Category: homeland meta

Me again with more Carrie and Saul. can you elaborate on how it’s different between them? You say it’s evolved but I don’t see how. Things have happened to Carrie especially, but I don’t really see how their relationship has changed at its core. Maybe Saul treats her more like an adult but even that’s debatable imo. I don’t mean to be argumentative for argument’s sake but… (continued…)

Cont… can you give concrete examples of how the development has played out on screen so I can understand it & hopefully S8 better. Specific scenes and what how they weren’t just individual scenes but changed the relationship going forward. Much appreciated! Oh and one more thing re: Saul and Carrie, sorry I forgot. Can you also venture a guess what it means in practice? What do you think will happen between them that will feel like closure or catharsis or something that’s expected of a show’s final season and perhaps finale as well?

Note #1: this became a lot longer than I expected (sorry, you asked!). Beyond what I’ve written, I challenge you to go back and watch these individual scenes. I’ve chosen ones from each season to illustrate the full arc of their relationship. Observe the differences in Claire and Mandy’s body language, in their facial expressions, in their discomfort, in the shared trauma of what’s come before. It’s deliberate writing and deliberate acting. Shorter version of this post is here, from April 2018.

Note #2: I chose almost exclusively scenes of conflict to represent the evolution of their relationship because I believe that conflict drives change. 

PROLOGUE:

To understand the Carrie and Saul relationship, we’ve got to understand what their relationship was before we met them. From what we know, Saul recruited Carrie, straight out of college. He saw in her something special and unique, something that didn’t come around every other day. She was gifted but she was also alone. She had no partner. She was socially isolated from her family and from the world (he didn’t yet know of her mental illness). This was an advantage of sorts. It meant she could give herself more and more to the work, same as he did. Remember this is his Achilles’ heel: whenever they call, he picks up. He doesn’t know how not to. It destroyed his marriage. But he molds her in his image. He teaches her, he raises her, the way a father would his daughter. He brings her up. Their relationship melds the boundaries of teacher/student, boss/employee, mentor/mentee, and father/daughter. It’s personal, and it’s deeply intimate. 

This is what we are given before the pilot and it’s what we’ve grappled with for nearly eight years: his attempts to harness her gifts–often to her detriment–and her simultaneous resentment of him for it and unwavering yearning for his approval. 

Key Scenes in the Carrie and Saul Canon:

#1: “What happened to the Saul Berenson that trekked the Karakoram?”: Much of the season one conflict between Carrie and Saul comes from her three thousand miles an hour suspicion of Brody and him being like “whoa slow down pls.” He is the first person she tells of these suspicions and he essentially shoots her down, causing her to go rogue. It’s here where the lines become blurred between boss/protege and father/daughter, because the way in which he chastises and punishes her feels awfully familial. 

So when Carrie finally reaches a breaking point in “Blind Spot” (the original Carrie Mathison Appreciation Episode), we feel that as though a family is breaking up. It doesn’t matter that she comes crawling back to him, just an episode later, remorseful. 

Carrie underlines just how much Saul has changed: in her words, from the man who “did three months in a Malaysian prison” (HELLO???? repeat: he raised her in his image) to a pussy. We understand that Carrie and Saul are both outsiders in the CIA. We understand that Saul is still grappling with his former employee David Estes bring promoted over him. While Carrie truly seems to not give a fuck, Saul keeps in line. He says “yes, sir.” He advises caution. None of these are inherently bad qualities but in this scene we come to understand that what drew Carrie to Saul was not his caution, his yin to her yang, but his daring and bravery and “FUCK THE CIA” mentality (there’s a reason why that line is in this episode too). 

#2: “You don’t know a goddamned thing”: This scene is now famous for lines like “you’re the smartest and dumbest fucking person I’ve ever known” (he’s not wrong) but this scene is actually one of the more important ones ever on this show, and I still maintain that t“The Choice” is the mos important ever Homeland episode. As to why this scene itself is significant in their relationship, I’ll allow Jacob Clifton to explain:

Saul is one thing only, and his love for Carrie comes out of the idea that they are the same. And he’s right. But because she’s giving up herself to something he can’t, it looks like they are not the same. It looks ugly to him. He fights it like an addict fights recovery, striking blindly at her softest places because can’t stand the change in vector: Her madness is only acceptable as long as it’s useful; her self-abnegation is only positive so long as he can understand it.

I bolded that last sentence because it’s almost shockingly predictive of future seasons. We can hem and haw all we want about Saul’s relative rightness about Carrie leaving the CIA for Brody being a terrible decision, but the truth is that he would have done it regardless of who Brody was. He would have done it if she’d left with Quinn, with Jonas, with Otto, with Estes, with anyone, or all by herself. I don’t actually believe that Saul wants Carrie to be miserable. I just think he doesn’t care. I think he sees her gifts, her “saving the world” (to be totally Mandy Patinkin about it) as a more profound and upright calling than, for example: having a family, being a mother, having an integrated and whole personal life… the list goes on. 

But the moment when Carrie tells him she doesn’t want to end up alone her whole life, like him, is probably the first great fissure in what was until then a generally even relationship. It establishes her desire for… something beyond everything he’d ever shown her (she literally turns down the greatest career opportunity ever for THE DUDE IN THE SUICIDE VEST… and like, did we ever consider that wasn’t really about Carrie loving Brody so much but more about how much she really didn’t fucking want to be Saul????). She threatens his control and he strikes her at the knees. 

#3: Literally all of season three: It’s difficult to choose a single scene in season three to encapsulate just how much Carrie and Saul’s relationship this season was changed but let’s just discuss the overall arc:

Saul and Carrie come up with a plan to lure out Javadi (i.e., Iran) since they know he’s partially responsible for the Langley bombing. In their shared plan, Carrie will pretend to be crazy in front of the Senate and the press so that she seems vulnerable to the influence of a foreign power. Coolness. 

Except Saul changes the plan in the middle and: 

  • Publicly blames the Langley bombing on Carrie
  • Outs Carrie’s sexual relationship with Brody on national television 
  • Has Carrie committed to a mental institution for four weeks with little to no contact with the outside world
  • Sics Dar fucking Adal on her when she gets out of the mental institution in order to maintain the cover

The scene at the end of “Game On” where Carrie comes to Saul’s house and tells him the plan has worked is devastating to watch. I don’t think it was entirely clear at the time just how much Saul’s plan had strayed from their shared vision until Carrie tells him, through tears, “you should have gotten me out of there, Saul. You shouldn’t have left me in there.” He doesn’t say anything in response. When she tells him it’s too hard, she can’t keep going, he offers her some tea. It would be funny if it weren’t so fucking sad. 

Again: 

Her madness is only acceptable as long as it’s useful; her self-abnegation is only positive so long as he can understand it.

Season three was all about that: about the lengths Saul would go with Carrie’s own illness, and how far along she’d left herself go too. Javadi literally makes a speech about it.

Now, Carrie wasn’t forced to do any of this (well, except the mental institution, that was extremely forced). We see at times how desperately she craves his attention and approval: in “Tower of David,” when she pleads with her therapist to give a good report back to Saul; in “The Yoga Play,” where he berates her for getting involved in Brody Family Drama and tells her she’s ruined everything and ARE YOU HAPPY ABOUT THAT NOW CARRIE (god, the father/daughter vibes in that one are nauseating); in “Still Positive” when she calls him, triumphant, after having arranged the meeting with Javadi and he’s like “oh yeah by the way we lost you for a few hours there.” 

