While many viewers of Showtime’s Homeland checked out of the series after the death of Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), there are those of us who continue to stick around through up-and-down episodes of up-and-down seasons. The sixth has been one of those seasons where the series has wildly veered back and forth between intensely watchable and intensely terrible, sometimes within the same episode.
The good: This season is one where the show turns its focus on Dar Adal, played by the always excellent F. Murray Abraham. Carrie “got out of the game” in between seasons and began doing legal advocacy in NYC for people like her baby’s father, Nicholas Brody, who align themselves with radical Muslims but — in this case, anyway — are not necessarily a terrorist threat. Meanwhile, Carrie has also been secretly working as a national security advisor to the President-elect, who has her hands full with a crisis in Iran.
It’s Dar Adal, however, who has been pulling all the strings behind the scenes. In order to influence the President-elect into siding with his policy on Iran (the actual policy is muddled and confusing and kind of irrelevant to the storyline), Dar Adal has been waging a covert campaign against both Carrie and Saul, which has included both having Franny taken away from Carrie by DSS and, you know, a small terrorist attack in downtown Manhattan that Adal pinned on Carrie’s legal client.
It’s been a preposterous storyline, and yet, somewhat fascinating to see it unfold and come to terms with how far Dar Adal is willing to go to maintain his influence with the incoming President.
Meanwhile, Peter Quinn’s arc is an absolute mess. After surviving a chemical weapons attack last season and a brain hemorrhage, Quinn spends the first few episodes suffering from a massive case of PTSD that leads him to a life of prostitutes and drug dens. He’s basically suicidal, but eventually, Carrie invites him to live in his home, which leads to a hostage situation where a crazed Peter Quinn gets in a shootout with police in Carrie’s home that leads DSS to take Franny away from Carrie (with a little help from Adal). Quinn is crazy, but he’s also put together that Adal is behind the season’s entire scheme, and now he’s trying to collect evidence against Adal, who is trying to have Quinn — his protege — killed.
It’s been an absurd but entertaining season, more akin to bad seasons of 24 than early-seasons of Homeland, but it nevertheless manages to rise slightly above its material thanks to the always excellent performances from Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin, who are never better than when they share the occasional scene together, as they did this week when Carrie revealed to Saul that the only way to charge Adal with a crime is by implicating Saul, which led to this delightful exchange:
“Maybe you shouldn’t have been fucking a Russian mole,” Carrie yells at Saul, after telling him that a grievous past mistake is about to cost him not only his career but his legacy. “Coming from someone who fucked a guy in a suicide vest, that means a lot,” Saul spits back.
It’s exchanges like that which will keep me coming back to Homeland even in the midst of lowest moments (and this season has had a few highs), although the series’ secret weapon, F. Murray Abraham, may not be able to return for another season unless the writers create a Suicide Squad, which — come to think of it — is exactly the sort of thing this series would do.
But for the love of God, it’s time to let Peter Quinn go.