Carrie races to track down Quinn before he can carry out his plan to assassinate Haqqani.

By Kat Rosenfield
Updated May 28, 2015 at 04:42 PM EDT
Credit: David Bloomer/Showtime
S4 E11

“Krieg Nicht Lieb”: War, not love. It’s the title of this week’s episode, but it could also easily be the tagline for this entire season of Homeland. War, not love, is what drives our heroes, despite all pretenses to the contrary. War, not love, is what they’re making week after week, month after month. And war, not love, is the promise that Homeland made to us, in this penultimate episode. Whatever you think of this season’s twists, turns, and unusual choices, nobody can deny that this show knows exactly what it’s about.

When we last saw Carrie, she was going after Quinn, who had gone after Haqqani in the aftermath of the attack on the embassy. Only that breach, and everything that went with it, was about much more than killing American agents or stealing American intel. As Asar Khan explains to Carrie: “It wasn’t an attack, it was a god damn coup.”

In other words, Haqqani’s exit from the embassy was an entree into de facto leadership in Pakistan. Posters of the man’s face adorn every street corner, and the ISI is protecting him; presumably, the next step will be some sort of extremist dictatorship with the terrorist czar at its helm. It’s a bad time for Americans to be wandering the streets of Islamabad, especially Americans like Quinn who have been targeted for death by the ISI. Carrie, working from a locked down, stripped, defeated skeleton shell of a CIA station, is a defeated skeleton shell of her former self. This is the woman who, once upon a time, didn’t know the meaning of the word “stop” if it meant not completing a mission—and yet, when Max suggests that Quinn might find Haqqani and take him out, she simply shuts him down.

“He can’t,” she says.

Only, y’know, he kind of can. For starters, Quinn, the ultimate master of sneaky spycrafting, has found his way to an apartment occupied by a blonde with a German accent.

“Your name is on the watchlist,” she tells Quinn. So, she’s a person who’s privy to the contents of the watchlist. (Then she tells him, “There’s still some clothes of yours in the drawer,” so she’s apparently also a person who’s privy to the contents of Quinn’s pants.)

While Quinn enlists his fraulein friend’s help to track the phones belonging to the terrorists, Max is trying to sneak resources to Quinn, which tells us everything we need to know about how broken-up he is over Fara’s death. He really, really wants to see Quinn take out Haqqani and avenge their fallen friend—but he also really, really can’t hold up to questioning when Carrie catches him red-handed. The only thing left is for Carrie to find Quinn and bring him in, using two soldiers to strong-arm him, which in hindsight was definitely not enough soldiers. Quinn disarms and dispatches both guys in less than five seconds, shoots one of them point-blank in the leg, and then seizes Carrie by the throat before fleeing to who-knows-where. (Side note to Quinn-Carrie shippers: Sorry, but this near act of strangulation is probably the closest you’re going to get to seeing them hook up.)

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The thing is, Quinn really does have a pretty good plan for finishing off Haqqani. And having pinpointed the location of his hideout, and the location of a sewer grate next to said hideout, he gets busy assembling the plan’s components: 1) an enormous block of explosive, and 2) a crowd to conceal him while he carries it. The latter, he achieves by calling on Kiran (a.k.a. Aayan Ibrahim’s med-school paramour) and showing her the video of Haqqani shooting Aayan. From there, it’s easy enough to goad the heartbroken Kiran into putting the video the internet, and leading a throng of angry student demonstrators to Haqqani’s hidey-hole. The arrival of the protesters will flush Haqqani out and provides Quinn the perfect opportunity beforehand to slip amongst them with his homemade bomb and slide it into the sewer.

At this point, a theme has clearly emerged within this episode: of characters galvanized by loss to seek justice, retribution, revenge. Max is doing it for Fara. Kiran is doing it for Aayan. And Quinn is doing it for all of the fallen innocents, but even more so, maybe, for himself—specifically, the version of himself who slips away every time he tries and fails to quit the CIA. It’s a self he has apparently been losing over and over again, for years. We learn in this episode that Quinn’s near-quitting is nothing new; he’s been reaching the end of his rope, and threatening to leave, since long before Homeland caught up with him.