(This doesn’t fit into the above theme but the scene at the end of “One Last Thing” when Carrie tells him in order for any of this shit to work they have to trust each other is one of the most interesting and important scenes of the whole season, simply because it implies one easy truth: they don’t trust each other. And what a change that is from earlier seasons.) 

And yet, he needed her for it all to work. Saul may have been the mastermind of the entire clusterfuck of season three (better on rewatch than you would think!), but without Carrie literally every step of the way, it would have gone up in flames. She lured Javadi to America with her 95%-based-in-reality mania. She convinced Brody to go to Iran knowing it would almost certainly end in his death. And then she went straight along to Tehran knowing she’d probably have to witness it all. 

The end of season three is super interesting in their relationship because I believe in my gut and in my soul that Carrie still resents Saul for convincing her to convince Brody to go kill himself. I really believe this. Again, she wasn’t forced. She did this of her own volition. But he planted the seed in her head, and I think some part of Carrie–likely equal parts rational and irrational–blames him for it, even as she mostly blames herself. 

I won’t even mention Saul’s complete un-acknowledgement of Carrie being nine months pregnant in the last half of “The Star” but Saul basically ignoring Carrie’s child for four years is more significant than we give it credit for.

#4: “Escape or die. I promise.” The season four relationship between Carrie and Saul is interesting because it upends their previous dynamic. Carrie and Saul were always outsiders in the agency, but now he’s actually on the outside and she’s ascended, more an insider than ever. Also, I know part of it was grief, and again this is not an absolution, but where else do we think Carrie learned her casual disregard for human life? I’m just saying, season four came after season three. 

So anyway, when Carrie promises to Saul that he’ll kill him before letting him be re-captured by the Taliban, we almost sort of believe her. She nearly killed him once before (wanna know the quickest way to get me from 0 to 1500 words on this show? mention the end of “From A to B and Back Again.” but actually don’t please).

The middle episodes of season four–Carrie nearly killing Saul, reneging on her promise to kill him, and then tearfully saving him from himself–are extremely moving. And they cement the arc of that entire season, of Carrie ascending where Saul had fallen. “The student becomes the master” (or the Drone Queen, rather) and all that jazz. Her journey to save her soul coincided with her journey to save him. Is that coincidental? Saul stopped being Carrie’s moral compass around the time he lied to her and had her committed. But just as Carrie is finding her way amid the chaos and fog of war, Saul is making backdoor deals with Dar fucking Adal to turn a blind eye to Haqqani’s reign of terror so that he could go and be the CIA director again. 

Saul preached idealism and goodness and morality in an increasingly terrorized, dangerous, chaotic world. He raised her in that image. She strayed, but was finding her way back to it. In those final moments of season four, that betrayal is complete. She detaches from him. And their relationship is forever altered. 

#5: “There’s a line between us that you drew. Forget that. There’s a fucking wall.” Oh, season five. This is getting really long so I’ll try to be succinct: Carrie and Saul’s relationship in season five is about her being in mortal danger and him being like “lol good luck….. NOT.” Ok, it’s only like that for an episode. 

How do they come back from the damage done at the end of season four? I think the answer is that they didn’t. They’re not healed from it. Parts of Carrie don’t trust Saul, and parts of Saul don’t trust Carrie. There are the surface elements of course: Carrie went and found a cool life in Berlin, riding bikes and wearing balloon hats and such, working for a man whose ideals often stood in direct counter to the CIA’s. In effect, she basically went and did the opposite of everything Saul had ever done. That this all comes in a time of real upheaval in Saul’s personal life (Mira divorced him, he’s literally fucking a Russian mole) only makes his ego more volatile. 

And then we have The Landstuhl Conundrum. I’m calling it this because it doesn’t yet have a name but I’m referring to the moment when the doctors say that they can’t wake Quinn from a coma, because if they do he will probably die or have irreversible brain damage. But Carrie and Saul believe he has valuable information about a terror cell that he’d eagerly share after coming out of said coma. Honestly!!! This show is extremely ridiculous sometimes. 

Anyway Saul is like “what would you want me to do if it were you lying there,” implying DUH she’d have him wake her. She says she can’t speak for Quinn. Well apparently she can, because she wakes him. Cue the irreversible brain damage, the almost-death. 

Later Saul comes to see her and Quinn at the hospital and asks how he is. “Not great,” she replies tersely. He tells her he didn’t come here to fight with her. 

Resentment City: Population of 1. I’ve actually beat this drum for a few years, but I still think that Carrie harbors resentment toward Saul for coercing her into waking Quinn. First Brody, then Quinn. This isn’t meant to absolve Carrie of blame. She convinced Brody to go to Tehran because she believed in that mission. She woke Quinn because she believed in that mission. But I do think that Saul gave her a nudge and I’m not 100% convinced that without his influence she’d have made the same choices. When we talk about Saul teaching Carrie, about him mentoring her… and then we talk about Carrie having no regard for human life, of choosing mission over man, time after time… how much of that is her nature and how much is him nurturing her toward that outcome? 

#6: “Maybe I don’t like the idea of you worrying about me.” Season six is spectacularly dull on many fronts, and the Carrie/Saul relationship is not the centerpiece. The evolution of their relationship after Berlin has taken the shape of something like season three. Saul needs Carrie’s help, she’s in no position to give it, he coaxes her with some terrifying outcome If She Won’t, then she agrees, and things still Turn Out Shitty For Her. 

Ultimately I think this season highlights that whatever difficulties they now have working with each other, whatever trust issues they both still harbor, at the end of the day it is ALWAYS Carrie and Saul Versus the World. That’s always what this story has been (though this is extremely different from their relationship being the same as it’s always been), and it’s what the show comes back to after Quinn’s death. 

He still cares about her. She tells him not to, he’s not her fucking father. This is one of the great complexities of their relationship: Saul often does coddle her the way a father would a daughter, but he’s a firm believer in tough love and all the forms that can take. 

Again, I don’t think that Saul wants Carrie to be miserable. I also don’t think he wants her to happy. Her personal fulfillment and well-being is just entirely secondary to her role in his own mission of Whatever The Fuck. I mean I guess his mission is for the world to be more peaceful and better but like… y’know how Thanos thinks that killing half the universe’s population will help with the suffering caused by overpopulation? I’m not saying Saul is Thanos. But they’re both deranged males! (Also, if y’all don’t think Saul would Gamora Carrie right up outta this dimension if it meant fulfilling his life’s mission then please let me sell you this Homeland lamp!) (But honestly, I’m not saying Saul is as bad as Thanos.) (Do not send in asks about this.)

#7: “You’ve given me a hard time these last few years.” Season seven takes the post-Berlin foundation that season six built and adds some new interesting layers that are like a weird inversion/combo of seasons four and five. Carrie’s more on the outside than she’s ever been and now Saul’s the one who’s gone to work for the enemy. 

Still, no matter whatever shit has gone down between them, it’s still Carrie and Saul Versus the World. The show highlights some key ideas in the last three episodes. First, it fully acknowledges that whenever Saul comes calling, Carrie will always answer. Remember how he said this was his Achilles’ heel? Remember how in that same episode Carrie said she was going to be alone her whole life? Remember how Saul raised Carrie in his image? These callbacks are not evidence of stagnation of their relationship; they’re references to its elemental core. 

Second, the show finally has Carrie acknowledge the… um… storm of shit Saul has put her through while also fully copping to the extreme codependence of their entire relationship:

I’ve not come all this way in that fucking plane and in my life to fail in that mission when I know I can succeed. You’ve given me a hard time the past few years. I’m in, I’m out, I’m all over the place. I am not all over the place now. I’m here and I’m all in, and I need you to say yes. 

