'State of Affairs' finale recap: 'Deadcheck'
The State of Affairs season finale is here. While it’s still unclear whether this episode, “Deadcheck,” will also act as its series finale, the producers chose to end with a cliffhanger. I applaud their optimism, but also, I’m just not buying it. This wasn’t a terrible show—despite the low ratings and the internet’s mudslinging at Katherine Heigl (which, I’d like to point out, I don’t consider myself a part of; I actually like her as an actress, but I just don’t think this was a good enough comeback vehicle for her), State of Affairs might have stood a chance if it had been more steady overall. Last week’s “Here and Now” was a solid, (mostly) well-written, well-acted episode. This finale rushed around to tie up loose ends, pat itself on the back, and then throw in a shaky cliffhanger. Last week I wanted one more episode. This week, I’m not left with the same feeling.
We open with Charlie at CIA Director Navarro’s hospital bed-side. She’s there to tell him that Bellerophon is over. Nick is dead, and there was no Sheikh Hakam: “Fatah built a boogie man and fooled us all.” Jack Dawkins is on the ground looking for proof of death, but she’s certain Fatah is alive. Charlie resigns from the CIA right then, saying she has something she needs to do, and it can’t come back on the CIA.
President Payton has managed to jump the gun and has started her victory lap press conference without Charlie. She tells the American people that they have brought down Hakam, the leader of Ar Rissalah, and Fatah. Charlie rushes in, but she’s too late to stop the presses. Debriefing in the Oval Office, Charlie fills POTUS in on the details. Her plan, so that the public doesn’t find out the president just lied to them and so that Charlie can keep her revenge promise: She’s going to go hunt Fatah down herself. Payton gives her the number for her super-secret secure line, and tells her to call when it’s done.
Cut to a scene in a bar. Some married businessman is trying to impress a young hot thing with tales of his boardroom prowess, and she’s feigning interest while pushing him to down more merlot. He suddenly notices a tattoo on her inner wrist—“Hey, that’s the horse head! Isn’t that like the terrorist thing?” Nah, she says. “It’s actually a pegasus. You could say it’s my spirit animal.” He’s not fazed. This isn’t going to end well for him.
Charlie and Syd are discussing her little trip. As always, he’s concerned for her safety, reminding her that since she’s not CIA anymore, she’s dead meat if anything goes wrong. I mean, yeah—but also, that could happen if she did still have her credentials. Fieldwork isn’t exactly safe for anyone. She’s obviously not going to sit at home, though, so he hands her a bag with unregistered weapons, a dish, and computer.
Payton is livid about Senator Burke releasing the Charlie/Nick/Fatah photo earlier, and she’s yelling down the halls about wanting him jailed. Chief of Staff David Patrick, ever the pragmatist, is like “hold up, don’t start this fight too.” But she’s digging in. Payton wants blood, and Burke leaked a classified file. Off with his head!
NEXT: TKG sinks its teeth into the White House, and Kurt gets overly confident.
Looks like Kurt’s double-agent story was true! He’s at Navarro’s recovery facility going over his TKG findings, including that THG was able to shadow Bellerophon in real time. He acknowledges that he doesn’t know what is up with Emily/Melissa Anchez. “She’s… trouble.” No shit, Kurt. Stay away. His overall TKG assessment: They’re protecting Fatah. They need a constant threat to the U.S., and he’s a superstar. So, if they create the problem, they’re also the solution. Basic TKG business plan: Step 1) Protect international terrorist. Step 2) Let terrorist threat become huge. Step 3) Blackmail government. Step 4) ???? Step 5) PROFIT!
TKG head Victor Gantry is on Step 3. He gets a meeting with Payton, and pulls the whole private corporation/free enterprise routine with her. He has a tape of Fatah and he refuses to hand it over to the CIA. In no uncertain terms, he proceeds to blackmail the president into giving TKG “a hunting license.” Not extortion at all. Nope, not here!
