Homeland Finds a Motto: 'You Sound Like You're High'

“Gerontion” was a solid episode, except for all the things that didn't make sense.
Showtime

Never say Homeland doesn't consider its viewers. Each week, it seems to offer up a Greek-chorus-style character who voices what much of the audience is thinking. This time, the honor goes to Senator Lockhart, who, while locked in a conference room and apparently the only D.C. powerbroker without at least two smart phones stuck to the hip, speaks on our behalf: “What the fuck?”

Moments earlier, he’d deliver a line that more specifically sums up the particular WTFness of this week’s installment—“You sound like you’re fucking high.”

That’s not to say it was a terrible episode. No Dana, no Jessica, no zombie Brody, lots of CIA people doing CIA things—this is Homeland sticking to what Homeland should be, a psychologically fascinating helping of national-security related mystery.

If only “psychologically fascinating” didn’t, in this case, mean trying to puzzle out why these characters act how they act. (As the police detective, an uncharacteristically magnetic screen presence for a bit player, puts it, “This shit that you people do. … This shit.”)

I’m mainly referring to the treatment of Javadi. Viewers and Lockhart know that sending him back as a double agent can only turn out poorly, but fine, ok, the show has explained why Saul would want to do it. But what’s with the disinterest in the Iranian state secrets Javadi offered to spill? Why treat the intel on who really bombed Langley and how they did it as a mere piece of gossip? This is, after all, the central question we’ve been waiting for the show to tackle all season: If not Brody, who’s the traitor?

It’s heartening that Carrie seems to finally, finally be interested in the answer at the end of the episode. But the whole I-don’t-even-want-to-hear-it routine while she was driving Javadi, followed by an oh-wait-duh-of-course-I-want-to-hear-it moment on the tarmac, seemed like the show making a joke out of how long it’s taken to deliver on the intrigue suggested by the second season finale.

More perplexing decisions surrounded the aftermath of last week's bloodbath. The cops won’t shut down the investigation of a grizzly double homicide in suburbia merely because the CIA agent puking in the crime-scene bathroom asked them to. Fair enough. But they will shut down the prosecution of that double homicide once their main suspect—whose photo was sent out over the law-enforcement wires and, you’d guess, had found its way to the news—has confessed to it? Do I have that right? Thinking more, I suppose it’s somewhat more convincing to have a spy tell you they’re responsible and it’s none of your business than it is to have one just tell you that it’s none of your business. But even so, Homeland again made an unforced error by blowing past the explanation for why Saul et. al. would have the blithe conviction that Quinn would walk free.

That said, the haste did have a payoff. That confession and Quinn’s “wrong crime, right guy” wariness resonated thematically—you can’t say this season has fallen down on Alex Gansa’s promise to show “the toll that intelligence work takes on human beings.”

Back in Langley, the open hostility between Lockhart and Saul made for some entertaining viewing. (Even better than the “WTF” and “fucking high” lines: Lockhart clarifying that Dar Adal does, indeed, go by the first name “Dar” by shouting it over and over again through the glass door). It’s nice to see Saul get his swagger back at home and at work, even if the aforementioned “toll that intelligence work takes on human beings” vibe means it won’t last. His argument for Javadi’s significance refreshingly spelled out the larger stakes of the plot: For once, we’re reminded that all of this madness is in the pursuit of peace.

(One more Dar Adal-related parenthetical: He’s a pretty good candidate for the mole, right? Especially given how he seems to be flip-flopping on his bureaucratic loyalties depending on whoever has the advantage at the moment.)

But the show still hasn’t really sketched out what the incoming and outgoing CIA heads are warring about—how, exactly, one can plausibly be against “human intelligence.” I’m actually curious; is Lockhart talking about replacing all undercover ops with drones and hacking and bombs? Homeland’s CIA already seems to be using those methods. Is this guy seriously only looking to remove “persuasion” from the toolbox? Isn’t that just self-evidently dumb? The series has waved away these questions by having Lockhart’s only qualities be smugness and exasperation, which is unfortunate—especially given how often his exasperation seems completely valid.

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Spencer Kornhaber is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he edits the Entertainment channel. More

Before coming to The Atlantic, he worked as an editor for AOL's Patch.com and as a staff writer at Village Voice Media's OC Weekly. He has also written for Spin, The AV Club, RollingStone.com, Field & Stream, and The Orange County Register.

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