Homeland: Carrie Gets Even Worse

Season 4's latest twist is sexual, horrifying, and all too familiar.

When Showtime president David Nevins promised that season four of Homeland would be "a big reset," it was fair to expect that "reset" might mean returning to the show's spy thriller roots, instead of giving us a literal reset in the manner of The Hangover 2, which had the exact same plot as The Hangover, only with a new locale and a different facial disfigurement for Ed Helms.

Now, after Sunday night's episode, "Iron in the Fire," it’s abundantly clear: Aayan is Nick Brody, only with a Mike Tyson tattoo instead of a missing tooth. Like Brody, Aayan is intimately connected with a wanted terrorist, and recently lost several people he cared about in a drone strike. Unlike Brody, who was afflicted with PTSD and married, Aayan is possibly afflicted with PTSD, seems to be affectionately involved with a girl at his medical school, and (spoilers ahead), is a virgin. None of this matters to Carrie, who, as mentioned last week, only has one chapter in her playbook when it comes to targets who might be good or bad: She has sex with them.

There are so many problems with this plot device, ranging from the straightforward to the infinitely complex. Why hasn't Carrie learned from last time that sleeping with possible terrorists or people aiding terrorists doesn't tend to work out well? Why is someone who has (however dubiously) clambered up the greasy pole to become CIA station chief in Islamabad compelled to become the honey in her own trap? Hasn't she read Lean In? If Fara had had more success touching Aayan's arm in the classroom, would she be the one seducing him now? Is this actually what female spies have to do? Isn't it neat how the only thing worse than watching Carrie grunt her way through an asset initiation with Brody is watching Carrie manhandle a recently bereaved and sexually inexperienced medical student who's maybe 19, tops?

Perhaps it's best to ignore Carrie, and focus instead on the new, Hillary-centric opening credits and the outstanding supporting cast in this episode, starting with Art Malik as Bunran "Bunny" Latif, a 9/11 truther and Pakistani general who owes Saul a favor (who doesn't?), and who was last seen standing atop an AV-8B Harrier jet flown by Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies and playing a mujahideen in The Living Daylights. There was Raza Jaffrey as Aasar Khan, a fairly intimidating high-up in Pakistani intelligence who speaks with an impeccable British accent, and who was last seen playing Katharine McPhee's boyfriend in Smash and Carrie Bradshaw's butler in the execrable Sex and the City 2. There was Nimrat Kaur (The Lunchbox) playing an equally terrifying ISI agent who appeared to blackmail the ambassador's husband (more on him later) into stealing documents from his wife. And there was a Dave Grohl lookalike (not on IMDB) playing Farhad Gazi, a thug whom ISI hired to start the riot that killed Sandy Bachman.

There was also Mad Men's Duck Phillips (Mark Moses) playing Dennis Boyd, husband to Martha Boyd, who'd been stealing documents from his wife's computer and passing them on to Bachman before his death, and who's now being intimidated by the ISI into continuing the relationship. This is perhaps the second most stupid plot development of the season. Why wouldn't the CIA have access to the same documents the ambassador to Pakistan does? How would her husband be able to steal them? Although, given this is the same lax security that sees Carrie walking into an Islamabad hotel to meet Saul clutching a manila folder full of secret documents, it probably isn't that big a stretch. Not to mention the fact that no one seems to mind that she's never doing her official job with her official CIA team because she's so busy with her unofficial one.

Carrie was so thoroughly unlikeable in this episode that it was something of a relief when Quinn called her out for her addiction to the job, going from one mission to the next, and killing ever more people by remote control. It's inevitable that he's only doing this because he secretly loves her, but hopefully he loves her in an eighth-grade way that'll make him be really mean to her for the rest of the season. If Carrie keeps on this way, it's the only way viewers will be able to get through it.