“Paean to the People” | Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
“Paean to the People” picks up right where “All In” left off. Carrie and Anson are speeding through the streets of
Budapest Moscow Budapow. In this opening shot, their car is the only one on the bridge, adding to the feeling of just how on their own they are, without diplomatic cover, as they try to distract Yevgeny long enough to get Simone on that plane.
The arrangement in this shot!! Everyone whose face is visible is serving so much face. Simone is like, “don’t look at me.” Bennet (with facial hair!) is like, “are you fucking kidding me?” Doxie (with some pretty great side eye) is like, “I am NOT getting stuck in Budapow.” And Ms. Pink Scarf is like, “What am I doing here again? What is my job?” You and us both, Pink Scarf. You and us both.
Let’s give a full round of snaps to Sandy this season. She brought the sassy realness and Russian know-how the whole dang time. This show needs all the female energy it can get and this shot of her pulling out the chair for Clint’s “time out” is incredible. We’re not sure if she’ll be back for season eight, but if she won’t, we will miss her so.
Both Carrie and Anson know what’s at stake in this mission but in this moment, it’s Carrie who has to convince Anson how far she can and will go. We hate to say it, but the moment of recognition shared here between them screams “America First” when Quinn tells Carrie to get in the car and stay down. If seven seasons of Homeland have taught us one thing, it’s that these people all follow the same code: Get in. Get down. Shut up. Mission over self.
We will hand it to the Homeland props department for getting the birthday right on Simone’s fake Carrie Mathison passport (it’s April 5, 1979). But!! Her middle name is spelled Anne, not Ann.
Simone spent a lot of time obscuring her face from the Russian officials in that car, but this glimpse of her expression after she asks Saul if he’s really going to leave Carrie–the Carrie who CLIMBED A FUCKING ROOF LIKE TWENTY MINUTES AGO TO GET TO SIMONE–in Budapow. That is a pursed lip and evil eye if we ever saw ‘em.
…And, of course, the guilt is written all over his face.
We are CACKLING at the dude in the white jacket in the background. We are not sure if he is just a really bad extra or some random stranger who saw Claire Danes in a Budapest train station and needed to share else he was met with a chorus of “pics or it didn’t happen” from his friends.
Sara and Doxie have the same birthday (November 4), which further solidifies that he is her forever man and the best Carrie Angel of them all.
We talked about the strong “America First” vibes above and the whole sequence of Carrie running through the train station is giving us heavy “The Smile” vibes, too. After seven seasons, it’s difficult for some moments not to feel like explicit callbacks from earlier episodes. After all, maybe looking at a mirror in a crowded marketplace is just Carrie’s favorite American spy woman move. But this shot, and Carrie’s smile later, are so specific that we think the homage is intentional.
Real talk though, you really get a sense of the loneliness of the office here, as Beau faces away, back to the camera, surrounded by those heavy curtains.
Lesli Linka Glatter is a choreographer by training and she’s talked before about the diligent preparation she does before directing a Homeland episode. In sequences like these–filmed, acted, and edited with such specific clarity–that training and preparation come through loud and clear. Every shot has a purpose and we’re exposed to all angles of the action. It really is like a dance.
Here, the slow reveal of Yevgeny coming around the corner ratchets up the stakes as Carrie waits, a sitting duck in the locked room.
And here’s our duck. What’s so great about thrilling and suspenseful action sequences like this is the human moments they’re contrasted with. We can see the fear in her face as she contemplates whether to go down in a blaze of glory. She’s not made of steel. She may only have seconds left to live. She may be a hero but she is not a superhero.
Yevgeny delivers a BudaPOW (sorry, we couldn’t resist) with his punch to Carrie, but her moment of defeat is quickly transformed into one of triumph with the news that Saul and his “package” have achieved lift-off.
This smile, guys. Damn. Claire Danes is in a class all her own.
Delirious, glorious laughter. When was the last time we saw Carrie laugh?
It doesn’t last long, of course. The first rule of Homeland is that if Carrie smiles, shit’s about to get fucked up. “At least she had this moment,” we all whisper quietly to ourselves.
The shots of Saul looking down from his window at the city of Budapow–Carrie in it God knows where, the proverbial needle in the haystack–are powerful. He has left her there. And now he has to get her back.
We love this shot of everyone arrayed out like this, watching Simone’s testimony in The Room Where It Happened. Though we would like to point out that it’s hard to take Bennet seriously without facial hair. Dude, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Get on it! (Also there are so many VESTS this season! We count two in this shot alone.)