Meanwhile, the first of those missing detonation vests goes off in a Minneapolis mall. The merlot-chugging suit, who has passed out on a bench, is jostled awake by a security guard. He sees the bomb strapped to him, freaks out, and explodes. The CIA quickly tracks the series of events, busts into spirit-animal wine-pusher’s apartment, and finds that she’s hanged herself. Seems to be a theme, no? They can’t catch any more Ar Rissalah members because every mission is a suicide mission. Seriously, if you were going to hang yourself anyway, why not just be the bomber? Why bother having a boring conversation with an adulterous finance bro who is way to old for you?
As the 7th floor briefer team works out how the Minneapolis bombing happened, Charlie calls Maureen from Afghanistan. She lets her know Hakam was a scam, and tells her to start tracking Ar Rissalah chatter in Afghanistan. She has Dash go through all of her old files, and she tells them to go talk to Kenneth Travers, the kid who escaped the bus crash and whom Charlie managed to turn into an informant. Kenneth tells Lucas and Maureen that two of the vests were supposed to go to San Antonio and Houston.
First Gentleman Marshall, whom Payton is calling an “armchair critic,” has had enough. He’s going back home. Like, home home, not the White House home. He’s peace-ing out because he can’t stomach this life anymore. The space between them has grown so large that they sit on opposite sides of the Oval for this conversation. Payton is within arm’s reach of everyone else she talks to in this episode—Charlie, David, Gantry—but her own husband is football field away. Enjoy the ranch, Marshall!
Charlie is walking around an Afghani town at nighttime, chatting away with the briefers on her earpiece. She goes off into a dead-end alley to get uplinked to their mapping efforts. Why San Antonio and Houston? They’re so close together, when Minneapolis and D.C. were so spread apart. Oh, but the people who were supposed to be receiving those vests, according to Kenneth? Al, Mark, and Enid. Team 7th floor was missing Charlie’s fluency in Arabic (and astronomy?) —those were shorthand for parts of the Pegasus. The flank, the saddle, the nose. It’s a map! Boom! Overlay the Pegasus constellation on the United States, and you have a handy-dandy map for all of the bombing locations.
Sure enough, a man in San Antonio is sitting on the steps of a gazebo in the middle of a bustling city park. Kids are running all over the place, couples are lounging. He looks conflicted, and then he makes an anonymous call to 911. His conscious won’t let him kill kids, so he gives up the location of two bombs in a dumpster. High fives all around the CIA. Two bombs down, five to go.
David comes in to hash it out with the president again. “What’s up with you lying in press conferences and talking to Gantry?” he asks. “How did you know?” Payton replies. “Because I’m important toooooo!” he cries, while beating his chest. She tells him Gantry wants TKG to be a hired gun, and David says nope. “It’s patently insane.” Again, he’s not wrong, and again, she’s probably not going to pay attention.
Thus David ends up in Senator Burke’s office. Burke insists that while he doesn’t like the president, he wouldn’t destabilize the country in order to orchestrate her downfall. Nice one, David laughs. “Bob. You leaked the Fatah photo.” Burke attempts to pin that on the late Senator Kyle Green, but David again calls him out. They start hashing out a mutually beneficial deal. David wants the congressional report not to blow up for the president’s sake, and Burke tells David he needs to look to the future. “Where do you want to be standing a year from now?” Burke asks him. “And who do you want to be standing with?” David has mentioned before that he has bigger plans for his career; looks like he’s about to start leaning in.
Kurt sneaks in to Gantry’s giant panic room computer lair to steal all of the data. All of it. Melissa/Emily, because she’s bad news, somehow knows he’s up to no good, and starts powerwalking to catch him. But Gantry stops him in the parking lot. “What did you take from me, Kurt?” he asks, as Melissa—in her powder blue powersuit—strolls up and poses like Miss America. The mainframe computer has a tamper detection program (which Melissa probably built) that sends Gantry a text when anything happens (meaning Melissa probably got that text too).
