Homeland recap: What the heck is a threnody?
Welcome to week two of my quarantine Homeland recaps! (Quarancaps? Coronacaps?) This time around I baked cookies before I watched this episode, which I found really helped to soften the blow of, well, you know. And if you don't know, I'd suggest stepping away from this screen to bake some cookies before you continue reading.
We open this episode (which is titled "Threnody(s)," apparently a word for lament — please tell me I'm not the only person who had to Google that) with Haqqani in his prison cell, reading what I assume to be a tiny Q'uran before his execution. I think we all knew what was going to happen with this storyline, but I didn't imagine it would go down quite like this. Haqqani gets strapped up in front of the firing squad — Jesus metaphors abound — and simultaneously, in the White House, President Hayes is trying to use Max's hostage situation (the video has now gone viral) to postpone the execution. He manages to get a 24-hour stay and that's probably the first legitimately productive thing Hayes has done so far. During this phone call with G'ulom, Hugh Dancy sits by and looks handsome. That's not so essential to the plot, but eye candy is appreciated during this quarantine.
Carrie and Yevgeny are still keeping watch over Max and Jalal, and even though Saul reassures her that the hostage situation is a top priority for the government, she doesn't seem very soothed. She was right because Saul hangs up the phone and immediately implores his team, "Tell me we've got a plan." Their plan is to "marshall resources in Islamabad." CIA jargon! In all seriousness, they'd like to send an extraction team to Max on foot and Hayes is flummoxed again. Sam Trammell's worried face is getting a lot of mileage. Also getting a lot of mileage: My distaste for Dancy's character's actual personality. It turns out he's not into things like rescuing Americans who sacrificed themselves for the greater good.
There isn't much time to ponder that, because Kabul G'ulom decides he doesn't actually feel like waiting 24 hours — he's going to execute Haqqani now. Saul stands by helplessly as the firing squad ravages Haqqani not once but twice. In a disturbing tableau, he rises after the first four bullets to the chants of his followers inside the jail. What Haqqani's death means for everyone else on the show: All hell is going to break loose. The power structure in the Taliban is now entirely up for grabs and Jalal doesn't need Max to negotiate. He shoots him before ditching the compound with his henchmen and we, the viewers, are subjected to a highly upsetting death in an already highly upsetting time (we mean off-screen, of course). Max is gone in a flash and I need more cookies.
Carrie calls Saul and, rightfully so, gives him a verbal lashing for the government's mismanagement of Max's capture. She's correct that they could have (and should have) done more for him, but any casual armchair psychologist will recognize the signs of projection here. All these years, Max has been doing whatever Carrie asked him to do without question, and it was her request for the black box that got him killed in the end. When this is all over, she's going to have a lot of guilt to sort through. She's starting to repent now, by holding vigil alongside his body until the extraction team shows up.
For Jalal's part, his first course of action after his father's execution is to interrupt a meeting of Haqqani's followers and completely derail their original plan to keep the peace agreement alive. Firooz, who was with Haqqani right up until his arrest, is trying (in vain) to rouse support for peace when Jalal swoops in, all charismatic leadership, brandishing the RPG that he claims took down the president's helicopters. The claim of double-assassination is enticing enough to bring all the Taliban members gathered to the other side, despite Farooz's doubts that Jalal is actually behind the crash. (Friendly reminder that the black box is still out there somewhere).
As Carrie and Yevgeny wait for Saul and the rescue team to arrive, Carrie comes to the realization that I've been having (not to pat myself on the back, but to pat myself on the back), which is that her relationship with Max was far more transactional than it should have been. During her entire time in that Russian jail, she never once mentioned him to Yevgeny — that's not so great. Her subsequent breakdown leads her into Yevgeny's arms and we see a little something sparking in the midst of all that grief. How gross/exciting.
Back at the ranch (a.k.a. the White House), John Zabel (Dancy) is scheming — he calls up an old friend and asks for her to find dirt on Wellington that he can use to, essentially, blackmail his coworker. The dirt: A recording of Jalal's earlier speech to the Taliban, RPG-brandish and all. What it means: They have proof (or "proof" because there's still a lot of doubt over these claims) that G'ulom executed the wrong man. Zabel takes it straight to the president — without mentioning that the footage is unverified — and the president takes it straight to the airwaves. He offers a threat to Pakistan (an ally!) that they must extradite Jalal Haqqani or else. A POTUS who goes off-script with dangerous information ... I wonder what that's like?
Saul ships off with the extraction team to collect Max's body and welcome Carrie back to the station, a mission that we all should have known was doomed from the outset. Especially when Carrie assures Yevgeny, as the helicopter approaches, "Saul will be there for me." Homeland loves a foreshadow! The Russians stick around to observe, a decision that proves disastrous for Saul and probably also disastrous for Carrie — as the soldiers, acting against Saul's orders, attempt to arrest her on-site, she (understandably) flips out, assumes that Saul tricked her into surrendering (and subsequently lied about working together to find the black box going forward), and goes running into the safety of Yevgeny's Jeep.
I'm not sure what's more heartbreaking, Carrie's belief that Saul betrayed her or Saul's helplessness in convincing Carrie that he didn't. The exchange is almost heartbreaking enough to make a person forget how many times this show has relied on their changing loyalties for plot points.