“Chalk One Up” | Directed by Seith Mann, Cinematography by David…

“Chalk One Up” | Directed by Seith Mann, Cinematography by David Klein

The episode opens with Carrie arriving from a long night out doing… God knows what with God knows who. We love the starkness of this close-up on the exterminated motorcycle light. According to Lesli Linka Glatter, this mode of transport is based on a real life story: 

“The scene where she gets out of the embassy was based on the real agent who Carrie is based on. She was based in Iraq at the time and that’s how she got out: by dressing as a man and traveling on a motorcycle. So, we used that for this. Also, you can’t leave in Kabul without an armored vehicle.”

…as the camera slowly pans up to reveal it’s Carrie underneath that (gigantor) motorcycle helmet, the question becomes clear: where the fuck was she? 

Sara loved these scenes between Samira and her friend. Homeland has depicted several cities in the Middle East over the years but has rarely given us glimpses into the world outside the walls of a hotel or CIA station, especially without our main characters. The market that Samira and her friend walk through is vibrant and filled with color, as are their outfits. It’s a stark contrast to the interiors of the CIA station. And Samira’s line that the Taliban didn’t go away but were no longer hiding proves remarkably predictive of the rest of the episode’s events.

The real highlight of the scene is the selfie, of course. We love the detail of the man on the far, far left being cut out. Samira’s friend is the master of the one-arm selfie

This shot of the various players at the Kabul station looking outward at Carrie is striking. It’s almost a reverse fish bowl. Carrie remains on the outside but everyone’s looks are in her direction. Jenna standing at the front of the room further suggests she was never “stuck in the starting gate.” She’s in the same position of power in that room as the Chief of Station and the commanding military officer at right. From afar, the dynamics are almost similar to early season one, Carrie running an ops meeting with Saul by her side. All of which is to say… is Jenna the Carrie to Mike’s Saul?

Dog.

This was such a specific detail that we thought it required pointing out, but 27 is not a significant number on this show (at least that we can remember), so we’re not sure why they bothered to show this. 

…unless it’s a reference to the general ominousness of the 27 Club and a hint that Carrie (who, to be fair, is far past the age of 27) is going to die. 

This week the show confirmed that Tasneem is the Director of the ISI. Which means that (after President Elizabeth Keane) she’s the second most powerful woman ever depicted on this show. And boy does she dress the part! 

Tasneem’s all-white ensemble is attention-grabbing and distinctive (the other women in this frame are dressed in dark clothes). It’s also visually similar–especially with her long, black hair peeking through the sheer fabric of her headscarf–to the dress worn by several other men at the reception.

Homeland has told lots of stories over the years–whether intentional or otherwise–about the challenges women face living in a patriarchal, misogynist society. Whether it’s Martha losing her career because her loser husband couldn’t stand having a wife who was more powerful and smarter than he…. Or Allison dying in the back of a car near the Russian border in an act of scorned lover revenge. Or Carrie, screaming and crying at the end of “The Vest”… but being right the whole time. 

Or, as Abigail Nussbaum said more elegantly than we ever could

“Carrie is, in many ways, a boogeyman; she is what professional women, and particularly ones in male-dominated professions, have been taught never to become – emotional, hysterical, crazy. Emotion is how women who want to be taken seriously are undermined and dismissed. Even if you’re perfectly sane, being emotional – and most especially, being angry – devalues you and your professional contribution. A woman can be called crazy simply for behaving like a normal human being rather than a robot (and of course, if she behaves robotically and unemotionally, she’s a cold bitch). But Carrie isn’t simply emotional (though she is that too, and worst of all, she allows her feelings for a man to cloud her judgment) – she actually is crazy and hysterical, in the proper clinical sense rather than the exaggerated one which attaches to any feminine display of emotion, and profoundly pathetic and unattractive in that state. And she’s completely right, the only person who figures out Brody and Abu Nazir’s plans and motivations, and the person who saves the day by being hysterical, infecting Brody’s daughter with enough of that hysteria that she calls her father and convinces him not to blow himself up.

It’s certainly possible to read this arc as purely tragic, Carrie’s self-destruction being the cost of saving the world (though this is a character arc that is applied to men as often as women, for example in Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon), but to my mind its effect is more complex. It makes a crazy, hysterical woman into a hero without in any way mitigating her craziness or hysteria, and thus defangs the argument that emotion in women is a weakness. It’s the rational, sane men around Carrie, who turn away from her unattractive mania with distaste and embarrassment, who are blind and incompetent, and it’s that same inability to look past surfaces that leads them to put their trust, wrongfully, in Brody – just as Carrie performs hysterical femininity, Brody performs stalwart masculinity. Both are misleading.”

All of which is to say, we’re really fucking pumped to see how Tasneem’s role expands for the rest of the season, and we think the array of women in Tasneem, Carrie, and Jenna and their varying degrees of power is going to be really interesting to see unfold. 

