Homeland, ‘A red wheelbarrow’ review: Painting a nursery

“You know you don’t have to promise anything. Really. I understand.”

Increasingly, Peter Quinn has come to symbolize the typical Homeland audience—us viewers were #AllIn at first, but that enthusiasm has slowly been curbed. These days, we want nothing more than to leave but we can’t. Like Quinn, I stay on for a weird sense of dedication and duty to see through to its end my mission of bringing moderately funny recaps to my readers.

But I’m not Quinn. Had I been in his shoes in ‘A red wheelbarrow,’ I wouldn’t have shot Carrie because I was following orders. I probably would have been the one suggesting it to Dar Adal. 

At the beginning of this week’s episode though, showrunner Alex Gansa seemed to have accepted the reality that sometimes, you need to halt your journey to better start again the following day. With Majid Javadi out of the country, what could possibly be the next place? At long last, it seemed like the show’s characters could finally stop running to nowhere and that us Quinn’s of the audience could finally see what happens then.

Life, that’s what.

Life happens when you stop looking for that next place. Life happens when you think. When you breathe. When you stop. That’s when life gives you moments. But that’s not how television shows work. In a TV show like Homeland, the viewers wait, wait again, then some more again, for Saul Berenson, Carrie Mathison or Peter Quinn to stop running, but they never do.

Only this week, they did—and they all experienced those moments that usually never come. (And yes, I am well aware that this is a reference to The Wire, but I’m choosing to overlook this one. I have a better one coming ahead.)

There was one for Fara Sherazi (played by Nazanin Boniadi). Once the young CIA operative, who remains on—what, only her sixth week on the job by now?—realizes that the CIA prefers to turn a monster into an asset, she’s sick with migraines and stays home for two weeks. She must think being a CIA is no different than being a customer representative “at the investment bank.” Before an in-person warning from the CIA’s Mitchell Clawson (played by Chance Kelly), Fara has a heartfelt exchange with her father and reminds us that she’s that “kid, with a headscarf” as Dar Adal (played by F. Murray Abraham) calls her in ‘Uh … Oh … Ah.’ And though she proclaims, “I’m an American,” her father reminds her that their relatives in Iran aren’t. We feel for Fara, who seems to want to prove to herself that she’s just as American as the others working for the CIA but can’t understand why they don’t feel as strongly as she does toward punishing Jivadi.

That’s when this show is at its best, when it forces its viewers to invest emotionally in the characters for reasons that go beyond their pursuit of the token “bad guy” of the moment.

There was a moment for Senator Andrew Lockhart (played by Tracy Letts). If last week’s ‘Gerontion‘ may have proved that he well could be claustrophobic, it also proved that no one sees clearly in the dark. And this week reveals that his game of back-door politics with Dar Adal and Saul Berenson may have left him as the big loser.

Lockhart is in line to the throne in nine days, but you can’t help but think that maybe this isn’t how exactly how it will unfold. I thought it would be Saul, or Dar Adal, who would be left feeling like The Wire‘s Bill Rawls after making their move too early, but I have the nagging feeling it may well be Lockhart.

(This third season has proved willing to examine the tug of war between “those gold standards of intelligence” and “the most unreliable” and, though that conversation hasn’t quite grabbed me yet, I’m willing to give it a chance.)

Mira’s ex-lover-turned-CIA-turned-Langley-bomber-in-the-minds-of-the-viewers-for-only-one-second Alan “Alain” Bernard (played by William Abadie) also gives us a moment, and it’s the show’s funniest since, in my humble opinion, the Peter Quinn (played by Rupert Friend) “bad cop” epiphany in season 2.

There’s also a moment for Mira (played by Sarita Choudhury), who must break the heart of her former lover/bed companion by breaking the news to him that she’s “made a decision to give the marriage another chance.”  Before that talk, she has one with Saul, where she proves to be smarter than the Beard at the head of the CIA.

There were plenty of moments for Saul Berenson (played by Mandy Patinkin) as well. He showcases he’s as adept at cooking breakfast as he is at growing facial hair, which is no small feat.

At the last possible minute, he realized that he did “have a claim” on Mira, so he used it. He wines and dines her, even reveals that he wishes so, so hard that the next place in his journey—rather, in their journey—could be “that island in the Sulu Sea.” Saul tries, very, very hard, but Mira knows that there’s little chance that “he could stay home today.” The lady at work, the CIA, and when she calls the Beard answers.

There was a moment for Quinn too, though it’s one he’d probably rather forget. Carrie has become somewhat of a sister figure for “fuzzy-top” that is Quinn, so it can’t possibly have felt great that he had no choice but to shoot her.

He feels guilty over all that she endured simply for a shot at Javadi (though he now knows she was fully complicit in it), and one can’t help but wonder if behind that shot there may not have been a little bit of him lashing out at her having kept her in the operation when he wanted more than to quit. That was his lone moment, however. Quinn, beyond remaining a great shot, had little screen time—but he doesn’t let bad grammar bring him down.

The biggest moment, however, comes for Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes). She needs “some personal time, between then and now,” and she goes to confess all to a doctor. That all said, if the cat is out of the proverbial bag as to how I feel about Carrie’s role so far in season three, Carrie’s baby remains firmly inside her belly.

But maybe that baby isn’t staying there for so long.

I’m mad at Gansa and the showrunners, because my #TriangleOfWood was perfect—add love to the equation, though, and all bets are off. The role she played in finding a way to meet the man responsible for the Langley bomber leaves no doubt as to whether she knew what she was doing when she put herself, and the baby, through a grueling diet of alcohol, redheads and lithium. That’s the line I can’t cross. It’s fine to examine the toll that the CIA missions take on the operative, but I don’t accept this one—where a CIA officer willingly takes 1,800 mg of lithium.

In season two, Carrie just about threw everything away to stay with Brody. This season has taught us that she’s apparently not willing to do the same for Brody’s baby. She’s done to me, forever.

(It all reminds me of good ole Peggy Olson, from Mad Men. She’s another character who’s done to me for what she did with her own baby, but that’s an entirely different debate.)

Sadly, it’s not clear whether there were moments for Nicolas Brody (played by Damian Lewis) too, as no one is sure if he’s actually moved much from that room since the ‘Tower of David‘ episode.

That’s what I wrote after watching ‘A red wheelbarrow,’ but I’ve figured it out since. I think that maybe it’s not Iran who needs a “regime change.” Maybe it’s Homeland.