The last time we saw Carrie Mathison, she was using a Sharpie to write the last of her love story on a wall at CIA headquarters. A star in memory of the fallen soldier, and her child’s father, who in the end made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Six months later, that star seems less like an epitaph and more like an asterisk. Brody is dead and gone, but check the footnotes, and you’ll find that Carrie can never truly be free of him.
Though for the first half of this two-part premiere, it seems like she’s moved on perfectly well. Despite last season’s promise of a posting in Istanbul, “The Drone Queen” finds Carrie in Kabul, and she’s totally in her element. Our first glimpse of her comes through the window of a moving car, where she’s keeping a watchful eye on the city’s dark streets to a soundtrack of melancholy jazz music. And whatever may have changed, Carrie is still incautious as ever: She tells her bodyguards she’d like to walk the last few blocks home.
They guffaw in response, but she’s the boss—and because she’s the boss, her walk is interrupted by an urgent call summoning her back to work. As station chief in Kabul, she’s the head honcho in charge of drone strikes. She pulls the figurative trigger, while the station chief in Islamabad, Sandy Bachman (the ubiquitous, fabulous Corey Stoll) supplies the intel. Bachman, a lone wolf/loose cannon type who’s been getting his information from an unknown source, has a line on a super-high-value asset: Taliban leader Haissam Haqqani, who is reportedly holed up in a farmhouse deep in Pakistan’s tribal region. With no time to get a second, independent confirmation of Haqqani’s whereabouts, Carrie hesitates for only a moment before ordering the strike. Bachman’s information has always been good before, after all. There’s no way that failing to do the diligence could possibly come back to bite them this time! (They said, because they are fools.)
Carrie receives a birthday cake from her colleagues (inscribed with the episode’s title, “The Drone Queen”), goes home to a tense Skype convo with her sister, and downs a handful of pills with a white wine chaser, because some things never change. But far away, a group of stunned Pakistanis are frantically clawing their way through the rubble of the wedding that the CIA just blew to smithereens. And yes, even for the hard-nosed killmongers of the CIA, bombing a wedding is considered to be in very bad taste.
The strike took out Haqqani, but also dozens of innocent civilian guests, including the mother and sister of a Pakistani med student named Aayan (Life of Pi‘s Suraj Sharma, looking young and vulnerable as ever.) And it gets worse for Carrie and co: Aayan was taking video on his iPhone at the moment the bombs struck, which means that the CIA are just one YouTube upload away from having their guilty behinds roundly uncovered and waving naked in the breeze. Although Aayan refuses to exact vengeance by putting the video online, his meddling roommate steals and uploads it, and it promptly goes viral.
With protests spiking in Pakistan, Carrie flies to Islamabad to rendezvous with Quinn, who is now pulling double duty as both CIA fixer and speaker of uncomfortable truths about the nature of Carrie’s posting in Afghanistan. It’s worth noting that despite all the turmoil—and heads up, things are about to get even more out of control in the next five minutes or so—the only time Carrie ever looks truly unsettled is when someone brings up Frannie, the child she was pregnant with last season, now left behind with Carrie’s sister in the States.
NEXT: These Stoll-en moments are so fleeting…