She pledges her devotion to the mission (above all else). She acknowledges Saul’s hot-and-cold nature with her. And then she says SHE STILL NEEDS HIS APPROVAL because–say it with me–they are in an extremely! toxic! relationship!

In a nutshell, the evolution of the discord in Carrie and Saul’s relationship started with him putting her life at risk in service of the mission. And now we’re at a point where she fully fucking volunteers for the task! In my heart of hearts I think a non-zero part of Carrie is doing it so he will love her more. Did I mention they are in a codependent relationship? 

So where do we go from here?

If you are still reading, congratulations! That’ll teach you to ask me a question about Carrie and Saul! Actually, about five questions were asked. The last–what will happen in season eight that will feel at all like a catharsis–is not one that I’ve actually thought that much about. 

I think I’ve made a case for Carrie and Saul’s relationship being the soul of this show–its mangled, twisted soul. The truth is their relationship is toxic. They are both their best and worst selves with each other. Like family, they know what buttons to push, and where to strike to make it hurt the most. 

What catharsis looks like in this relationship depends a lot on how you see this relationship. For example, it would be cathartic for me for Saul to die, but that will almost certainly not happen. It would be cathartic for Carrie to strike out on her own–finally–and attempt some type of fulfillment. Also very unlikely. 

If I had to guess about what the end of this story will look like for them, it’s probably with Carrie dead. Probably on a mission Saul convinced her to believe in. 

Saul’s been alone his entire life. He will never be less alone because Carrie is alive. I guess that’s the prison he has to live in. And then maybe she’ll finally be free of hers. 

EPILOGUE:

The above is a reading of their relationship that is quite sympathetic to Carrie, obviously, and quite unsympathetic to Saul, also obviously. You will probably disagree. Gail has written very interesting stuff on how the dynamic of the Carrie/Saul relationship is most like handler/asset. I think that is a very astute perspective and there are definitely aspects of it but I think the relationship more resembles the trope of found family: she is the daughter he never had and he is the stable father she never had, and they will both ruin each other. Fin! 

I listened to E61 of your podcast today and I wonder why you (Sara?) think Brody didn’t love Carrie. To me she brought him back to life in every way and he loved her.

Whenever we delve into the discussion of “did Carrie love Brody?” (which I actually think is super interesting, don’t get me wrong) I inevitably return to Andy Greenwald, who wrote in the middle of season two: 

I don’t think Brody loves Carrie any more than a drowning man loves a slowly leaking life preserver. 

In other words, out of necessity, despite the knowledge it will only end in him drowning. Brody was cunning and astute and recognized very quickly, once it got to that point, that he could manipulate and use Carrie’s near-infinite, almost unconditional love for him as a way out. Or at least as a way to prolong the inevitable. 

Do I think he did it out of a sense of malice? Mostly not. Mostly I think he was so broken when he came back–from all the ways you could be broken by war and torture and loss and grief and, as Carrie put so well in “Q&A,” being shaved down to the bone and built back up again as a brand new person–that I understand why he did what he did (again, mostly… he is on my eternal shit list for what he did to Carrie at the end of season one). 

There are glimmers of something genuine and real and something like love in episodes like “The Weekend,” which is the closest Carrie came to “bringing him back to life” (and vice versa). But my overall feeling is that after he decided not to blow up that vest; after he ended the game with Carrie outside the police station in “Marine One”; once he was found out, as his marriage began to crumble; and, most importantly, when his daughter made clear just how much of a disappointment he truly was to her, he shifted back into survival mode, clinging onto that life preserver as long as it would hold him.  

Later on, I think he knew it was impossible he would survive long enough to become the person Carrie wanted him to be: a hero–or at least not a villain. 

I don’t think Brody wanted to die, but I also think he lost a lot of will to keep going on (in some respects I think he did keep going on for as long as he did out of respect for Carrie and what she sacrificed, because he did understand that sacrifice). He recognized when the end was near, and gave himself up to it. Obviously, Carrie wasn’t so quick to realize. I think at times she thought she could love him hard enough for the both of them. She tricked herself, especially at the end of season three, into believing it.

In more recent seasons Carrie has wrestled a lot with the “means to an end”/“mission over man” conundrum, which was first prominently introduced in the episode wear Brody dies. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Carrie sending Brody to Iran, knowing that it was both likely to end in his death and the only way he could come back to her the man she needed him to be, was the ironic (and fitting) culmination to their roller coaster romance.  And, as I explained over two years ago, I’m still not convinced she’s over him: 

The passion with which Carrie delivers that speech in “The Star”–“I happen to believe one of the reasons I was put on this earth was for our paths to cross. And I know how crazy that sounds”–betrays something that I’m not sure she ever got past, or ever got rid of, or even felt the need to. Brody confirms it a second later, calling it “the only sane thing left to hold onto.”

Maybe the delusion did crash around her as she watched him die. Maybe it died when she finally saw what a real relationship could be. Maybe it died as she literally hallucinated his person in front of her.

Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe she has a private “Brody box” (real or imaginary, it doesn’t matter) that she opens sometimes, only when alone, thinking of the grand romance she was deprived and wondering what if.

I finally don’t feel any grief or hate for this show – I know, it took a while, but hear me out. It seems that the perfect ending for HL would have been that moment in S4, when they sit together talking about Carrie’s father and the letters he wrote to Saul demanding she would be brought back from oversees. I love that scene. There is no unfinished buisiness (kiss never happens), they are sad he’s gone but they all are home.

Well, they
do say that time heals all wounds. They also say that hindsight is 20/20. 

I hope you don’t mind if I use your ask as a jumping-off point to articulate my thoughts re: fandom upset. 

Looking
back, it’s kind of easy to see how it all went off the rails. 

First of
all, Quinn should have died in the season five finale. Like, Quinn got exposed
to sarin gas in 5×09, and it was all downhill for him from there. He was in a
coma, they woke him up, he suffered a brain hemorrhage, and from there he
basically had no chance of recovery. They read the letter. Carrie seemed to be
letting him go, and even like she was prepared to help him along with it. I
remember, after 5.12 aired, I was pretty shocked and miserable and generally
disbelieving. And I had nobody to talk to, because I didn’t know you guys yet.

My friend
messaged me on Christmas night to talk about the finale, which he had just caught
up with. 

Friend: Merry Christmas. I saw the finale.
Though I think I need to see it again to reassess what happened. I like how
Quinn’s story ended (assuming it ended). Not so much Allison’s, though I
wouldn’t mind seeing Ivan again.
Ashley: I’m 99% sure that we will see
Quinn again. I liked Allison’s ending. It was very reminiscent of The
Godfather.
Ashley: Quinn’s ending made no sense
to me, but it does make sense that we’d be on opposite sides of this.
Friend: I kinda hope he’s not back. I
feel like they’ve gone as far as they can go with regard to abusing him.
Ashley:
The finale just pissed me off. It was a stupid cliffhanger, because it’s not
sustainable. Like, if Quinn is dead, then what’s the point?
Friend:
I guess I saw it as them plainly stating that he is dead. She took off the oxygen
monitor because what’s the point anymore, and just wanted a moment alone with
him.
Friend:
I’ll be annoyed if that’s not what they’re doing.
Ashley:
She took off the oxygen monitor so that she could put him out of his misery
without arousing suspicion, but he wasn’t even on life support.
Friend:
Yeah, that’s why I don’t think it was that. I don’t think she was speeding
things along so much as just silencing the room. 