Gantry eggs Kurt on with a little “Did you really think I didn’t know you were still CIA?” while Kurt gets real cocky, replying, “Hell, I’m positive you didn’t know.” So confident, even after not completing a single mission without getting caught! Men! Gantry continues: “We didn’t target you because you were good,” he scoffs. “We made you a mark because you were easy.” Go ahead and plug that data rip into the CIA, Gantry challenges him. Kurt straight-up tells him he’s bluffing, and Gantry’s like haha, awesome! Try me! Don’t do it, Kurt. Terrible idea. Gantry is a much better poker player than you, and clearly Melissa can back-hack anything. Don’t be an idiot.
NEXT: The CIA closes in on the America Ar Rissalah threat, and Charlie has her do-or-die moment.
Cut to Charlie, on a hill with binoculars, overlooking Fatah’s camp. She calls the president to let her know that’s she’s close to finishing this thing. “It’s odd,” she tells Payton. She can feel Aaron’s presence there with her, which is a funny thing to say since she hasn’t had a single flashback to Aaron in, like, five episodes. Note: Charlie’s had at least three flashbacks to Nick thus far in this episode—him giving her advice, her longing to hear his voice again, him telling her he loved her and would always be with her. Not a single mention of Aaron until now—and while technically he’s the reason for this whole crusade, talking about him now rings as false. But that’s not what the president would want to hear, so go ahead and eulogize your dead fiancé again.
David comes in to have a final word with Payton. As a peace offering, he brings the only un-redacted copy of the senate committee’s report on the Kabul attack. He also drops off his resignation. It’s been an honor, he says, “but I think you need to have someone as Chief of Staff who is like-minded.” Sounds like Burke has turned David, and now POTUS is out one more person who knows too many of her secrets. With David and Marshall leaving her, who is going to be her moral compass to help keep her in line? Charlie? Ha!
The CIA is moving on the rest of the bomb vests now, and miraculously they find all of them. From Spokane to Billings, Montana, all five are accounted for and contained. Kudos, team! And then Kurt waltzes in with his likely rigged data-dump of TKG files. All hail the conquering hero! The briefers rejoice that they finally have some good news, even though they should go ahead and destroy Kurt’s briefcase. Seriously, guys. Do not try to mine that intel.
Charlie rushes into the camp. As soon as she’s spotted, the automatic weapons start firing. She out-maneuvers a few guys, but when her gun jams while reloading, sniper fire from up on the hill takes out her immediate threats. When another man rushes out of a tent at her, the sniper takes him out too. But, when Fatah runs out (while still loading his weapon? No way he’s that foolish), she’s the one to deal with him. Fatah reasons that really, this worked out for both of them. The U.S. President got to say that she killed a major terrorist. He was able to use the CIA to rid himself of the most radical Islamic threats. Mutually beneficial! Nope, says Charlie. You were Hakam. “There was never a Dr. Jekyll. Just Mr. Hyde.”
Gantry is back in the Oval, cutting a deal. They’re both dirty, he and the president. He helped make Fatah as big as he is; she went and lied to the American people. Might as well go into business together. How about I do something about Fatah right this second, Gantry says. Oh, I already have someone on that, POTUS replies. You mean Charleston Tucker, Gantry sneers. No bueno. Gantry has an endgame, and he’s going to make sure it happens.
Charlie is still grilling Fatah during their tense standoff. You attacked our convoy in Kabul, she lobs at him. But I killed my own men to save your life, he counters. In a nutshell, Charlie is upset that she believed in him and what he could do for Islam, and he cites years and years of American invasions and abuses in Muslim counties as evidence that her personal feeling don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. “I f—ing trusted you!” she screams, a line which might have had more impact had ‘f—ing’ not been so obviously bleeped out by network censors. Charlie then kills Fatah, execution-style.
Charlie gets on the phone to call Payton, and sees a truck driving down the hill toward her. The man behind the wheel is waving at her. She turns around to the sound of a plane flying in her direction. The phone clicks off—the president does not pick up—and Charlie gasps. End scene. End series?
— Theory: The man in the truck is Jack Dawkins. Syd called him up as a favor to protect Charlie.
— Between Payton’s all-white version and Melissa’s Harry Dunne look, pantsuits really had a moment tonight.