There’s nothing that Homeland loves more than waiting so long between one season’s finale and the next season’s premiere that it becomes an Olympic feat just remembering where the show left off. Keeping the peripheral characters straight from one 10-month-long dry spell to the next is a feat akin to memorizing an actual phone number. But, now that we’ve completed this final obscenely-long-time-gap I’ve realized I’m quite going to miss all that confusion.
The final season picks up after Carrie was imprisoned in Moscow (you see, this is the part in which I’m going to refresh your memory to save you the cursory Google searches and recap re-reads) and returned to the Americans a shell of her former self. At the end of season 7 Saul Berenson and his CIA counterparts — remember, he’s still the National Security Advisor! — viewed Carrie’s prison stint as a seeing out of their original plan to return Simone to the States to testify against her fellow Russian spies. To me, a person who has invested nearly a decade of her life in the relationship between Carrie and Saul, this read as classic abandonment. We all try so hard not to project paternal standards onto Saul but then Homeland is like: Here he is acting like a disappointing father, good luck dealing with these emotions.
‘Deception Indicated’ opens with Carrie in an Army medical center in Germany, suffering through fever dreams barely softened by Lorazepam and trying to prove that she’s ready to be reinstated at the CIA through a series of increasingly demeaning interviews and prison-yard exercises. But I think it’s important framing to first mention the way we last saw her: Handed over to Saul straight from the Russian jail overseen by Yevgeny-who-I’m-oddly-attracted-to and looking a whole hell of a lot like Brody back when he was on the business end of the night vision camera in Abu Nazir’s underground lair.
The show is doing another of its now-infamous resets, but instead of finding a new setting (the way they did for Berlin, New York, and so on) they’re circling back to old themes. I don’t think that’s an accident. During one of Carrie’s interviews it’s revealed that she failed a Polygraph test (deception indicated on the question “Have you ever conspired with a foreign intelligence officer or service?”) and we begin to see flashbacks of her time in custody — flashbacks that I’m sure we can expect to continue through the rest of the season, as the show toys with the idea of whether Carrie was compromised by her captors and is, essentially, the new Brody.
Meanwhile, Saul is in Doha negotiating a deal to retreat from the Afghan war — and allowing the writers to establish season 8’s terror plotline. His goal is to convince the Taliban to agree to a deal that consists of, essentially, backing-the-f-down. Abdul Qadir G’ulom, the Vice President of Afghanistan, holds a press conference denouncing the peace talks and refusing to ever play by the American’s rules. He happens to be an old acquaintance of Carrie’s and thus: Carrie has a reason to get jumped from the Army hospital, her mental wellbeing be damned. Welcome back, Homeland viewers. I’ll spare everyone the lengthy diatribe on the occasional over-convenience of her disease (does it ever feel like she miraculously gets better just when the plot needs her to be better?) but can’t help but point to a recent Claire Danes appearance on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast when she said Carrie is much healthier than she has any business doing.
Carrie’s mission, should she choose to abandon all rational concern for her health and accept it (she does): Convince VP G’ulom to walk back his anti-peace talk threats. Some of her CIA babysitters are convinced that she might be a Russian agent so they alert Mike Dunne, the Kabul station chief, to be on high alert. He ropes newbie Jenna Bragg into his scheme which consists of the following: Pretend that Jenna is a struggling newbie with a deep need for mentorship, lure Carrie into a friendship, use that friendship to mine her for potential signs of treason. Oh, and listen in to her phone calls. Homeland does a fabulous job of casting in this regard — we’re supposed to find these two grating and it’s easy.
Carrie outsmarts them with some old time-y spycraft (quite literally switching a light on and off a couple times) and meets up with an old asset — past Carrie was smart enough to keep a few key contacts secret from headquarters — who fills her in on the current security situation in Kabul (in a word: bad) and delivers her to the home of another asset, Roshan. His widow tells Carrie that the Taliban murdered her husband five ago — before promptly and correctly requesting that she GTFO of her home — because they found out he was working with the CIA. As his only American contact, who also happened to be in a Russian prison under heavy interrogation at the time of his death, that puts her in murky water. Cue more upsetting flashbacks.
Season 8’s throwback reset also allows the Homeland writers to bring back a villain from the days of yore: Tasneem Qureshi, ISI agent and infamous Taliban collaborator. If the expository dialogue from Saul during her first appearance is any indication (“I remember Islamabad, the embassy, the two hours you stood down your response team while 36 Americans were killed in cold blood”), she’s going to be a major player this time around. Saul wouldn’t…exposit…like that for much less. We learn that she has a powerful father, currently plagued with M.S., who had lead-ISI-agent dreams of his own, which is what we at EW like to call a foreshadowing piece of backstory. We now know Yasmeen’s motive, friends.
The C-plot, at least for the first portion of the season, is a combat outpost in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, where Max (Max!) is stationed with an oddly wise-cracking (for this show, at least) group of soldiers and tasked with monitoring Taliban communications on the front lines. The project involves a highly dangerous mission across a riverbed flanked by enemy fire and gives us the Max-as-hero framing we didn’t know we needed, as well as a Max monologue that beget perhaps the most words he’s ever spoken at once — I took the liberty of transcribing it here for your scrolling pleasure (feel free to add your own crescendo-ing soundtrack).
“I’m not leaving until I’m done. We don’t have a functional listening device on 14 miles of the Pakistani border. We’re in negotiations with the Taliban in Doha. Our people don’t know if they’re having a real conversation or if it’s just bulls–t designed to get us to release 1,000 Taliban fighters in prison. Hassan Haqqani is down there somewhere. He’s the one calling the shots in a hideout in Pakistan that we can’t find on a phone that we can’t tap. He’s the guy that slaughtered 36 of our people in Islamabad. I watched him do it.”
The soldiers that Max is stationed with are, understandably, moved by his monologue and, after they make it through the aforementioned riverbed with zero casualties, anoint Max as their good luck symbol and living Buddha. Good for their casualty rate, bad for Max’s sense of personal space. We look forward to more outpost shenanigans in the upcoming episodes.
To wrap, Carrie is back from her midnight sojourn and questions the increasingly condescending (and, dare I say, misogynistic?) Dunne about Russian involvement with the Taliban and learns that her captors could have easily slipped information to the terrorist group. When she spots Yevgeny of all people coming out of G’ulam’s office right before her own meeting with the Vice President it becomes very clear to her (and us) that this is all orchestrated…somehow. Yevgeny is the formerly-mysterious man on the receiving end of the psychosis-spawned intimacies shown in her flashbacks and, if you’ve been keeping track of the potential Carrie-as-Brody theme that means that Yevgeny: Carrie :: Carrie : Brody. It seems a stretch but is currently the only narrative thread that ties back to seasons 6 and 7 — and I need a reason to believe those years were important to Homeland‘s end game.