I
had a million billion thoughts about the 5.12 finale, my favorite theory being
one that Dar Adal was just fucking with Carrie, but my friend’s comments really
exemplify why people used to pay him to watch, review, and analyze shit. He was
completely right. That ending for Quinn would have been much more respectful
than what we ultimately ended up with. I think it would have been a fine
contrast with Brody’s death, and I think it would have made for a tremendously
interesting character arc for Carrie in season six. 

In
the aftermath of 5.12, though, I remember how upset people were. I lurked
around the fandom until obviously I stopped lurking, but the impression I got (particularly in the carrie-quinn livejournal community) was irrepressible and universal sadness over his death. I was upset about it,
but not really that upset, because —
as you can see in the conversation above — I didn’t really get it. I also felt
like there were a lot of parallels to Jack Bauer in 24, and Jack had come back from
death a couple of times with few ill effects. Of course, this show is not 24.
But when Howard Gordon announced that Quinn would be returning, I felt very
validated.

And
the more involved I got with the Homeland fandom, the more it felt like everybody felt the same way as I did.
People wondered why we had ever believed
that Quinn had died, and I was just, like… mass hysteria? And I think that’s
true, but I don’t think the fandom ever recovered from that. It just became an
echo chamber. Quinn was our Tinkerbell and if we clapped hard enough, we could
save him. 

Maybe
our indignant cries after 5.12 really were a factor in Quinn’s return. But I
don’t think so. I don’t think we ever had the influence we thought we did. 

But
I don’t know. I really don’t. I can’t understand the point of bringing him back
just to torment him for eleven-and-a-half more episodes and then kill him.

That’s
the part that’s upsetting, I think. I know a lot of people who quit watching
Homeland after season six, but who probably would have carried on with the show
if Quinn had died at the end of season five. His death at the end of season six
was a betrayal in a way that his death at the end of season five wouldn’t have
been. They gave fans room to exhale and an entire year to speculate on Quinn’s
future and what it might mean for Carrie and the show. By the time they put him
out of his misery for real, it was too late.

But
it’s been eighteen entire months since 6.12, and that’s the other thing. Time.

And
the great thing about television is that you really can pretend the show ends
before it gets to a point that makes you unhappy. For me, Buffy ends at the end
of season five (Once More With Feeling is Willow’s fever dream). Angel ends at
the end of season three. (I know that those are both BAD PLACES to end either
series, but what can I say, I love a miserable ending… I’m sure that Homeland
8.12 will be everything my masochistic soul desires.) 

So
keep on keeping on with your happy(-ish) ending. The show is what it is, and
will be what it will be. But thankfully the show is ending soon and, anyway,
none of us (except for Sara) MUST watch.

Regular

hellyeahomeland:

On Carrie’s calling

Claire’s comments in THR, published Thursday, about what drives and motivates Carrie, got me thinking about a really interesting and key shift in her journey that I’d not thought about before. As a foundation, here’s what she said:

Her driving force really is her patriotism, her devotion to her country. That’s tested in a lot of different ways, and she keeps returning to it. She wonders if she’s qualified to continue doing her work as somebody with her condition, and then we discover this season that maybe that’s not as much of an obstacle as her role as a mother. She has to really come to terms with that reality, which is obviously a very painful one. Her calling is real and powerful, and it’s something that she’s had to honor no matter what the cost, basically. There has been a lot of cost, [but] I think she’s not so afraid of her condition anymore. I think she used to believe that disqualified her from a human connection, but she is extraordinary. If she is careful about focusing her gifts, she can be very constructive, and if she’s not, she can be the opposite of that. There’s always that tension.

This got me thinking about the unique way in which both Carrie’s mental illness and her role as a mother were addressed this season, as well as how they both challenged Carrie and her devotion to “the mission.” 

When Carrie tells Brody, mere hours before his eventual death, that she believes she was put on this earth for their paths to cross, we understand for a brief yet monumental moment how she perceives her own purpose. Maybe it was originally about patriotism (“I missed something once before. I wont–I can’t–let that happen again”). In that moment, she seems to have convinced herself that it was all, ridiculously, left up to fate. If not for Iraq, if not for that prison cell, if not for… And on and on.

Since Brody’s death, and the potential dismantling of that understanding of what all this meant, much of Carrie’s journey–both personal and professional–has been about her arduous, at times frustrating, road to understanding her identity, her place, and her home. In other words: who is she, and where does she belong? This journey has mostly revolved around the quartet of mother, calling, illness, and connection. If Carrie could “have it all,” she would be a loving and caring mother, kick ass at work, maintain her mental and personal well-being, and share intimacy and love with someone who reciprocated. 

In season four, while she quells her new role of mother, she commits fully–and scarily–to the calling, becoming The Drone Queen. At the end of the season, she has an epiphany (after speaking to her own mother) that her illness doesn’t default her into a lonely, loveless existence.

In seasons five and six, she devotes herself to motherhood (and connection in various degrees) while trying to suppress the calling. She experiments with the direct relationship between the calling and her illness–i.e., the “super power.”  

It’s not until season seven that all these things converge and then combust. We talked at length this year about the ways in which the show was or was not making a statement about women having to “choose” between motherhood and careers, home and work. We asked, with exasperation, why couldn’t Carrie have all of it? And, indeed, she wondered the same things. She thinks, late in the season and with false clarity, that she is capable of it. (The intersection of Carrie’s illness, her devotion to the calling, and her own failures as a mother in “Clarity” make it one of the most important episodes ever of the series. In hindsight, it offers the best indicator of both the writers’ and Carrie’s understanding of her purpose and identity.) 

As time has passed, I’ve believed more and more strongly that the show actually wasn’t making a blanket statement about all women but rather a statement about the extraordinary circumstances of one woman: Carrie Mathison. Namely, that the supreme risk and self abnegation involved in what she does (in all she does) is what, as her sister says, she was “born to do.” And something that she’s been pulled to since childhood. 

(Indeed, I think the writers tipped their hand by showing all the ways in which Maggie–raised in the same house as Carrie–does have it all. “It” being: a loving husband, beautiful family, and successful career.) 

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to take comfort in her heroism and daring when we see the great human toll it takes on her and those in her orbit. We are meant to ask–constantly–at what point the ends are not justified by the means. Was Carrie’s tenuous sanity worth losing if it meant saving American democracy? What about Franny’s well-being? Could there have been another way? If there was, would it have led to the same outcome? The show has always been about the very real, very human stakes of the work Carrie does (and, to a lesser extent, war overall). 

The show has also always been about the choice (they even named an episode after it!), which Carrie must continue to make, time and again, between her “calling” and between “human connection,” as Claire terms it. They were the first points in the quartet that were emphasized, most notably in season one with Carrie’s not-really-a-question “I’m gonna be alone my whole life, aren’t I?” The show explores the ways in which they might be mutually exclusive (and not just for Carrie, but for Saul and Quinn, too). 

Which brings me back to “I believe I was put on this earth for our paths to cross.” In this single line of dialogue, Carrie doesn’t choose between one or the other. She ties them up together so that they are intertwined. The calling is the human connection. (Additionally, she’s pregnant with his child and earlier that season exploits her mental illness to get back to him. To her, they are all inextricably linked.)    

She says she sounds crazy. As the audience, we wholeheartedly agree. But Brody doesn’t. He says it’s not crazy. It’s the only sane thing left to hold onto. 

