To borrow from Peter Quinn – who really does have a way with words – Sunday's episode of "Homeland" was a bloodbath, in more ways of one. Titled "Still Positive," the episode kept begging, "Are you gasping? Have you gasped yet? Seriously, did we make you gasp?" "Homeland" traded it's usual 45-minute-mark twist to for an hour long deluge of theatrics meant to shock, but felt exhausting instead.
Of course there was the scene that Quinn was talking about: Javadi ruthlessly shooting the nice lady unlucky enough to open the door, and then gutting his ex-wife's neck with a jagged wine bottle neck. Then there were the events that led to the massacre, Carrie turning the table on Javadi's interrogation of her and trusting him to play along. There was the revelation that she's knocked up, with hoarding tendencies to boot. ("Homeland" could have timed this storyline better to when Claire Danes was actually pregnant, Instead it's Morena Baccarin's puffy pregnant face it's not acknowledging). And of course there was the requisite Dana plot line surprise: that she was moving in with some random girl named Angela and Jessica was just going to let her leave.
As with 90 percent of Dana's storylines, I really didn't care that she was pulling a Holden Caulfield. And Carrie's pregnancy revelation felt just as extraneous – we'll just have to wait and see how the writers tease it out. (It would be really great if the kid turned out to be not Brody's, but the one-night-stander Carrie pick-pocketed the other week).
But the bulk of "Still Positive" proved that this season has made "Homeland" Saul's show – the Claire Danes-to-Mandy Patinkin Emmy count be damned. Enough with the "Is she or isn't she crazy?" Carrie Mathison game. Saul's the only character still worth investing in.
Since the beginning of the show Saul has exhibited a very strong moral code when it comes to the CIA's role, and how it could make the world a better place. It's one he has articulated himself time and time again. It's also a world-view shown in relief, contrasted by the positions of his hawkish foils, first David Estes and Vice President Walden, and now Senator Lockhart and Dar Adul.
He has lured a top Iranian spy – one responsible for a massive terrorist attack. Saul could justify just killing Javadi, given all the dirt he has on him, or at least turn him in to the feds. In doing so, he could have probably reclaimed his directorship from Lockhart.
But no, this episode reveals: In a classic Berenson move, he wants to turn Javadi into an asset. As Saul recounts to Fara about the first time Javadi betrayed him during the Iranian revolution, his idea of "revenge" was sneaking Javadi's wife and child out of the country.
But now Saul's peacenik philosophy is being attacked on all fronts – most obviously with Lockheart's presumed ascension to CIA director, but also in the compromises Saul has had to make with himself. He's had to sign on to missions he didn't want to do, to both restore the political credibility of the agency and to cover the off-the-books Javadi mission he was running with Carrie. In this episode, his faith in his understanding of human nature was further undermined when Javadi didn't meet Carrie, as Saul expected. By finding and killing his family, Javadi did the one thing Saul most wanted to prevent.
When Carrie and Quinn finally bring Javadi into the safe house, at first it appears Saul is afraid to meet him face to face. (Saul had no intention of meeting Javadi at the highway café, as per the original plan). Earlier in the episode, Javadi remarks to Carrie, "Saul Beresnson – even after all these years, putting other people's lives on the line." This is true not only of the situation at hand, but how Saul has always put Carrie, Quinn and presumably other agents in the situations he himself won't confront. And not just because Saul fears the danger; he is not comfortable with perpetrating any necessary violence himself.
Saul finally faces Javadi in the interrogation room. He asks Quinn to un-handcuff him – a move that seems in keeping with Saul's usual dignified approach. Javadi makes a jab at Saul's pacifism and Saul does the least pacifist thing we've ever seen him do – at least, in person anyway. He punches Javadi – absolutely nails him in that face.
That's the only shock that really mattered.
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