What happens when a spy thriller turns conspiracy-slash-mystery thriller?
You get a veteran show – one that critics have been trying to write off for years – producing some of its best episodes ever. Yes, ever.
Homeland Season 6 Episode 6 offered some Hitchcock-worthy scenes, as Carrie played cat-and-mouse with the mysterious watcher Quinn’s been ranting about all season.
Hats off to director Alex Graves for heightening the suspense through labyrinthine camera shots – as when Carrie is running through Conlin’s maze-like home trying to escape his killer – and to composer Sean Callery for the accompanying eerie score.
All Roads Lead to… No Freaking Clue
Last week in my review of Homeland Season 6 Episode 5 I drew up a list of possible suspects in the unfolding whodunit.
This week’s episode gave us some new ones to throw in the mix.
Of course, no conspiracy is the work of a single entity. Homeland Season 6 seems to be toying with the notion of a so-called “deep state,” a state within a state that is immune to the democratic process and exerts influence over national policy regardless of the party in power.
Of course, what groups you believe comprise this shadowy "state" varies widely depending on your politics, but here’s a few of the members Homeland seems to be positing:
Intelligence and law enforcement – including factions within the CIA, FBI, and/or NSA – are strong in the running. In fact, this season’s enigmatic baddie seems to be a bona fide U.S. government type.
We got hints of this when Carrie called the man in Quinn’s pictures – whom not even the FBI can identify – a “deep fucking spook” and when Saad tells Conlin the man looks like government:
CONLIN: You missed it, you piece of shit.
SAAD: Missed it?
CONLIN: Yeah, this guy. [Shows him the picture from Quinn’s phone]
SAAD: What about him?
CONLIN: He was working with Sekou Bah.
SAAD: That guy? Fuck no.
CONLIN: You’re absolutely sure?
SAAD: He looks like government, man. He looks like you.
How scary is that?
Let’s add Secret Service to the pool of suspects. The Secret Service’s extreme sequestration of PEOTUS has my Spidey-senses a-tingling. Let’s keep an eye on this Agent Thoms, y’all.
While we’re at it, let’s also keep an eye on Mrs. Diehl, she’s creepy as hell… something about the way she knits while watching that psycho Brett O’Keefe on TV got my hair all up on end.
Speaking of, did anyone else get Thelma and Louise vibes from Keane and Mrs. Diehl’s little joy ride? I half expected them to drive off a cliff, though I’m not even sure upstate New York has drive-off worthy cliffs.
The military-industrial complex… finally! Yes! At last the missing link I’ve been craving.
In my last review, I speculated that a plot involving the detonation of a deadly bomb in Manhattan is way too atrocious to be entirely ideologically driven (unless, you know, you're an actual terrorist).
I suspected big money was at stake.
Well, now we have the furtive private tech company, Onyx, in the lineup – presumably a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security or Defense or something or other with big dollars to allocate.
CONLIN: Does everyone in northern Virginia have a security clearance?
APPLICANT: Yeah, it comes with your Starbucks rewards card.
CONLIN: I figured I had this gig in the bag.
APPLICANT: With all the people they’re hiring, you probably do […] I was tailored access operations at Lackland. Dude, they kept us in a cage. I can’t wait to get into the private sector. All that data they wouldn’t let us touch. Can you believe the numbers they’re throwing around here?
CONLIN: I know. They say anything strange to you?
APPLICANT: “We’re a node on the parallel backbone, sitting on the biggest fiber-optic transit in the world.” 96.8% of the world’s data, the great bit stream from which all else must arise? Right fucking underneath us. Gives me an information throbber.
I didn’t quite follow all the clues Conlin picked up on while he was snooping around the place – there’s a reason why he’s FBI and I’m writing TV reviews – what I do know is that they are handling tons of data way underground; their corridors are harshly-lit and unnaturally long; and their staff is suspiciously unfriendly.
Do with it what you will.
So what’s got all these various and sundry players’ panties all up in a wad?
Well, it appears Keane is ready to take on the Patriot Act as soon as she gets into office.
REPORTER: The president is urging you and Congress to reauthorize certain provisions of the Patriot Act.
KEANE: That would be a mistake, in my opinion. We don’t need a police state in this country to fight terrorism. We need a new strategy, one I plan to roll out right after my inauguration.
Of course, companies like Onyx that have made crap-loads off of homeland security contracts and agencies like FBI and NSA that have enjoyed huge expansions of power feel threatened by PEOTUS’s less militaristic approach to counterterrorism.