When Brody died, and in her grief, she did let go. How could it have been her sole purpose given the way it ended? Watch as she recoils from her daughter, later from Saul, then from Quinn. 

There was a line drawn after Brody died. On one side of it, a Carrie who understood who she was. We can scoff and roll our eyes and say she was deluded and out of her mind and HELLO HE WAS A TERRORIST. We may be right about all of those things. This may not be the final destination. 

On the other side of that line, however, is a Carrie who has flailed, who is lost, who struggles, who has tried various permutations of motherhood, calling, mental stability, and human connection–though never all at once–at the cost of a number of human lives. The possibility that they might all be tied together in some fantastical, fateful amalgam seems but a fleeting memory. 

It’s also a Carrie who has been indoctrinated into a different kind of a calling, the kind Quinn articulated clearly in his letter. The kind of purpose that drives out all else–your family, your health, your connection–the way darkness drives out light. 

I have nothing to add right now but I want this to save and read again, because I thought so many times about all these questions. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

On Carrie’s calling

Claire’s comments in THR, published today, about what drives and motivates Carrie, got me thinking about a really interesting and key shift in her journey that I’d not thought about before. As a foundation, here’s what she said:

Her driving force really is her patriotism, her devotion to her country. That’s tested in a lot of different ways, and she keeps returning to it. She wonders if she’s qualified to continue doing her work as somebody with her condition, and then we discover this season that maybe that’s not as much of an obstacle as her role as a mother. She has to really come to terms with that reality, which is obviously a very painful one. Her calling is real and powerful, and it’s something that she’s had to honor no matter what the cost, basically. There has been a lot of cost, [but] I think she’s not so afraid of her condition anymore. I think she used to believe that disqualified her from a human connection, but she is extraordinary. If she is careful about focusing her gifts, she can be very constructive, and if she’s not, she can be the opposite of that. There’s always that tension.

This got me thinking about the unique way in which both Carrie’s mental illness and her role as a mother were addressed this season, as well as how they both challenged Carrie and her devotion to “the mission.” 

When Carrie tells Brody, mere hours before his eventual death, that she believes she was put on this earth for their paths to cross, we understand for a brief yet monumental moment how she perceives her own purpose. Maybe it was originally about patriotism (“I missed something once before. I wont–I can’t–let that happen again”). In that moment, she seems to have convinced herself that it was all, ridiculously, left up to fate. If not for Iraq, if not for that prison cell, if not for… And on and on.

Since Brody’s death, and the potential dismantling of that understanding of what all this meant, much of Carrie’s journey–both personal and professional–has been about her arduous, at times frustrating, road to understanding her identity, her place, and her home. In other words: who is she, and where does she belong? This journey has mostly revolved around the quartet of mother, calling, illness, and connection. If Carrie could “have it all,” she would be a loving and caring mother, kick ass at work, maintain her mental and personal well-being, and share intimacy and love with someone who reciprocated. 

In season four, while she quells her new role of mother, she commits fully–and scarily–to the calling, becoming The Drone Queen. At the end of the season, she has an epiphany (after speaking to her own mother) that her illness doesn’t default her into a lonely, loveless existence.

In seasons five and six, she devotes herself to motherhood (and connection in various degrees) while trying to suppress the calling. She experiments with the direct relationship between the calling and her illness–i.e., the “super power.”  

It’s not until season seven that all these things converge and then combust. We talked at length this year about the ways in which the show was or was not making a statement about women having to “choose” between motherhood and careers, home and work. We asked, with exasperation, why couldn’t Carrie have all of it? And, indeed, she wondered the same things. She thinks, late in the season and with false clarity, that she is capable of it. (The intersection of Carrie’s illness, her devotion to the calling, and her own failures as a mother in “Clarity” make it one of the most important episodes ever of the series. In hindsight, it offers the best indicator of both the writers’ and Carrie’s understanding of her purpose and identity.) 

As time has passed, I’ve believed more and more strongly that the show actually wasn’t making a blanket statement about all women but rather a statement about the extraordinary circumstances of one woman: Carrie Mathison. Namely, that the supreme risk and self abnegation involved in what she does (in all she does) is what, as her sister says, she was “born to do.” And something that she’s been pulled to since childhood. 

(Indeed, I think the writers tipped their hand by showing all the ways in which Maggie–raised in the same house as Carrie–does have it all. “It” being: a loving husband, beautiful family, and successful career.) 

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to take comfort in her heroism and daring when we see the great human toll it takes on her and those in her orbit. We are meant to ask–constantly–at what point the ends are not justified by the means. Was Carrie’s tenuous sanity worth losing if it meant saving American democracy? What about Franny’s well-being? Could there have been another way? If there was, would it have led to the same outcome? The show has always been about the very real, very human stakes of the work Carrie does (and, to a lesser extent, war overall). 

The show has also always been about the choice (they even named an episode after it!), which Carrie must continue to make, time and again, between her “calling” and between “human connection,” as Claire terms it. They were the first points in the quartet that were emphasized, most notably in season one with Carrie’s not-really-a-question “I’m gonna be alone my whole life, aren’t I?” The show explores the ways in which they might be mutually exclusive (and not just for Carrie, but for Saul and Quinn, too). 

Which brings me back to “I believe I was put on this earth for our paths to cross.” In this single line of dialogue, Carrie doesn’t choose between one or the other. She ties them up together so that they are intertwined. The calling is the human connection. (Additionally, she’s pregnant with his child and earlier that season exploits her mental illness to get back to him. To her, they are all inextricably linked.)    

She says she sounds crazy. As the audience, we wholeheartedly agree. But Brody doesn’t. He says it’s not crazy. It’s the only sane thing left to hold onto. 

When Brody died, and in her grief, she did let go. How could it have been her sole purpose given the way it ended? Watch as she recoils from her daughter, later from Saul, then from Quinn. 

There was a line drawn after Brody died. On one side of it, a Carrie who understood who she was. We can scoff and roll our eyes and say she was deluded and out of her mind and HELLO HE WAS A TERRORIST. We may be right about all of those things. This may not be the final destination. 

On the other side of that line, however, is a Carrie who has flailed, who is lost, who struggles, who has tried various permutations of motherhood, calling, mental stability, and human connection–though never all at once–at the cost of a number of human lives. The possibility that they might all be tied together in some fantastical, fateful amalgam seems but a fleeting memory. 

It’s also a Carrie who has been indoctrinated into a different kind of a calling, the kind Quinn articulated clearly in his letter. The kind of purpose that drives out all else–your family, your health, your connection–the way darkness drives out light. 

“Lies, Amplifiers, Fucking Twitter” | Directed by Tucker…

“Lies, Amplifiers, Fucking Twitter” | Directed by Tucker Gates

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After checking in on Carrie and Franny (poor Franny…), we move to the White House. What stands out here is the muted color scheme and lighting. Despite the light streaming in from behind her, the scene overall is dimly lit. In contrast to everyone’s dark suits, the American flag stands out sharply, the battle for power of the country unfolding in front of it. Keane is seated and leaning back casually, while the committee members stand before her, defiant, almost like soldiers.

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The choreography of this scene is reminiscent of what we saw in “Species Jump” between Ivan in Yevgeny. Keane stays seated throughout their pitch for her to resign and she only stands later to demonstrate her authority. In close-up here, she’s stoic, almost regal, the American flag (again) in the background. Did Keane become backdoor heroic without us even realizing it?

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As Carrie walks into Saul’s growing ops room, it’s hard to miss his own conspiracy-driven bulletin board. As she takes in the information, the camera frames her in the center. We can feel the weight of her realization. She’s not just involved this year, she’s actually in it–the center–as an “active measure.” 