This is the sequence of shots after Keane says she’ll do everything she can to get Carrie back. There was some chatter about going to Anson first (looking pensive), then Saul (looking sorrowful), and finally Max, who looks the most doubtful and suspect of them all (and, of course, almost hidden behind the others in the back). Sara actually thinks closing with Max is the most powerful. He’s been by Carrie’s side, through thick and thin, all seven seasons of this show. And after the trauma of losing Quinn last season, it’s easy to see how history may be replaying itself for him, this time in agonizing slow-motion.
So many “Pilot” vibes. This show loves playing with reversals and bookends, and having Carrie be the prisoner now is one of the most stinging of them all.
Sara would just like to say that she even looks beautiful in a Russian prison.
The book Carrie’s reading here is called Where Avon into Severn Flows, which is actually a short story by the American writer Harold Frederic and part of his book The Deserter and Other Stories: A Book of Two Wars.
Here is the opening paragraph of the story:
“A boy of fifteen, clad in doublet and hose of plain cloth dyed a sober brown, sat alone at one end of a broad, vaulted room, before a writing table. The strong, clear light which covered him and his work fell through an open window, arched at the top and piercing a stone wall of almost a yard’s thickness. Similar openings to the right and left of him marked with bars of light a dozen other places along the extended, shelf-like table, where writers had now finished their day’s labor, and, departing, had left covered horns of ink and cleansed utensils behind them. But the boy’s task lagged behind fulfilment, and mocked him.”
It’s easy to see the parallels. Carrie is held in a Russian prison, also dressed in plain, ill-fitting clothes. She sits in a broad, vaulted room with a plain writing table nearby. Carrie might have won the battle, getting Simone back to the United States, but here in this cell, her success must feel fleeting and the irony of her current circumstance mocking.
Some major “There’s Something Else Going On” vibes here. (Sorry, we’re just gonna point out all our vibes.)
We’re just gonna call this pose from Costa Ronin the Yevgeny Lean (#IJustLikeHowHeLeans). On a more serious note, some credit needs to be given to Ronin, who brought Yevgeny to life and made him feel like a fully lived-in person. His habit of leaning back, feet propped out before him, is just one small example, but it’s representative of the care and attention he put into crafting such a three-dimensional portrait of one of the most interesting villains in the series’ history.
And that IJLTP shot of Carrie, alone in that Russian prison with the stakes (i.e., her mental health) now clearly defined, is followed by the rather astounding hero’s welcome that awaits Keane back in the West Wing. This reminds Sara of those tunnels that sports teams would form after a game for everyone to run through. And now Sara wishes Keane had run through the tunnel, high-fiving everyone.
It’s Tie Color Time! Note that Beau is now back to the blue tie, having resumed his position as Vice President.
Talk about sweet karma. The scene between Paley and Keane is remarkable for a few reasons. First, Paley does all the talking. Keane doesn’t even give him the respect that comes with a response. He lowers himself to his knees, literally begging for her mercy.
Keane is often shot from below, highlighting her stance and power. But here, it’s a point-of-view shot. We see what Paley sees: this woman, whom Saul once claimed could not “rise above her own vindictiveness,” closing in on him, a bird of prey who’s finally made her catch. And then she spits in his face.
The Washington Monument, which sits due east of the Reflecting Pool, adds great dramatic effect to this beautifully shot (and scored) moment after Keane leaves her meeting with Paley. Despite the monument’s great size, in these shots its height matches Keane’s, which is likely intentional.
As the monument was being completed. Joseph R. Chandler, a Freemason and member of the House of Representatives said:
“No more Washingtons shall come in our time … But his virtues are stamped on the heart of mankind. He who is great in the battlefield looks upward to the generalship of Washington. He who grows wise in counsel feels that he is imitating Washington. He who can resign power against the wishes of a people, has in his eye the bright example of Washington.”
As she drives back through the DC streets at night one last time as President, she’s clearly at a crossroads. History has its eyes on her. (We will also continue to make ALL the Hamilton references.)
We’re not sure if this moment was scripted or if it was a choice by Claire in the moment. Either way, what’s happening? If she praying? Thanking God? Carrie’s relationship with religion and atonement has been basically nonexistent since the show devoted attention to it in season five. We wonder if, like Brody before her, she may be discovering–or rediscovering, as it were–it while in captivity, a salve for her inevitable isolation.
A few things to note from this headstone:
- It’s the tenth anniversary of Andrew’s death.
