The only moments of relief that Carrie gets when she is with Franny is when she buckles her baby up in the car and drives to the curb of Brody household, where she explains to Franny about her dad. (The peach-haired infant in the role resembles Brody more than Carrie, so it is fitting that the only connection she feels to her child comes from her romantic past.)
Elsewhere, she tends to Franny in a methodical, unemotional way, filmed in fragments that portray how little joy Carrie sees in her motherly duties. In the most shocking moment from “Trylon and Perisphere,” Carrie even thinks about committing infanticide, shown through a pulse-pounding moment from Franny’s perspective that moves both above and below the bathwater Carrie washes her in. It is a startling and deeply uncomfortable moment. Gordon also films many of the scenes in Maggie’s home in deep space, creating greater distance between Carrie and Franny. A detached Carrie is not as riveting as the firecracker from earlier installments, but it is a daring place to take a character who has already seen her own world burn.
As for the other major players from the Homeland supporting cast, there is not much to report. Saul is not adjusting well to his time in the private sector, botching a big pitch by commenting on failed counter-terrorist action overseas. We see an impatience from the character to return to his old job and put things back in order, which should perk up the ears of the show’s more fervent fans. However, besides this, Saul is mostly put in the background in the season openers.
Meanwhile, Quinn is shocked by the vicious attack on Sandy, who operated with him in Pakistan. Upon returning to the United States, Quinn is lost, beginning to drink heavily and have promiscuous sex. When he explodes and hurts two jokesters making crude comments about the overweight woman he is with (and who he slept with the night before), we see how this stress is starting to wring him out. (This scene, which turns Quinn into a bit of a Jason Bourne knock-off, is a bit funnier than director Keith Gordon likely wanted.) Carrie used to be the volatile one, and Saul had to deal with her. Now Quinn is starting to feel the strain and Carrie has to be his savior. If only she would give her child the same attention…
As for new characters who should make their presence known this season, the most intriguing one is Aayan Ibrahim. Played by Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma, Aayan is a survivor from the attack on Haqqani – a bombing that also murdered his mother and sister. Haqqani was his uncle; however, instead of vowing for revenge on America, he is more conflicted about his status as a victim. He wants to stay at peace, continuing his studies as a medical student at a Pakistani university. When a friend finds out that he has a video of the wedding right before the explosion on his phone, Aayan tries to hide it. However, the video ends up online.
One of the major criticisms that Homeland receives is its imbalanced look at Islam. At first glance, Aayan feels like a response to the show’s detractors, hoping to show a different perspective of the aftermath of American insurgency, one that the series has not addressed in much detail before. The more Homeland follows Aayan and his resolve to stay out of politics and keep focused on his studies, the more it seems that he will be a fascinating figure to view the shifting geopolitical realm where Showtime’s drama is set. It helps that Sharma gives a powerful if restrained performance. We are satisfied just watching him think about his potentially integral role in exposing injustice, rather than seeing him react with disgust or disbelief, as is the norm for the other characters on the show.
There is formidable menace both in the outside world and inside Carrie, and this fourth season of Homeland has already started on a compelling route to deal with both of these antagonizing forces. In another chilling moment involving Carrie, right before she deals with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, she scrubs blood off of her face with a couple of wipes and applies lipstick. If she can feel for the terrible atrocities she may be half-responsible for causing, it isn’t on Carrie’s face. Danes continues to hypnotize us with a character that’s growing darker and even more determined by the episode, and I, for one, can’t wait to see where she takes us as the season continues.