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There is lots to parse here, but this is a nicely assembled board by the art department! We love the irony of Saul co-opting Carrie’s bulletin board tactics while placing her at the center of his, especially after he found her hidden room last year and beamed, knowing she was still whom he always believed she was. (Do you think he assembled this knowing she’d eventually come into his op and this would help her piece the information together better? He even used the same color post-it notes as she did last year!)

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These are just incredible shots. Again, Carrie is in the center things, both physically in this shot and thematically. As the focus shifts to the board, her body becomes blurred, and we instead see the array of information, its lines connecting out from her image like a web.

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Sara is obsessed with this shot of Wellington and Keane in light of the revealed romantic feelings between them (or at least from Wellington). The placement of the two characters, Keane staring out the window, blurred behind him, is like something out of a period romance. Obsessed. 

And while at first glance it might seem as if she’s turned her back on Wellington, we actually think her body language here reveals just how much she trusts him. When you turn your back on someone like this, in such close proximity to you, you’re indicating a deep, implicit level of trust. It’s a rare moment of vulnerability from her, at one of the most vulnerable moments in her presidency.

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The “Q&A” parallels in this episode are pretty blatant, but we’re gonna talk about ‘em anyway! First, we have Saul surveying Carrie and Dante, just as he did with Carrie and Brody in season two.

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Or what about this shot? That’s the same arrangement as in “Q&A” – Carrie to the right of the door, Dante to the left, and the barrier behind him. (Sorry guys, but they were making a point.)

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On the podcast we talked about Carrie’s failure to crack Dante, and how she assumed the role of both Bad Cop and Good Cop in this episode. Here, she’s playing Bad Cop, and the direction of this scene captures that adversarial nature. Whether it’s positioning them on opposite ends of the table, or above in close-up shot/reverse shot, to heighten the distance and differences between them.

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And here is lil’ ol’ David Wellington, on his journey to Fuck Up Everything. A quick note about the set decoration: we think the set decoration is meant not to resemble the Red Room (though of course that is apt for a meeting with the Russian ambassador) but the Roosevelt Room (and, yep, we have another Roosevelt reference. Remember Saul has a portrait in his office too). This was Teddy Roosevelt’s first West Wing office. According to tradition, a portrait of Franklin Roosevelt is meant to hang on the wall during the administration of a Democratic president, and a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt is meant to hang on the wall during a Republican administration. Bill Clinton (whose portrait we also saw… wonder if that possibly foreshadows an impeachment?) was the first President to buck that tradition when he kept Teddy Roosevelt on the wall. Obviously, Keane has opted to do the same.

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Back in Mathison land, it’s Good Cop time. Note that they’re not seated anymore and she walks over to him in an attempt to show that they’re on the same side.

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Carrie does her best “You’re a good man, Brody” routine with Dante, and for a moment it seems like it might work.

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He’s literally backed against a wall when he says he’ll be honest.

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After Carrie loses control, Dante walks away and sits back down, and the space between them is again restored. Note that when he sits back down, he’s seated in her former seat. He literally turns the tables on her. (They were being super literal this episode, y’all.) 

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This is the first of four aerial shots of Carrie in this episode and it comes right after her moment of vulnerability in the interrogation room with Dante. There, she admits, “I know how it happens, how things derail. You think, ‘No, I can manage this.’ But, step by step, somehow, you end up very far from where you ever wanted to be.” This aerial shot, then, coming on the heels of that admission, renders Carrie a small figure in a sea of black. Thematically, like most birds eye views, it asks us to look at the big picture. Where is Carrie now? And where does she want to be?

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We just love this scene because Paley is literally stoking the flames. Like we said. Literal af. 

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OK OK OK Sara has to talk about this moment very quickly. As Carrie enters Maggie’s house, she shuts the door a little too loudly, and this is her wincing at the loud sound (we’ve all been there). I don’t know if this was scripted or improvised but can Claire Danes get an Emmy ASAP? Thanks in advance.

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Here’s another shot from above. So we have one of Carrie exiting Saul’s op room (work), and now one in Maggie’s house (home), so we can observe the person (or people?) she is in these two environments. One of the biggest themes of this season–and for the last few actually–for Carrie is her struggle to reconcile these two halves of herself: her work self and her mother self. Are they even compatible? Again, where is Carrie now? And where does she want to be? 

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The way Carrie’s denial of the situation Maggie lays out before her manifests as her actually shutting her eyes is devastating. If she can’t see it, is it really happening?

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And now we’ve got another aerial shot, this time of Carrie leaving Maggie’s house (where her mother self resides). This crane shot is actually pretty great, especially since it leads to this…

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The unmitigated rage on display as she exits the world that self inhabits is a thing to behold. We’ve all been there, Carrie.

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This shot reminds us of the end of “Long Time Coming,” as Carrie drives away from Dar’s house after learning of Saul’s betrayal. The major difference of course being that she’s not leaving her work self behind now–she is driving toward it, her choice clear.

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WJLTP

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WJLPT, part II. Yevgeny really does have a thing about casual posture, doesn’t he? He must be ~one cool guy.

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The choreography here is very similar in style to what happened to McClendon, which is ironic of course because that’s kinda what started all this. We’re also going to invoke “Q&A” again and note that both Dante and Brody had stuff happen to their hands. (Sara cannot believe that Carrie’s Bad Cop is “let’s poison him!” Gail thinks it’s funny that Carrie’s vagina is a death trap. Sara would like to point out that Dante has not died yet.)

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This is the last aerial shot of Carrie this episode, this time showing her work self. 

In case you haven’t been keeping track, we got four aerial shots of Carrie after she admits she’s far from where she ever wanted to be:

  • Departing work, on the way to home
  • At home
  • Departing home, on the way to work
  • At work

Each reveals something unique about these two halves, these two selves Carrie is harboring inside of her, and how she transitions from one to the other. Whether it’s sneaking meds to appear less manic in front of her family; getting in an actual physical altercation with her sister; yelling without reservation after leaving home; or tending to a man she poisoned but pretended she hadn’t, in her relentless search for the truth, it’s clear the toll this split is having on her. Eventually she’ll either have to pick a side, or she’ll have to reconcile these parts of herself into something whole. 

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This is such a great shot, and it reminds us of Saul’s scenes in “The Choice,” calling Carrie and Mira, after the Langley bomb had gone off. It’s only a metaphorical bomb here, but the result is the same. He’s shown smaller in frame, and his tone is soft, more resigned.

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The episode’s final moments are extremely interesting. As Carrie is pushed out of the ER, she turns around and observes the destruction in her wake.

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It wasn’t even a year ago she was in almost this same position with Quinn, and we think her expression above is one of the worst kind of deja vu. This episode is all about Carrie taking stock of where she is, who she is, and what she’s doing. It’s about her both accepting she went down a much different, much darker path than she’d ever envisioned, and how that’s all wrapped up in her personal and professional failings, on bright display for us throughout the entire episode (leaving a distraught Franny at school, being at the center of a conspiracy she didn’t detect sooner, failing to crack Dante, leaving her daughter behind, and having her last-ditch effort to crack Dante backfire spectacularly).

For a second, she’s in sharp, brilliant focus. Yes, this is where Carrie is now. And this is who she is.

Then she turns, her face obscured, and she’s blurred again.

