. Mike is absolutely in the right here, and yet Saul, with a blind spot the size of Wisconsin when it comes to Carrie, preposterously says: “She’s not running. You know it. We all know it.” What kind of ludicrous thinking is that? No, they don’t “know it.” In fact, everything Carrie has done up until this point suggests the opposite. She is volatile. There’s no way to “know” what she’ll do next, so to suggest that “we all know” anything about her is ridiculous, and yet another glaring highlight of this show’s biggest flaw. Indeed, the fact that she ends up selling out her own people by tricking Jenna (Andrea Deck) into giving up the location of the safe house proves (yet again) her position in Intelligence is, to put it mildly, unjustified.

HOMELAND (S8E9) “In Full Flight”: Setting The Stage For An Explosive Finale
source: Showtime

When Gromov intercepts Carrie’s attempt to obtain the flight recorder without him, she tries to appeal to his morality first: “because maybe you’re a good guy.” Again, the truth couldn’t be more obvious: war can only be good for Russia, and it’s likely he’s been pulling the strings the entire time. Then, in usual Carrie fashion, she appeals to him sexually, a trope she has employed so many times throughout these eight seasons that it’s nausea-inducing.

Navigating the Winding Roads of a Political Thriller

Even with these weaknesses, however, Homeland seems to be heading toward a fantastic conclusion. Throughout this season, as well as the show as a whole, mysteries have been presented and resolved, and characters have come and gone. With only three episodes left, we can clearly see the writers consolidating these into what will likely be a thrilling twist. While we can see these various elements coming together for something, we’re left speculating exactly how the payoff will play out. Will Homeland tie everything into a neat, reassuring package? Or will it leave us with the same messy political shitpile (see: realism) with which the show started? Does anything change, or does it all stay the same, despite the best efforts of our heroes?

So far, the compelling twist hinted at in the first episode, that Carrie is the new Brody, “turned” to be used against the U.S., has been on the fringes of the season’s story. In this episode, that plotline finally circled back around. Yevgeny admits in casual conversation to be “more of a planner” than Carrie. Prompted by his words, she asks him pointedly if their “running into each other” outside G’ulom’s office back in episode one was a coincidence, or if Yevgeny had planned for that as well. Gromov doesn’t answer. Her suspicions raised, Carrie decides to go after the flight recorder herself.

Gromov crashes the party and takes the flight recorder, along with Carrie. While we’re still not sure of his final intentions, his role, and Russia’s at large, remain the most compelling elements of this final season.

HOMELAND (S8E9) “In Full Flight”: Setting the Stage for an Explosive Finale
source: Showtime

Meanwhile, back in D.C., Saul is frustrated by the incompetence of President Hayes, and the warmongering of his most trusted (and least qualified) advisor, John Zabel. Zabel’s tendency to speak for Hayes, even jumping in to answer questions pointed directly at the President, shows the real balance of power. Hayes is gutless. As Wellington (Linus Roache) says to Saul: “From now on, we have to pick our battles carefully.” No doubt these words have been shared between the few moderately competent people left on the Trump administration.

Despite its glaring weaknesses, Homeland continues to be a thrilling ride. As we round the final base for the home stretch, these last three episodes promise to be as compelling and exciting as any the show has seen. While there is a danger of painting themselves into a corner, Homeland’s writers have proven themselves before, and will likely do so again. Here’s hoping.

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