Review: ‘Homeland’ – ’13 Hours in Islamabad’

A quick review of last night's “Homeland” coming up just as soon as you get me my belt…

That's three in a row now for Team “Homeland”(*) as “13 Hours in Islamabad” was a worthy, tense follow-up to the cliffhanger from “There's Something Else Going On.” The opening  sequence dealing with the embassy raid was exciting, scary, and largely devoid of dumb action movie cliches(**), with Quinn temporarily shaking off his PTSD issues to play John McClane and Carrie trying to figure out the endgame even as she was aiming at the sniper.

(*) Including the surprise return of Howard Gordon, with his first writing credit (shared with Alex Gansa) since season 2. Gordon's been too busy with other parts of his mini-empire to have anything to do with “Homeland” of late, so it's interesting he came back for this pivotal episode.

(**) Lockhart handing over the MacGuffin assets list in a futile attempt to save Fara's life was the closest we came, since he was unmoved by the deaths of the other CIA analysts who don't happen to be regular characters on the show. But it mostly worked because there's a visceral difference between gun to the head and knife to the throat, and also because we've been reminded over and over that Lockhart is new to this espionage world, and therefore more likely to make a well-meaning mistake like that. (One of the best decisions made this season was to humanize him; he's still a prick, but no longer a cartoon villain.)

Even better, though, was the material that came after, with the emotional and political fallout of this fiasco. Martha's visit to Dennis' jail cell was a fantstic scene for both Laila Robbins and Mark Moses, and the payoff at episode's end – that Dennis was ultimately too cowardly to even kill himself after pleading with Martha for the chance to do so – was really powerful. Also strong: Saul grappling with feelings of guilt and self-loathing for whatever role he played in this mess, and Max scolding Carrie for the way she treated Fara, even as Carrie (rightfully) argues that she was trying to make Fara into a better spy.

Quinn going off the reservation, and Carrie sticking around to either stop him or help him, gives this season an endgame that seems like it'll be more compact than the big events of these past few episodes. As a whole, “Homeland” is on much surer ground these past few weeks than it's been on in years.

What did everybody else think?

(Also, note: Showtime isn't making the remainder of the season – including last night's episode – available in advance. So if I do reviews of any of the upcoming episodes, it'll be sometime the following day.)