(1) Maybe too metaphysical of a question, but why is this fandom so obsessed with sex? it seems like those who both love and hate Carrie single-mindedly focus on who she does and doesn’t have sex with. So many of us can’t view her character, motivation, or actions from any other perspective, especially in light of last week’s episode.

There are so many interesting layers to dissect and consider with regards to why Carrie had sex with Dante when she didn’t really need to for the mission, but I can’t imagine ever being able to have a civil, open-minded discussion about it. In regards to CQ, it seems like the majority of us, or at least those who are most vocal, can only view the entirety of their relationship through the fact that they never had sex…so now Carrie shouldn’t be allowed to have sex with another person… I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, ever since I’ve started following this fandom, and I haven’t ever been able to articulate reasons why this is. Perhaps it’s a gender thing? I can’t imagine we would talk about a male character’s sexual behavior in such judgmental (and, at times, sexist terms). I’m also fascinated/interested in the ways this hyper focus on sex trickles into Homeland fan fiction. Thoughts?

This is a whopper of a question, and I’m not sure it’s really been addressed head-on, so I’ll do my best. 

First, I think whenever Carrie has sex with another person, it’s something of a flashpoint because we’ve been conditioned to question her choices in that area. Very few times over the last 6+ seasons has she ever had sex with a man and we’re like “yep, seems legit!” Either she’s manic, or the guy is suspect, or she’s honeytrapping him… the list goes on. 

Since season four (the first post-Brody season, which also means it was the first, shall I say, “solo Quinn season”) I think that focus has sharpened. If Carrie was having sex with another person, it meant she was also not having sex with Quinn. It became this binary thing. I think that frustrated and irritated a lot of people (Quinn among them, perhaps) because he was everything we wanted Carrie to want. He was compassionate, understanding, tough with her when she needed it. And of course he truly loved her, for who she was, flaws and all. It’s not unnatural to want two people who seem really right for each other to just do the deed and consummate their relationship already. They had intimacy in so many other ways, after all. 

Where I think it probably took a turn was in season six, which was dubbed among many–and perhaps the “most vocal,” as you say–“season sex.” I know Alex Gansa said the season would be “sexy,” and I honest to God have no idea if that’s why that contingent was convinced Carrie/Quinn sex would be on the horizon. I myself had a brief panic attack when I saw a picture of Carrie from 6.11 that looked like sex hair if I’ve ever seen it. But overall, I didn’t really get it. 

As the season went on, it became unsexier and unsexier. What’s the opposite of “season sex”? Because that’s what season six is. Nevertheless, that belief that something–god, anything!–must be coming was not just unwavering. It actually strengthened over time, even as it seemed clearer to me that the type of sex that was desired by the fandom–loving, intimate, passionate, and most of all good–could not happen. (The conversation then shifted to whether Carrie would tell Quinn she loved him, or whether some love-like declaration would be shared. In my opinion, it was.) When Quinn died, I think the things that didn’t occur between them–she never told him she loved him in those exact words, they never had sex, etc.–came to define that relationship. 

Here’s one possible explanation for why: the way the Carrie/Quinn relationship ended, and Quinn’s death overall, were honestly so fucked up. None of it was right. On the other side of that “what the fuck just happened?” is, I think, “why did it have to happen like this?” Part of shipping two people together is wanting all those steps on the way toward being in a relationship. First kisses and second kisses, and sex, and love declarations, and sleepovers, and domesticity. Falling in love. All that jazz. I don’t know if many people in the Carrie/Quinn fandom thought that “all that jazz” was likely to happen in canon. It’s Homeland after all. But for fuck’s sake, certainly they could have had sex?! When you consider the other people Carrie’s had sex with, it’s not like her bar is so high. Of course, this is exactly the point IMO and why they never did have sex. (In the context of the stages of grief, I think people might have been bargaining–couldn’t they have had sex before he died??–and then just became angry that they never did and now in season seven Carrie is having sex with this guy who is a bad guy. Also, yes, I know anger comes before bargaining, but my observation is it came after everything else except acceptance.) 

The reason why I think the Carrie/Quinn fandom might be so focused in on it is because I think the strongest and most vocal Carrie/Quinn fandom people were there for Quinn first, Carrie second (or even fifth or tenth or never…) (as a result, many have stopped watching in his absence or find the show really bad now). When Carrie had sex with men who were wrong for her–or for the “wrong reasons”–it meant that Quinn was, once again, deprived. If you love and identify with the character, you’ll advocate on his behalf. Quinn wanted to be loved by Carrie. He wanted her to want him. He never got that. 

Re: fan fiction, I’m not sure I’ve read too many fics (admittedly, I stopped reading pretty much all Homeland fic about six or eight months ago) that really tackle this component of their relationship, or Carrie’s character overall. I’m also not sure I’ve read too many Carrie/Quinn fics (or Homeland fics in general) that talk about Carrie in sexist terms you’re referencing, unless it’s a reflection of the sexist ways she’s actually been treated in canon. Then again, maybe I’m self-selecting as a Carrie lover. For many, fic is meant to right the wrongs of canon. There is a lot to correct on the Carrie/Quinn front without sitting in the ickiness of canon. 

Hey Sara! I was really interested in your assessment of Homeland’s portrayal of sex, specifically that Carrie only has “transactional” sex. I know we only saw her have off-meds sex with Jonas, but assuming they had sex at other times do you think the sex was transactional there too? Was she trading sex for a “normal” life?

I think I said that Carrie views sex as transactional, not that she only has transactional sex. Fine line, perhaps, but I certainly think Carrie has had non-transactional sex before in her life. The time with Brody in “The Weekend” when they were both sober being the most obvious example. What’s more we knew that while the sex was not transactional, it was good – it may have been stereotypically normal out of context, but their relationship was illicit and we know she still believed he’d been turned.

Re: Jonas specifically, we saw them have sex when she was off her meds (which might be the other major category of Carrie sex: manic sex, see 3.01) and I don’t think that was transactional. We also saw the prelude to their sex in 5.12 when he comes home and she’s sleeping. That to me TOTALLY read as transactional sex. It read as Carrie’s imagining of make-up sex as we later see her try to convince him to try again and how she’ll do/be “better.” 

Besides that last scene, I see no indication that Carrie was using sex with Jonas in order to coax him into staying with her and keeping their “normal life.” I do think that there was a trade-off for Carrie in the kind of sex she had while with him. My impression was always that Carrie and Jonas had a “normal” sex life. It may have been amazing for him but to her it probably was run-of-the-mill, average sex. Which, in Carrie’s words, was “lousy” (even manic sex, which she says should be better than any other kind). There was no affair involved (Estes, Brody), no mania (until the end of course). Jonas was, by all accounts, a normal and good person–a divorced dad, a human rights lawyer. There were no red flags, and nothing that made their sex really that illicit. 

To me, Carrie using sex to get what she wants (i.e., as a transaction) ultimately comes down to choice, and that’s a line the show continues to blur. Was Carrie backed into a corner when she chose to take off her shirt with that hacker or sleep with Brody? Possibly. But Carrie is ultimately conditioned to use her body and sexuality to her advantage to get what she wants because, almost always, it works. 

With one blaring exception. She offered to Jonas, “how about fucking the bad girl instead” when he threatened to call the ambulance when she refused to take her medicine. He vehemently refused. She offered him a transaction, and he said no. This is the face of someone who’s probably not been refused like that before…

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Do you think the hacker (and the files he had access to and may have backed up somewhere) or the use of ransomware will loop back as a substantial plot point later this season or was it a total one-off to highlight Carrie’s current state of mind?

