It's Carrie against Keane, and so far, no one's winning
Well, looks like Carrie’s back on her
bull spy s—.
America’s turned upside down since
Margaret (oops… guess who just saw Big Eyes!) Elizabeth Keane became president. Saul’s incarcerated, along with hundreds of others, thanks to Keane’s paranoid crackdown after the assassination attempt last season. Carrie’s out of a job, but her frustration at Keane’s regime combined with her inability to do anything about it probably has her feeling like she’s running in place — which is exactly what she’s doing when we meet her in the season’s very first scene. Nice one, show!
You can’t blame Carrie. While she’s stuck at her sister’s house with her government-employee brother-in-law, struggling to keep working her sources, Keane is storming into General McClendon’s sentencing hearing brusquely demanding he be executed for his crimes. Keane’s not even listening to her chief of staff, David Wellington (Linus Roache), who advises her to pull back on her iron fist. After all, the jury chose to dishonorably discharge McClendon, strip him of his rank, and put him in prison for the rest of his life. Isn’t that enough? No, of course not, not to Keane. She glares as Wellington as she demands he “fix” the sentence.
These scenes paint her as the clear megalomaniacal villain of the season, so much so it makes you almost understand why Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber) keeps ranting to his camera despite being on the run. Homeland‘s answer to Alex Jones returns this season as a regular character, and he’s not starting off too hot: His daily anti-Keane broadcast’s gone underground since the events of the season finale — the warrant for his arrest came the day after he called the assassination attempt on Keane a hoax — and he’s scrambling to make his next one. Luckily, he and his assistant’s driver find a small town with a mattress store amenable to the Second Amendment, and soon enough, they’ve set up shop.
Brett gets on the air, sweats through his shirt, starts spewing his thoughts about what he and “the resistance” (I see what you’re doing, Homeland) must do to keep Keane at bay, and reports about Keane’s eventful morning trying to have McClendon executed. Well, of course, Brett embellishes things a bit, saying she called for a firing squad, but the sentiment’s there: Keane overstepped and didn’t act all too professional calling for the head of a once-respected member of the military.
Later that night, Brett and his assistant Sharon eat and ruminate over fast food, but Sharon tells Brett she’s done being on the run. It’s been a month, she’s tired, and even his attempt to plant a kiss on her won’t work this time, she says. Just then, the cops arrive, and the two hustle to run away with all of their gear. But when they’re cornered behind the mattress store, Brett’s saved — and by the cops themselves. They tell him the feds are on their way, and they’re there to make sure he gets away. And he does, after convincing Sharon to stay.
But if Brett’s safe, Carrie’s getting herself in big trouble again, and it’ll be hard for her to get out. She’s told Maggie she’s off for a job interview with the think tank Brookings, but instead she spends the day trying to set up a meeting between her source — who would rather not be named, given how he’s a federal employee who’s been helping to interrogate the suspects Keane has rounded up — and a senator (Dylan Baker, a.k.a. that guy you know from every other prestige show you’ve ever seen), who desperately needs someone on the record in order to push forward actions against Keane and to implicate Wellington as well, so the administration will stop jailing federal employees.
Needless to say, this doesn’t end well for anyone. (Next: The Grand Espionage Hotel)
At the restaurant where she meets with Senator Paley, Carrie checks in a backpack at the front desk, but then leaves her pickup number pinned to a public bulletin board. Chekhov’s pickup number is then grabbed by trusty Max (Maury Sterling), who takes the backpack and sets off on his own mission — which we’ll get to in a bit.
Carrie then continues making moves. At a hotel, she makes some small talk to leave an impression with the front desk, before heading to her room and disguising herself in new clothing and a brown wig. At an extra-posh, different (I think, given how she drove around?) hotel, she readies a suite, then parks herself in the lobby to look out for her source. In time, he arrives, and makes his way up the suite — but Carrie notices he has a tail. She manages to shake him off by accusing the guy of exposing himself to her outside the ladies’ room (gross), but rushes up to the suite to whisk her source away as soon as she can.