I think that’s sufficient motive, don’t you?
Trouble in Grandpa Paradise
So can we all now agree that Dar is not part of this conspiracy?
Grandpa Dar is entirely consumed with trying to undermine PEOTUS’s foreign policy stance. He’s been way too busy with his little Iran scheme to bother with the likes of Sekou Bah.
If he’s somehow implicated in the broader conspiracy going down at home, I’m sure it’s unbeknownst to him.
Finally, Saul seems to have wised up to Dar’s extracurricular activities. Saul playing the cuckold, once again. Sigh. When's the old guy going to learn, you can't trust anyone if you're a spy. Come on, buddy, get with the program!
VIKTOR: You know what your problem is? You always have to win every argument. It’s not your most attractive feature. [Hands Saul an envelope containing photos of Dar and Tovah’s meeting in NYC]
SAUL: I’d like to keep these.
VIKTOR: Now it’s my turn to say no. The question is, what do we do now?
VIKTOR: Yes. This puts us in a bad situation, you and me.
SAUL: How so?
VIKTOR: Bombings in Midtown. President-elect in hiding. And now a split in your famous partnership with Dar Adal.
SAUL: There’s no split.
VIKTOR: It’s obvious you’re on the outside looking in. Maybe you’re not much use to me after all.
Expect drama in our favorite Homeland bromance now that Saul knows his BFF has been plotting with Mossad behind his back.
Carrie, Alone Again, Naturally
Remember a couple of episodes ago when Carrie was strutting around all proud of herself after getting Sekou released through blackmail?
Well, not surprisingly – the midpoint of the season always finds Carrie at her lowest point – she’s singing a different tune now.
Her one true ally, Peter Quinn, is now locked up in the loony bin and (apparently) convinced that she is in cahoots with the bad guys:
CARRIE: I found the photos on your phone. Max can’t dig up anything on him. I mean, like, nothing. Neither can the FBI. [Quinn looks up] I know, right? Deep fucking spook.
QUINN: How did you get in here anyway? They told me nobody gets in here, nobody.
CARRIE: Who? Who said that?
CARRIE: Why what?
QUINN: Why did you show them the pictures?
CARRIE: I didn’t.
QUINN: You said the FBI couldn’t find him.
CARRIE: No, I showed one guy. The guy who’s helping us, who got me in here to see you.
CARRIE: Quinn, come on!
QUINN: You’re with them!
Has Quinn finally gone off his rocker or was his display of coo-coo part of an act? Granted, Quinn’s behavior has been a teensy bit erratic lately, but he was the first one to sniff out the conspiracy.
Call me a hot-assassin apologist, but I’m not about to underestimate Peter Quinn.
Carrie wanted to get more information from him regarding what he’d seen the night before the bombing, but Quinn knew it wasn’t safe to talk openly about his suspicions. So he did what any reasonable person might do to make her stop asking questions, he bit her.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Whether or not Quinn was faking, the result is the same: Carrie is alone once again – without allies.
Conlin, bless his uptight soul, was very briefly on her side:
CONLIN: I had the C.I. come by the office today.
CONLIN: He confirmed it. That guy in the photo you sent me? Not an associate of Sekou Bah. I ran his photo through NGI, they came up empty, just like you.
CARRIE: So we still have no idea who he is?
CONLIN: If that guy, if he’s involved in the bombing like the photos suggest, but he wasn’t working with Sekou, I don’t even know what we’re saying here.
CARRIE: I don’t either. Not yet.
Of course, having a smart FBI guy helping Carrie crack the case would be way too convenient. It was probably no surprise to anyone that he ended up with a bullet in the head.
Did he even get to take one bite of the scrumptious sandwich he had fixed himself? That's just sad.
Rest in peace, Ray Conlin. You were one of the good guys. I’m sorry I ever called you a royal jerk.
All in all, I’ve got to say I was blown away by "The Return."
Typically, I would grumble over an episode featuring so little Quinn, but in sidelining his story – which has dominated much of the season – Homeland was able to service some of its secondary characters, namely Conlin and Keane, in a way that will surely enhance the rest of the season.
And in isolating Carrie from Quinn (hopefully not for terribly long) we will once again see our heroine’s mettle fully tested.
Did you enjoy the episode as much as I did? Have your thoughts changed regarding who might be behind the conspiracy? Be sure to watch Homeland online and leave me your thoughts below.