Anonymous #2: It seems many fans didnt like the 4chan storyline, because Carrie should know better and the whole thing became contrieved, very unrealistic and ridiciolus. But many liked the ending because Carrie was so extremely badass. What do you think the writers meant to say with this story, about Carrie or the world or….what, really. You are the no 1 expert on Carries persona, and seem to always find some sense in her story, which is a good thing.

Anonymous #3: I didnt really understand the point of the hacker scene. It didnt add to the plot other to show how off the rails Carrie is, but man was it awesome to see Carrie/Claire fuck shit up! I felt so much of S1 Carrie, whether thats a good thing or not idk. Claire even looked more like Carrie from S1 imo

I definitely don’t think we’ll see the hacker later on. I think the writers accounted for that in the final scene where Carrie was like “I will kill you if you ever contact me again, dude.” Maybe that would scare him off, maybe it wouldn’t. She certainly seemed convincing.

But onto your questions: why did they do that? Was it all just a cheap way to make Claire Danes play with her breasts on camera? Or did they want to infuse some Jack Bauer/Peter Quinn badassery into her character after two seasons of Carrie trying really hard to convince herself she wasn’t that woman anymore (at the end she says “I’m CIA, motherfucker” even though, she’s, y’know, currently NOT).

From a character point of view, I think the purpose of the story was almost entirely to reveal her current mental state. I say almost entirely because I also think there was a drive from the writers (this episode is written by Patrick Harbinson and Chip Johannessen, who were writing partners on 24 before moving to Homeland) to just show a completely entertaining action adventure genre plot. 

The episode opens for Carrie as she’s seeing a psychiatrist–Maggie ordered, natch–for the first time in who knows how long and in that session Carrie reveals her grandiose vision of being “called on to protect” America. She says she’s actually making progress. The psychiatrist is more than skeptical and then Carrie invokes Quinn. Not only would Quinn understand and not be asking questions about how one woman could possibly uncover or expose a government-led conspiracy. No, Quinn would be right there alongside her, helping her! She’s seen it with her own eyes. He did the same thing last year (only without her support most of the way). 

Through this conversation the show establishes two things: 

  • The lithium Carrie has taken for 15 years may have stopped working and she may actually be on the cusp or in the midst of a manic episode.
  • We normal folk just don’t understand. There are normal people and then there are people like Carrie Mathison and Peter Quinn. Loyal, to a fault, and driven not by their desire but their innate need to protect their country, no matter the cost to themselves (both) or others (Carrie). 

Jump forward a few scenes and now we learn that the 200 people Carrie’s been fighting for two months to be released have been, without any help from her. So now she’s desperate because all that progress she talked to the therapist about was possibly fictional and existed only in her head. Then her daughter asks why she’s mad all the time. I didn’t know it then, but the writers were laying the groundwork for what was to come.

And then, as in most stories, Carrie is faced with a problem she must solve. Her hard drive has been stolen and she must get it back. I think the point of the hacker debacle was to show how a woman like Carrie, in her current mental state, decided to solve that problem. 

First, it was through sex. She turned on the charm and gave him a taste. We haven’t seen Carrie do that since season four but we also know it’s possibly her go-to method of solving problems. When the FISA warrant to surveil Brody expired in season one, she manufactured reasons to see him, eventually leading to a sexual relationship. When Brody went AWOL in season two, she brought him to a motel to get him back in line. When she needed to know what had happened to Haqqani in season four, she slept with his nephew. 

Carrie knows the value of her body and she knows what works. She has been encouraged to do this likely her entire career. She knows that men may underestimate her but also may be unable to resist when she offers up sex.

At her core, Carrie views sex as transactional.

(There is a lot unpack in this regard
with respect to Carrie and Quinn’s relationship and why they never had sex, but
it’s too off-topic for this post.)

Later, in that creepy ass warehouse, she uses sex again, feigning difficulty taking her top off so that he’d come close enough. He was a boobs guy, clearly, and as she backs up into him she places his hands on her body. If, to borrow a phrase from Carrie, the circumstances had been “wildly different,” the scene might have been kind of hot. Instead, it was mechanical, false, and (obviously) gross and creepy. She opens her mouth as if to moan because she knows that’s what men want. 

But she wasn’t his pawn to play with. The show inverts the notion of control in a really interesting way via Carrie’s sexuality. Carrie is stuck, and she makes him believe she’s desperate enough to do anything (which she is), desperate enough to have sex with this sad white dude who brings women to creepy ass warehouses to have sex with them. He was clearly surprised when she first offered. In a moment, he has all the power. A split second later, after she lures him into her trap, she does. 

What follows after, which I can only describe as one of the most epically satisfying ASS WHOOPINGS in history, is the invocation of Quinn. It reminded me of the end of “13 Hours in Islamabad” when Quinn begins to torture Ghazi. That kind of ruthless ass whooping requires a complete control of the situation but a relinquishing of the parts of yourself, the parts that society instills in us, that demand calm, coolheadedness, restraint, and reason–especially for women. Carrie and Quinn’s CIA training would have taught and reinforced the former. It’s their difference from the rest of us normal people that allow them to achieve the latter. 

Not every time you hear someone say on a TV show or in a film, “I will fucking kill you” do you actually believe them. I believed Carrie. And I believed Quinn. Is this the impulse she’s lost control of? She loses herself, split seconds away from crushing his windpipe. And she would have, if not for a last-second save from… what? Her conscience? Or maybe Quinn himself, her “beacon,” steering her “clear of the rocks”? 

The poison that killed McClendon: a real life …

hellyeahomeland:

It was a painful death–and it was a moment in which Homeland made me question my own principles and ethics. How can I, as an opponent of capital punishment, feel such a grim satisfaction during such horrible, drawn-out suffering? Because it felt deserved? Because it felt like retribution for Quinn and his endless suffering? Because I somehow can’t get it out of my head that McClendon may be was one of Dar’s cronies mentioned in this interview with Rupert Friend, when he talks about Quinn’s sexual abuse?

The end of “Enemy of the State” is what I love about watching Homeland. It challenges me and makes me think.

And then there is this: in February 2017, Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was killed in Kuala Lumpur Airport from the highly toxic liquid nerve agent VX. Two women, who later claimed they thought they were protagonists in a harmless hidden camera prank–sprayed a small amount of the liquid in his face and touched his cheek with a contaminated handkerchief. He experienced a seizure instantly and died minutes later.

VX works by penetrating the skin and disrupting the transmission of nerve impulses. Exposure to VX may result in convulsions, loss of consciousness, paralysis, and fatal respiratory failure–sound familiar? It’s 100 times more deadly than sarin gas. VX nerve agent works so quickly that a victim would have to be treated immediately to stand any chance of survival.

The US and Russia are the only countries that have admitted owning VX stockpiles, but more countries are believed to hold it, Syria and North Korea included. (Nerve agents like sarin gas and VX are thought to be the focus of North Korean chemical weapon production.)

I followed the news about the case and the following trial closely, always joking that I’d love Homeland to use it. Because it was just so bizarre and such a shocking glimpse into the reality of how certain regimes deal with unwanted individuals.

And because I’ve always believed that moments when Homeland used bits of reality like this–instead of striving for season-long prescience in a constantly shifting current events landscape–were the show at its best. Think of the embassy attack in season four that was modeled after Benghazi, the real-life Tower of David, or the CIA’s involvement in Venezuela.

Watching “Enemy of the State” and realizing that they may have drawn from that same kind of inspiration for McClendon’s death made me oddly excited. 

What did you all think?