“He will never get out,” his German friend says, with a knowing smile. “But every so often, it makes him feel better to say he will.”

And in the midst of all this loss, there’s one more still to come. Carrie, returning to the embassy, receives an urgent message to call her sister back in the States. When she does, she receives the news that her father has died.

Actor James Rebhorn, who played Carrie’s dad, died in March of this year—leaving behind a terrific self-written obituary, and an open question about how Homeland‘s writers would handle his passing. Fittingly, for both Rebhorn’s legacy and the show’s integrity, they chose to save this scene for a moment when his absence would be keenly, heartbreakingly felt. His loss hits just as hard as any onscreen death, and Carrie’s face crumples. And then, something unexpected comes through the crack in her composure: She asks to see her daughter.

It’s so sweet and sad and jarring to see Carrie in this briefly maternal mode, the next scene seems almost like a throwaway: Lockhart calls to check in, and asks, almost like it’s an embarrassed afterthought, if “something’s going on” with the Pakistanis. Carrie looks confused.

“Not that I know of,” she says, which, in hindsight, should have been our first hint that something absolutely insane was about to go down. On this show, Carrie Mathison saying “I don’t know” (or some version thereof) is the equivalent of an air raid siren signaling an impending plot twist.

NEXT: Shockingly, a plot twist occurs.

And out on the street, outside Haqqani’s hideout, the anti-Haqqani protestors are coming to blows with a group of pro-Haqqani counterprotestors, who are actually a bunch of plants sent in by Tasneem. It’s getting violent—fruit is being thrown, for Pete’s sake—and Quinn’s bomb is in place, ready to be detonated. Carrie, having figured out her colleague’s plan, is there and searching the crowd for Quinn. Asar Khan, who seems oddly unperturbed that his job description as Head of Antiterrorism now includes explicitly protecting terrorists, is searching the crowd for Carrie. Quinn, having planted the explosives, is at a safe distance with his finger on the trigger. And Haqqani, who seems none the worse for wear after having been shot, is emerging from the building in a getaway car.

It is an explosive scene… which is impressive, because nothing actually explodes. Instead, Carrie stands away from the crowd and removes her scarf, knowing that Quinn will see her. And Quinn, seeing Carrie in harm’s way, cannot detonate the bomb. He begs her to get away from the blast site; she tells him he won’t get away with it. And then it’s too late: The car is through the gate, the opportunity has been lost, and adding insult to injury, Haqqani has actually popped out of the sunroof to flip a two-handed “I’m number one!” gesture at his adoring public.

“God damn you, Carrie,” says Quinn.

But hold on, you guys, because God damn Carrie has a God damn gun.

Carrie has a gun, and she’s going to take the shot. She is this close to taking the shot! She’s going to take Haqqani out just like he took out Aayan, with an ignominious bullet to the head, consequences be damned! She raises the gun. She aims. And then, for the second time this season, she’s interrupted right in the act by Asar Khan, whose second job apart from his ISI gig is preventing Carrie Mathison from ever pulling triggers, real or imaginary. And why doesn’t he want her to pull the trigger?

“Look who’s in the car, Carrie!” he says.

Carrie looks. And through the window, unmistakable, is the bald-pated silhouette of Dar Adal.

What in the name of Claire Danes’ glorious golden highlights is Dar Adal doing in the backseat of Haqqani’s SUV? One possibility: He is the string-pulling puppeteer mastermind behind this whole sordid mess, from the treasonous trading of secrets to the murder of Sandy Bachman to the kidnapping of Saul Berenson to the raid on the U.S. embassy. Another possibility: He is the Devil. No, seriously, the actual devil.

But whatever Adal’s role in all this—and no doubt, all will be revealed in the season finale—Homeland has already offered this hint about his motivations. War, not love, remember? Dar Adal is no patriot motivated by love of country; he’s a modern-day Iago who lives to cause drama on an international scale. And judging by the teaser for the final episode (not to mention the rumors that have been swirling since last month about an elaborate funeral scene still to come), the battle that awaits us next week is going to be bloody.

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