A lot of the shots of Dennis are placed on him, behind blinds and bars, like we are surveilling his every move. While Dennis is outraged by the accusations, Martha seems unsurprised by this new development. Their marriage has been so fractious that even this revelation of betrayal comes across as nothing new in Martha’s eyes. (As the ambassador, we only need a chilly glare from Laila Robins to bring his hopes down.)
Alongside the under-utilized Robins, we get a welcome appearance from Sarita Choudhury’s Mira. She calls Carrie to ensure Saul is returned home safely. “I am asking you to remember just normal life,” she tells the CIA head, who has not seen much in the way of normality in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Peter Quinn has little to do yet again, saying just a handful of lines and not doing much on the agency’s front this episode. The show’s writers have not handled him well this season and this inaction continues to be an issue.
Much of this episode looks pretty low-rent, with many of the offices empty or mostly unfurnished. Although this could have something to do with the show’s budget, the lack of décor works in Homeland’s favor. The bare bones sets added realism, as did the episode’s documentary aesthetic – a lot of still medium and long shots, washed out colors, little camera movement. Also, it is amusing to see the expensive drone technology in a room not far from a cheap-looking interrogation cellar.
Director Seith Mann should become a regular director on Homeland more often, as he craftily ratchets up the tension in the final 15 minutes. He controls the sequence very well, intercutting often. We move between a binoculars view of the Pakistani prisoners moving closer, a boy with a bomb strapped to his chest, and then that boy’s face in a sniper’s crosshairs. It proves to be agonizingly suspenseful television. Matched with the Saul’s unpredictable decision-making, conflict emanated from every corner of the frame. He is like a pawn for most of the episode, silent and inactive. Further, when Carrie feels exposed and not in control like she does here, Danes tries her best to give her character the feeling of security to mask her panic and vulnerability. She gave a gripping turn here, in one of her crowning scenes this season.
Of course, though, just as Mira comes on the phone to talk to her unshackled husband, there is rocket fire on the convoy transporting Saul back to the American embassy. The Showtime series is taking a few rules from 24’s playbook, with their continued cliffhangers and the big setpieces just a distraction for the criminal masterminds to evade focus and appear where you least expect them. As the episode’s title attests, there is a lot going on underneath the surface that Carrie is only starting to get a grasp of. The top tier work by a game ensemble and a writers’ room more confident in how they pace and reveal story information continues to make Homeland must-watch television.