“False Friends” | Directed by Keith Gordon, Cinematography by Peter Levy
In case you hadn’t heard, Carrie smoked a few cigarettes this week. The opening of the episode is actually pretty interesting, the conversation with Yevgeny the previous night in the bar ringing in Carrie’s ears. (Carrie isn’t sleeping–again–and we all know that spells trouble for her.)
Carrie is, for the most part, a loner smoker. And a stress smoker. And a rooftop smoker, apparently! Here more than in previous instances where we’ve seen her smoke, the setting–all alone on the roof–visually represents her own headspace.
She flashes back to the scene we’ve seen several times already this season. This time, however, we finally see Carrie clearly. She speaks, she’s lucid. There is real fear in her expression, but also longing. The reveal of course is that Carrie is on her meds and in her right mind, and she doesn’t want Yevgeny to leave.
The camera turns to Yevgeny as Carrie’s dragged away. This is a shot we’ve seen already this season but, by the end of the episode, his expression takes on a different meaning. It’s not cold or detached. He doesn’t want to leave her either.
The repetition of this specific memory and the way it’s morphed over the episodes is remarkably similar to early season one Brody. We all knew the Carrie/Brody parallels this season would be heavy; the show is not only retelling that story with roles reversed but also using many of the storytelling devices they used in season one.
Then as now, the audience learns along with the characters what actually took place. First we learn that Brody actually did know Nazir; Nazir held him. Then we learn that Brody watched Tom Walker die. Then we learn that Brody is the one who beat Tom Walker to death (or at least he thought he did). The key difference obviously is that Brody was deceiving Carrie. Carrie is deceiving herself (or is she?).
IJLTP. (Any time this show does something with bokeh IJLTP.) (Bokeh is the way a camera lens renders out-of-focus points of light.)
We thought the framing of this particular shot was interesting. There are two blocks of color behind Carrie, orange and white, and her body lies squarely in the center of either, one half on either side. Maybe this was completely accidental, or maybe it’s symbolic and indicative of the way she’s being pulled in different directions. She also remains in the dark–figuratively and literally. In the first episode of the season, Carrie was often framed inside rectangular boundaries, now she’s half-in, half-out. Before, she felt trapped in the car, in her bedroom, in the fenced-in basketball court. Now, she finally gets some freedom (and maybe a dollop of “fresh” air, natch).
(There is a similar Mad Men shot that Sara thinks about at least weekly that conveyed something similar about Don.)
Linus Roache’s performance as David Wellington is fairly underrated. It’ll be interesting to see him in a context other than “Elizabeth Keane’s mouthpiece/bodyguard/sounding board/good cop/bad cop.” For example, this passive aggressive grin at new VP Ben Hayes when he makes a similarly passive aggressive comment about Princeton.
…or this side eye when Ben Hayes suggests firing Saul, a “Keane holdover.”
Carrie’s comment in the premiere that Mike was not an “alpha” looms large in this scene and throughout the episode. Carrie makes several comments about him finally doing the job the right way or her way. Their differing personalities and management styles are on full display visually here. Carrie towers over him, while Mike sits back, hands folded in his lap.
Also, as a logistics person, it bothers Gail that Mike has set up his desk so his back is facing the window. With all of that top secret intel on his computer, isn’t having the windows right there a problem? Is this an intentional nod to his incompetence or did the better lighting of his office for the crew win out? (Sara thinks it can be both.)
The Saul/Haqqani scenes this episode were uniformly visually stunning. First, the show continues its use of light to reinforce who knows what. Here Haqqani’s face is cloaked in darkness while light falls across Saul’s face.
Overall, Saul’s captivity plays out plot-wise obviously much differently this time than in season four. We’re struck as well by how different the mood is. Both men lean or hunch here. They’re tired, they’re old, they’ve done this before.
The slow pan around Jalal while he’s praying to reveal Tasneem is … *chef’s kiss* (and suggests so much her persona of being the ultimate puppet master, waiting around any corner).
More bokeh, more smoking. Smokehing.
There’s more mirroring between Carrie and Jenna this week, which is probably how Jenna intends to befriend Carrie (“Carrie smokes? I should too!”), but it actually just feeds into Sara’s theory that Jenna is going to “single white female” Carrie. We love the framing here of Carrie, back to camera (and to Jenna), and Jenna lurking behind her.
And some visual symmetry here. The camera shots of the two of them are often at a distance, speaking to the depth (or lack thereof) of their relationship. Throughout this episode we see a variety of different pairings between characters. The camera choices in these scenes illustrate closeness and proximity, or distance and mistrust.
