Homeland Recap: 6×04 “A Flash of Light”

Previously on Homeland: Quinn seems to have thought Carrie had an intruder; Carrie harassed an informant and got Sekou’s plea bargain yanked; she got transcripts of the informant’s calls with the FBI proving that Sekou didn’t want to meet with a terrorist; Saul questioned Iranian Farhad Nefisi about possibly breaking the nuclear arms deal and then visited his sister in a West Bank settlement; the President-Elect consulted with Carrie about what Dar (falsely) said Saul said was “conclusive” evidence that Iranians were breaking the deal; and Saul got into a car outside of the settlement.

After the credits, Saul’s in the car, looking out at a deserted road flooded with street lights. Then suddenly the car swerves off, and he’s yanked into the back of a truck, yelling, “Take it fuckin’ easy!” The truck speeds off. One of his kidnappers snaps a photo of him and says it’s to see if he’s the right man, and another ties a blindfold over his face.

Sekou’s leaving prison, chased by yelling reporters. Reda tells them there was no merit to the charge, and calls the prosecution “predatory” and a “sham.” As they drive away, with Carrie at the wheel, Sekou says, “Will somebody please tell me what just happened?” Carrie says he’s out on one condition: no press, no interviews. The U. S. Attorney is going to make a statement that there was insufficient evidence to bring an indictment. Sekou thinks about this for a moment and says, “I’m out, aren’t I?”

President-Elect Keane is on her way into a press conference when her advisor, Rob, warns her that the Times just posted something about her ignoring warnings from intelligence officers, and accommodating state sponsors of terrorism. Keane realizes it’s an ambush for the press conference. She finds Dar, who just happens to be in the hallway, and says she doesn’t want to be undermined before she takes office. He starts to apologize “on behalf of all the…” but she interrupts him and says the president agrees with her that there will be no rush to judgment on Iran, and says it’s unwise of him to “peddl[e] unverified and politically motivated horseshit to the press.”

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Keane yells at Dar for leaking.

Of course, Dar’s supposed to be the bad guy here—but it’s hard not to see this scene and wince, this particular week. I think this type of conversation can happen in a more-or-less healthy democracy, where intelligence officers leak only when they feel they must—like Snowden; or in a malfunctioning one, where intelligence officers leak frequently, either to maintain illegitimate control over the country or to stop a president from dangerous acts. I think Dar thinks he’s in one story; Keane thinks she’s in another.

Carrie and Reda escort Sekou home, where he’s greeted by a surprise party. After hugging his mother and sister he tells his mom he didn’t do anything, and she says, “I know.” Reda pulls Carrie aside and asks how she pulled it off, and if it’s going to come back and bite them. He thinks Sekou deserves to be compensated. Carrie says, “Of course he does. But look at him. He was facing 15 years, and now he’s free.” Um, yeah, because you ruined his chance at the plea bargain, but OK. Reda says he can’t keep working this way, and that they’re supposed to be a non-profit providing legal services. You know, LEGALLY. Carrie says it won’t happen again. Do you believe her? I totally do. NOT.

Carrie gets a text of some sort an dleaves, looking over her shoulder as she walks down the street. Rob falls into step with her and lets her in a black car, as Reda watches out the window. Then he’s distracted by Sekou thanking him for getting his job back. He complains light-heartedly about having to do 5 a.m. deliveries again, and thanks Reda before going off to hang with his friends, who tease him: “Boy’s got his own lawyer now.” They tell him he’s lucky. “No one gets out. Not with terrorism stuff.” They imply that he’s an FBI informant then claim to be “just kidding around.”

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Sekou goes to get a refill of his water, clearly realizing that freedom isn’t going to be as simple as he thought. He leaves the party to shut himself in his room and record a video, his cap back on. He says he’s out, but he’s not an FBI informant, and that to him, every Muslim person is his brother or sister, and they have to protect each other. Speaking of things that are going to come back and bite…

Saul is hauled out of the truck and put on his knees. “What the fuck is this,” he whispers. Maybe it’s a surprise party, Saul. You don’t know. But no—he’s greeted by someone who is apparently an old ally, who reprimands him for calling for a meeting (they apparently use some secret signal) in such a dangerous place, ten miles from the border. Saul says that he met Farhad Nefisi in Abu Dhabi, and asks if “Majid,” the man he’s meeting, is cheating on the deal. He lays out the evidence he has, and Majid doesn’t exactly deny it. Saul pleads that they started something successful, but Majid says, “You put a gun to my head and threatened to expose me.” He says it doesn’t matter if they’re cheating on the agreement, since half of Americans will be convinced they are no matter what. Saul asks him to find out and give him the real answer. He promises that he will make sure the truth matters. Majid seems to agree, rather ruefully, and warns Saul that the news might not be good.

In his basement, Quinn stares at his gun and some loose bullets. Then he clips the bullets into his jacket and stands by the window, at attention.

