When a television series has run past its prime, which some may argue Homeland has, the writers have to work extra hard to convince viewers to stick around for another season. After the Carrie-Brody dynamic brought the intrigue down for most of season three, the quality of the Emmy-winning thriller shot back up when the characters reunited for the final few hours of that season. Without Damian Lewis around, though, Homeland’s supporting cast has had to pick up the weight.
For the most part, the ensemble has fared well. However, as the show continues on the way to its fifth season (and perhaps beyond, this being a Showtime series), one hopes the supporting cast gets more to do. That task may be a bit more difficult considering how Carrie and Saul’s relationship – one that did not get much screen time earlier this fall – finally came to the fore in the past few episodes. The riveting climaxes to last week’s hour and “There’s Something Else Going On” stemmed from Saul’s dilemma and Carrie’s plea for him not to take his own life. This drama has catapulted Homeland into a more consistent show than it had been in 2013; however, one expects the series needs to take its supporting cast more seriously going forward.
The two best characters this season have been Fara (Nazanin Boniadi) and John Redmond (Michael O’Keefe). As juxtaposition to the lunacy of some of Carrie’s behavior, these two sane characters are probably the only ones, along with Saul, that can call out Carrie for her blunders and not get in too much trouble. Although Fara has been absent as of late, it was fascinating to watch her development as an analyst in Pakistan. Even if she lacks Carrie’s nerve, she is very good at her job. The same can be said for Redmond, whose efficient work ethic and intuition is probably more valued by the CIA than the Homeland writers’ room.
As for this latest hour, the plotting is more confident even though much of it is sitting around and waiting for the big prisoner exchange to happen. To retrieve Saul from Haqqani’s custody, the CIA must release five of his top commanders – ones with a stained CV of bloody attacks. Carrie believes that getting Saul back is the right thing, but at what price to the homeland? It could be a big one, if the messages of fundamentalist religious hate toward America spouted by Haqqani and his cronies in this hour are any indication.
When it is not focusing on the impending exchange, Homeland is starting to wash off one of this season’s poorest attributes, the subplot involving Dennis Boyd. Carrie now knows about his connection with the ISI and hopes to uncover whether he was the man or knows the person who sold out Sandy Bachman’s location many weeks earlier. Lockhart thinks that Khan is playing her with this new intel, but Carrie has to find some answers. The two-person scene with Carrie and Dennis escalates magnificently, a delicious push and pull between her aggression and his bitter nonchalance.