Sara is obsessed with this shot. She’s obsessed with the set design of Samira’s apartment. She’s obsessed with this moody lighting. She’s basically just obsessed. 

Last week we had a slow pan around Jalal to reveal Tasneem. This week we have a similar slow pan around Carrie to reveal Jenna. This definitely means that Sara’s theory that Jenna will “single white female” Carrie is right on track. 

Also, Gail hereby declares Carrie’s delicate silver jewelry her “FULL circle earrings,” because everything is coming full circle this episode, including accessories.

That said, we can’t deny the power of this shot. First, we have to note what’s going on in the background (which is actually in focus). President Beau has just arrived off Air Force One and immediately stops for a photo op with the Afghan president. From the beginning, the show is clear this is an optics-based trip. 

But we really love this image of Carrie and Jenna (out of focus, but in the foreground) side by side. Again, they mirror each other, but in opposite ways (“So they’re mirror opposites?” –Sara’s brain). Carrie’s light hair versus Jenna’s dark hair. Jenna’s light jacket versus Carrie’s dark one. It’s eerie.

On the podcast we talked at length about the scene between Beau and Carrie. It’s genuinely moving. The staging of it is unique as well. The camera shoots them both at the same height. They stand close together. Ironically, the power dynamic seems almost equal. He’s one of the few people who’s ever acknowledged the sacrifices she’s made in service of her country. 

Their twin smiles here are all the more tragic following the sequence of events that closes the episode. They all sincerely want peace. So many characters smile real, genuine smiles this week. That’s not a normal Homeland occurrence! 

And they all legitimately believe in what they’re doing. They believe they’re doing the right thing. Maybe they are. But partly out of necessity, and partly out of more selfish desires (Hayes later says it’s all about getting a second term), they get caught up in the theater of it all. They make poor decisions. They take the wrong risks.

Every so often in this series we have to abandon screenshots in favor of gifs in order to truly capture ~the moment~ and this is one of those times! The way Claire plays Carrie’s reaction here is so specific, so nuanced and strange and wonderful. These “lived in” moments are something we’ll really miss when the show is over.

IJLTP.

We’ve all been there, Carrie. 

This is another interesting shot choice. We’re not sure what its purpose is, other than to add interest to a fairly run-of-the-mill scene. But still, the set design! *heart eyes* 

Sara’s note for this shot was “Saul is so extra.” We talked about genuine and sincere smiles above and Saul’s here does qualify… sort of. This is halfway between genuine and self-aggrandizing. AKA “where Saul lives 100% of the time.” He looks like a director about to screen his short film at Sundance. The red curtains parting slowly behind him are Too Much.

Tasneem and G’ulom are the kids in the back of the classroom who are so fucking done with this shit but can’t leave because they’ll get detention. We will continue to stan. 

It’s a classic Homeland device to show a significant moment from a variety of perspectives, especially if those perspectives involve screens. The multitude of angles on Beau’s speech here reminded us a lot of Keane’s resignation speech in the Oval Office in “Paean to the People.” Coincidentally, that was her last hurrah as president too. 

(P.S. Another Saul over-the-shoulder shot!)

Two selfies in one episode! 

We loved the payoff to Max’s subplot. For once this season the weird LA filter actually looks nice! These are beautiful shots and the reflection in Max’s glasses is especially striking. 

The skull and crossbones on the barracks is an ominious detail. As is the rock labeled “Boredom Rock.” Death and boredom really have been the two extremes of Max’s stint at the combat outpost.

We’re still divided on the merits of the “Carrie has to save Samira” storyline, but the camerawork here, with Carrie’s armed hands appearing out of nowhere, was pretty cool. 

This RPG shot was one of the cooler special effects the show has done in a while. The entire sequence of Chalk One looking for Chalk Two was tense and thrilling and extremely well-executed.

Bringing us back to the ops room, the “LOSS OF SIGNAL” projected now for both helicopters is pretty chilling.

This is now Sara’s favorite shot of the entire series and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that it’s another over-the-shoulder Saul shot. This time he observes one of the crowning achievements of his long career literally blowing up in his face. 

Visually, this shot anchors the viewer back to the Carrie/Saul relationship, the central one of the show. The black blankness–and the failure it represents–engulfs the frame. 

We love the choice to end the episode on Carrie alone. It refocuses the event back to her. The horror in her eyes, welling up with tears, is palpable. How does Carrie feel? Alex Gansa explained that the writers wanted to create a new 9/11 with this maybe-assassination of the president. And it’s a fitting bookend for the show in many ways. In Homeland’s pilot, Carrie says she “missed something that day,” misdirecting blame to herself for not preventing 9/11. Now, in the final season, the show seems poised to tell a story in which Carrie is blamed for the “new 9/11.” 

Strap in, folks. It’s gonna be a rough ride.