- Are we really meant to believe Keane is old enough to have had a kid in 1979? Elizabeth Marvel was born in 1969, which means she’s playing at least ten years older than she actually is. Sara does not buy this, but whatever.
- Andrew is born mere weeks before Carrie, which in hindsight kind of shifts the relationship between Keane and Carrie in season six. Carrie really could be Keane’s daughter, and if Carrie indeed did see her in some small part as a mother figure, it frames her conflict with Saul last season–and the battle for Carrie’s loyalty–in an even sharper light.
This is just a gorgeous light, the rows of headstones filling the bottom half of the screen and the large, overgrown tree framing Keane in the top half. It’s her figurative “moment alone in the shade” (figurative because she’s not really in the shade, but y’all catch our drift).
Again, it was impossible to properly capture the moment when Carrie congratulates Aleksandr through anything other than a gif. The quiver in her voice, her attempt at a forced smile. After this moment, the lighting in the room shifts–she is literally forced to see the light, as the direness of her circumstances are fully revealed.
This is the last time we see Carrie before the “seven months later” coda, so now’s as good a time as any to talk about the truly tremendous work she did this season.
From the opening episode, Claire took us on the tenuous, tumultuous journey of Carrie’s war with her own mind and the battles waged within. Every episode, every moment was brought to life with exacting precision. Sometimes we loved her, and sometimes we hated her, but Claire’s commitment to every moment never wavered, whether it was seducing Dante, having nightmarish visions of her bloodied daughter, or inching her way across that GRU roof.
The throughline of this season of Carrie’s mental health makes this moment and the final scene land with even more crushing weight than they otherwise would. When Carrie experiences a breakdown so harrowing and frightening, she goes to extreme lengths to restore her own sanity. In the last three episodes of the season, we see just how invaluable that sanity is–her mind is both her greatest asset and greatest liability.
Carrie knows here what’s about to happen. She stares, eyes wide open, almost as if she’s glimpsing into the future at what lies before her. There’s no safety net this time, no pills or ECT to pull her back or hit the reset button. But for as much as she knows that she’ll lose her mind (in every sense of the word, it turns out), there is also great uncertainty, looking into “the bottom of a black hole with no walls.”
Something we find super interesting about this sequence is just how many perspectives LLG gives us of Keane’s speech, whether it’s Wellington’s from inside the Oval, Saul in his office, or Yevgeny in Budapow. Again, LLG’s choreography background comes shining through. For almost the entire speech, we see her presidency–and what turns out to be its final moments–through everyone’s lens except her own.
LLG doesn’t shoot Keane center-frame, without some extra filter of a screen, until the very end of the scene, after the speech is over. Keane talks earlier about wanting to speak directly to the American people, from the heart, but what we actually get is everyone looking at screens, at the filtered version of this woman and her office, a metaphor if ever there was one for her short-lived presidency.
As her speech (which, like Washington’s Farewell Address, focuses on the need to not let political parties and divisions tear apart the country) nears its end, we do see Keane center-frame. But, again, it’s a shot of her center-frame on the screen, and her appearance is somehow altered and filtered.
(A quick note about her wardrobe: Keane starts the day grieving for her son at Arlington, and she keeps on the same black clothing during her speech, a signal of the impending end of her presidency. The dangling earrings are also an interesting choice, and an unusual one for Keane, who usually wears studs or conservative-looking hoops. Like Carrie in “Species Jump,” this is as close as she’ll get to “letting her hair down,” and the unconventional jewelry choice conveys the peace she’s found with her decision.)
And now the lights come down on Keane and her presidency, in every sense of the word.
The dynamics of this scene remind Sara of the end of “The Choice,” when Saul sees Carrie in that hall of dead bodies after thinking she’d died in the explosion. They shared a moment of recognition at the end of that scene, standing in stark contrast to what unfolds here.
Here’s our first good shot of Carrie, and there’s a lot to take in. The swollen face and unkempt hair are startling, to say the least. Under her bulky black coat she’s wearing white (you can see a peak of her shirt here but her pants–not visible in this shot–are also white), indicating she’s been in an asylum.
The season opened with Carrie running on a treadmill, athletic and strong, the buzzy chords of jazz blaring in our ears. It ends with our heroine on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. She’s feeble and unsteady, running away from the Russian guards and straight past Saul. We hear jazz again, but it’s slower and somehow weightier.
As Saul gently brushes the hair from her face and looks into her eyes, calling her name, she is seemingly unable to recognize him. Her eyes dart from side to side, up and down, but his remain steady on her, and we can see (and share) the concern and devastation etched on his face.
She’s searching, and so is he.