In season four there were so many references to Saul losing his eyeglasses during the prisoner exchange. If you recall, he takes them off on the tarmac and Carrie picks them up after she convinces him to get up. Later, she returns his glasses to him just as their car is hit by an RPG. So, given that, two things:
- Saul losing his glasses and then getting them back is almost certainly a harbinger of shit to come!
- We absolutely loved the framing of this scene: Haqqani’s hands slowly coming into frame and gingerly placing the glasses back on Saul’s face. We mentioned above how different the mood was this time around with Saul and Haqqani and this gentle act seemed to encompass all of that.
Two old men, some (we, Jalal) would say past their prime, standing alone in the dark.
And the dark gives way to a new dawn, a new day. We’re about to break out into song!
But seriously, this was a gorgeously filmed scene. We do wonder how long they were waiting out in the mountains of Morocco for the sun to rise.
The scene between Haqqani and his son Jalal was the standout of the episode. It is such an eerie reflection of the end of “From A to B and Back Again” when Haqqani kills Aayan. That episode and its ending are at this point Homeland lore, which has the added benefit of making what was already a tense scene fucking unbearable.
We love the use of perspective and shot/reverse shot here.
The parallels with “From A to B…” continue. Then as now, Saul looks on, helpless, wearing a similar outfit but this time with his hands unbound. Then as now, Haqqani makes a spectacle of it all, when he knows others are watching (the Americans via drone in season four, his entire crew in the courtyard now).
The kiss to the forehead. At this point we were about 650% sure Haqqani was about to shoot his son in the head.
And he does pull out the gun. Jalal literally stares down the barrel.
Instead of killing him, Haqqani just throws him onto the street, which is maybe just as bad if you’re Jalal. The framing here is remarkable. Jalal stands in the center of the frame, back to the camera, ensconced in sunlight. He’s not awash in some heavenly light. On the contrary, it’s almost as if he’s just been spit out of it, cast out of the kingdom. It all seemed vaguely biblical, like a reverse Prodigal Son, though we’re not sure if that fits exactly. If you know, drop us a line!
We’re three episodes into the season, and we’ve gotten an “over Saul’s shoulder” shot in each one. This is now a theme!
Homeland is not a show that uses flashbacks that heavily (other than the aforementioned Brody/Nazir series from season one and when they de-aged Claire Danes by putting her hair in a half ponytail). They’ve been effective thus far, slowly peeling the layer on the onion that is Carrie’s Russian captivity.
As Yevgeny recounts Carrie’s suicide attempt, we see split-second flashes in her head. At first, the images are blurry.
And just a few seconds later, they come into focus for us as Carrie remembers. All this is obvious enough, but we also think the way that the focus on the images shifts so suddenly and the way the sequences are edited serve to disorient the viewer in the same way Carrie remains disoriented and confused about just what happened during the seven lost months.
This scene is notable for a few reasons. First, Carrie and Yevgeny remain so physically close. He leans into her. We also love that it’s more than just Carrie’s reaction to what he’s saying. We see Yevgeny’s reaction to her reaction, as well as his emotions in recounting it. He is remarkably free of judgment and shows legitimate, deep caring, possibly love, as he reveals one of Carrie’s darkest moments.
And while Carrie makes an offhand remark about her relationship with Brody being accessible information in her “file,” the fact is she never talks about him. Like, ever. (Sara maintains Carrie has a mental and possibly physical “Brody box” that remains sealed.) The significance of Carrie opening up to Yevgeny about what is–sorry, folks–the love of her life really can’t be overstated.
All we have to say about this is “ughhhhhhhhhh.”
We’re three episodes into the season, and we’ve gotten a “Carrie watches Yevgeny walk away” shot in each one. This is now a theme!
We really hope that the blaring red “ABSOLUTELY NO CELL PHONES” sign is a callback to when Brody infamously and inexplicably snuck his cell phone into the situation room in “Beirut Is Back,” allowing him to send a “DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!” text to Nazir just in the nick of time.
Here is our Reverse Prodigal Son: lost and wondering, his face bloodied, bordering on delirious.
And here is Tasneem, her beautiful aubergine scarf blowing perfectly in the wind (sorry, Sara forgot to do Things Tasneem Wore This Week, but she thinks this aubergine scarf is beautiful), looking like a goddamn puppet master goddess, coming to save him. And by “save” we mean “control and manipulate.” Saviors really do come in all different flavors on this show.