May 31, 2023


Creative living

Hugh Dancy is here, and he’s hot

3 min read

Welcome to the first (of many) quarantine editions of the Homeland season 8 recap! I am coming to you live from my bedroom — apparently the piece of furniture I’ve been piling my clothes on is actually a desk. This week, I am thankful to Homeland, not only for providing entertainment to look forward to but also a healthy dose of perspective. For example, Max and I are both being help captive but I get to do it with comfortable furniture, a WiFi connection, and enough wine to satiate all of Kabul station.

I promise that I won’t make this entire recap a metaphor for COVID-19 but within 10 seconds of the episode opening, as Saul and Haqqani travel the streets of Kabul on the way to make the prisoner trade (Haqqani will turn himself in for his trial), I was struck by how poignantly their exchange resonated. “G’ulom is the government now, he’ll have to behave with the whole world watching,” says Saul, to which Haqqani retorts: “G’ulom doesn’t care what the world thinks.” 

G’ulom kept his word, at least in regards to releasing the Taliban members held in the soccer stadium, and as the handover goes down Saul implores them to treat Haqqani with respect — it’s to ensure stability in the country, but it feels jarring, yet again, to be treating this guy like he isn’t a decades-long murderer.

Saul returns to HQ to find out, via a very distraught Jenna, about Carrie’s great GRU getaway (he’s not that worried, since he knows she’s going after Max). There was a brief moment at the end of last week’s episode in which I thought Carrie might be joining Yevgeny in the truest sense of the word, but as we cut to the two of them driving through rural Pakistan it becomes clear that he’s genuinely helping her on the Max rescue mission. He’s got guys with a line on Max (of course he’s got guys) and I’m confused about whether I like Yevgeny again. Could he really be a ruthless Russian spy with a heart?

The first stop on their grand tour is the village that Carrie bombed at the beginning of season 4—she visits the gravesite where all of the wedding guests are buried as this season continues to call on moments that close the loop on her time with the CIA. (Except for the plot lines of seasons 6 and 7; it seems we’re all still pretending those didn’t happen). It also allows for Yevgeny to reveal Russia’s intelligence-gathering strategy in the region: They swoop in after the States destroy a village, offering help and buddying up to the residents. He claims that he didn’t put it together that seeing this particular village would unhinge Carrie, but I don’t exactly believe that — and neither does Carrie. The seeds of doubt in her unexpected ally keep cropping up.

Back at the ranch, Saul and his CIA counterparts meet with the White House cabinet to lay out a plan that will help keep Haqqani’s trial above board (or as above-board as anyone can hope for under G’ulom’s rule). They want to de-classify the tape of Haqqani dressing-down his son for violating the peace agreement and President Hayes wants them to “get them the God damn action plan” he asked for two days ago. Look at him learning Presidential words.

Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

The Russian convoy arrives at Max’s coronavirus isolation den makeshift prison cell, hoping to buy him back from his captors. Carrie manages to get inside to check on him and, perhaps more importantly, get important intel on the whereabouts of the black box (sorry Max, but 8 years of watching Homeland can chill a person). She sees his bullet wound and allows Max to deliver the episodes titular phrase: “Yeah, that f–ker shot me.” This is the levity we need right now — especially since a much scarier group of soldiers arrives to steal Max from Carrie and Yevgeny (the latter keeps screaming “This isn’t right!” which is a little ironic imo).

Saul goes to visit an old friend and — suprise! — it’s Tasneem’s father. Saul thinks he’s going to put together an alliance against G’ulom but Mr. Qureshi instead delivers a devastating anti-American monologue that I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing because I’m in quarantine and needed some extra tasks:

“You want us to work together? Like ’79, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan? We were friends then. And after 9/11, when you needed us, friends again. In between: not such good friends. You forget us — no, not forget, you lecture, belittle, withhold aid, violate our borders, send your drones to murder our citizens. Until you need our help and here you are, in my living room, saying we’re friends again. I thought you said, in here, we tell the truth.”

If anyone wants to save that speech for any exes who come crawling back during the time of Corona, be my guest.

Carrie and Yevgeny are able to track Max to his new hideout and this is where Carrie gets really desperate — she calls Jenna Bragg for help. She gives the team his coordinates, sending off a plea for a rescue mission (as Mike chooses this moment to deliver a lecture). It turns out Carrie is officially a fugitive, but not even the FBI can scare her, probably because she’s watching none other than Jalal Haqqani (you know, the guy who tried to murder his dad to take his place) preside over her friend’s capture. Jalal is hoping that Max will tell him who shot down the helicopters, but he refuses to give up any info.

While Max is putting his own life on the line to stay silent, the CIA is biding their GD time putting together an extraction plan. Apparently nobody at the station feels bad that a civilian (well, kind of) embedded themselves with the military in the Korengal in the name of the country.

Something about Saul’s plea landed with Tasneem, because she chases him down and promises to help. They execute a friendly-ish midnight raid on the judge presiding over Haqqani’s trial — a judge with a fabulous eye for interior design, I should add — to present her with evidence that proves Haqqani’s innocence in the helicopter crashes. (It turns out that Tasneem’s change of heart came because Haqqani still sought the peace deal even after she tried to blow his convoy to bits).

The judge agrees to order a continuance to buy some time, but this is G’ulom’s Afghanistan and nothing is as simple as it may seem. After Saul gives Haqqani the heads up on the deal he struck, the Afghani government switches the judge right before the trial to someone who has no problem serving up a death sentence without hearing a single piece of evidence. The only option to keep all hell from breaking loose is a call from President Hayes begging G’ulom to call off the execution — and David Wellington won’t pass the message along because he’s worried he’s going to get fired. It seems Hayes has become obsessed with loyalty over all else, which…well, you can draw the similarities yourself.

Hayes called on some fresh, war-monger-y blood to oversee the Afghanistan, the most evil of which is John Zabel, played by none other than Hugh Dancy — otherwise known as Mr. Claire Danes. The actress discussed her husband’s role on the show before the season began and I have been anxiously awaiting his arrival and, week after week, wondering if I simply wasn’t paying attention closely enough and missed his appearance. As it is, he’s hard to recognize, due to the heavy beard and American accent — but nothing can cover up that sex appeal.

It’s slightly uncouth to segue from the phrase “sex appeal” to the subject matter of the final minute of the show (even more uncouth than using the phrase “sex appeal” to begin with) but I think we can all agree that most societal norms have gone out the window this week: As the episode closes, we see Jalal and his fellow Taliban forcing Max into an orange jumpsuit, readying a camera. That is…not good. Carrie still seems determined to save him, but it’s hard to see what she can do without the support of an entire extraction team. Thanks to the writers of Homeland for leaving us with another source of anxiety this week.

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