By the time Carrie convinces him to get into the trunk of her car, her paranoia’s at full power. She watches the elevator to the parking garage carefully, warily, second-guessing what she should do. She calls her niece, Maggie’s daughter, who hands her the key’s to Maggie’s office and promises not to speak a word of what Aunt Carrie’s up to. (And Aunt Carrie just so happens to open up the trunk and let her source out — a move her niece sees.) And then Carrie finally reveals to her source — a colleague from Afghanistan named Dante, who used to be ballsier than this — what this meeting’s really about: He wants her to go on the record.
In other words, she conveniently didn’t tell him she had already promised Senator Paley he’d be willing to be named. And though he looks like he’s considering it, there’s not enough time to think it all over: By then, Paley’s arrived, and he’s none too happy to find Carrie flustered, with a man who’s trying to get out of the room. Carrie pleads with Dante not to leave, but he pushes her aside when she blocks the door. It all ends with Carrie curled up on the floor and Paley looking down on her, disgusted that he even went through with a meeting as poorly handled as this one.
And by the time Carrie gets home, Maggie and her husband are up and ready to give her another round of scolding. Aunt Carrie’s little mission to get niece Josie to give her Maggie’s keys left all of the children in danger — Franny was left in the care of Josie’s friend, some guy named Jason — and Maggie’s pissed. Not as pissed as her husband — she sends him away — but still: Soon enough, the sisters are arguing, and Maggie refuses to believe there’s a government conspiracy Carrie has to take care of while unemployed and a guest in Maggie’s house. Carrie tries to plead her case, but Maggie’s had enough: Carrie’s out of a job, $38,000 in credit card debt, and in over her head. All Carrie can do is assure Maggie she’s okay — she’s sleeping and taking her meds and exercising — but when Maggie points out how much danger she put the kids in, Carrie cries.
At least missions are failing on the other side too. Discouraged by Keane’s reaction to his advice, Wellington has gone a little rogue, meeting with Saul in prison to offer him a job as National Security Advisor. Wellington tells Saul that what Keane really needs is an ally (aww), because her isolation and vulnerability have only made her more ruthless. But when Saul requests not only direct access to POTUS but also freedom for everyone arrested in the second wave, Wellington bristles at the idea, knowing Keane would never sign off. And so, Saul refuses, and Wellington returns home, exhausted and dejected…
…only to find that an entire team of security experts have gone inside to sweep his rooms for bugs, at the request of President Keane. Annoyed, Wellington breaks up the party and forces everyone out — including Max, who’s brought Carrie’s bag with him — before sitting down to have some peace and quiet.
Well, peace and quiet with the news on, that is. As Wellington watches a report on McClendon being taken to prison, Carrie gets a message from Max saying he got some cameras up and turns on her laptop. She sees the feeds from Wellington’s house and examines Wellington. She’s not done with this mission, even if she got her family in danger on Day 1 — and perhaps she shouldn’t be.
After all, McClendon’s fate didn’t turn out to be what the jury decided. In prison, he’s stripped naked, examined, and humiliated as part of the on-boarding process, if you can call it that. But by the time he pulls his pants on again, he’s starting to choke — and soon enough, he’s writhing on the floor, with no one to save him. One of the guards who administered his physical watches over a monitor as McClendon dies sprawled out on the floor, before stuffing his gloves into a plastic bag to destroy.
So…who did it? Who had this guard murder McClendon? All signs point to Keane, but it can’t be that easy. Homeland likes to toy with the bread crumbs early in its seasons, but I wish it weren’t so simple at this point. Keane’s almost cartoonish now compared to the way she was introduced last season, and though the new additions to the cast are intriguing, they’re not nuanced enough yet to make me as invested in this grand conspiracy as Carrie is. But at least we know one thing for sure: Carrie’s right. There is something going on, and someone needs to get to the bottom of it.