Carrie arrives at Keane’s Secret Suite. Keane says she got the President to agree not to provoke an international crisis before she’s sworn in, but that Dar wasn’t happy about it. “We need to shut him down,” says Rob and asks Carrie how to “leverage him.” Carrie looks shocked, and says that would be a breach of her agreement when she left the agency and could get her thrown in prison. Keane promises her she’d never spend a day in prison. “Come on, Carrie. We both knew this wasn’t gonna be easy.” It turns out they have planned to complete a “wholesale reform of the CIA” and that’s what Carrie’s there to advise her on. Carrie sighs, looking like she’s about to be persuaded.

Quinn watches from his window until the pale dude in a black cap leaves the building he’s been watching. hobbles across the street, and rings the bell for every apartment until the door opens. He approaches an apartment marked with the number 5 and carefully begins to pick it with bobby pins, though with his newly clumsy fingers he has some trouble. Finally the lock turns and he lets himself in to the apartment, which appears to belong to a regular-ish person who eats TV dinners, hoards newspapers, and has a family they like enough to keep photos of. One thing, which I didn’t notice until rewatching, the guy Quinn’s been watching is white, and the photos are of black people. Then, out the window, he sees Skullcap Dude heading back. Skullcap Dude lets himself into the building and finds Quinn pretending to be delivering a wrongly addressed envelope. “Where do you live?” the guy asks. “Across the…” Quinn says and trails off as he realizes he probably shouldn’t be sharing that. And that is how we know he still has major brain damage—the old Quinn would have known not to say that. Skullcap Dude says he’s going to call the police if he sees Quinn there again.

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Carrie picks up Fran from school and gives her a kiss. She pauses when she sees Dar, who no person wants to see lurking around a kids’ playground, and sends Fran back to play for five more minutes. “What a pretty child,” he says. “Striking hair.” Hee! Way to subtly remind her that she procreated with a ginger terrorist. He says he knows she’s colluding with the president-elect, saying, “I’m not Saul.” Carrie says, “I’m a friend, not an advisor.” Clearly, she’s been hanging out long enough with politicians to pick up their love of spin. He says she knows nothing, since she’s been out of the agency three years, and to stop giving bad advice. He says as a friend he’s advising her to “Stand down.” “No, you stand down,” she says. Good comeback. “I don’t think you understand how vulnerable you are,” he says. “I don’t think you do,” Carrie says. Apparently the only form of comeback that Carrie now knows is the highly sophisticated, ‘No I’m not! YOU are!’ Luckily Fran interrupts before Carrie can try “I’m rubber, you’re glue.” Carrie carries her away, looking upset.

Out in the desert in the morning light, Saul appears to have been forced to walk home. He lets himself into the settlement and then to his sister’s house. His sister asks where he was, but he says he just couldn’t sleep and took a walk. She says she saw him going into the valley. He suggests he pack, and then they talk over breakfast.

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Clever Saul. Now he gets a homecooked breakfast from his sister before he has to have any difficult conversations. She asks who he was meeting, and when he says he can’t tell her that, says, “I suppose it was an Arab. Why do you always take their side?” Oof. She’s not coming off very well here, but she also does point out that he never comes to visit her except as a cover for his work. He says, just as he said with Mira so many times, that he meant to visit her, and apologizes, just as he did with Mira.

After a long, pained silence, the bell rings. Saul thinks it’s his taxi, but it turns out to be Etai. He invites him in, but Etai knows Saul has a flight and offers to drive him. Just as he seems about to throw Saul in the trunk and drive off, his sister emerges. Etai asks what they did all night, and if they had any guests. “Saul didn’t step out for a few hours, did he?” he asks Saul’s sister. She says she didn’t notice anything, but doesn’t exactly say no. Saul, about to drive off with Etai, having accepted his fate, bids her good-bye and thanks her under his breath. “Shalom,” the siblings say to each other.

In the back of the car with Etai, Saul says he won’t answer Etai’s questions until he hears what he was supposed to have done last night. Etai says there were reports of a ranking Iranian crossing the border last night. Saul claims that that sounds unlikely, and that he has to get back to the States because he’s on the transition team. Etai informs him that his flight was cancelled for a “mechanical problem.” Uh-oh.

Quinn’s drumming his fingers tensely on the counter when Franny and Carrie arrive home, Franny announcing gleefully that it’s snacktime. Quinn says he was worried that they were fourteen minutes late, and Carrie brushes him off. “A man came to school and he had painted hair and he scared Mommy,” says Franny. Carrie explains sotto voce that it was Dar Adal. Quinn whispers to her that someone is watching them from across the street and that he saw holes in the carpet. “You were in the apartment?” Carrie says, giving him a shocked, angry look.

Reda calls just then to tell Carrie about the newest video on Sekou’s site, so Quinn’s off the hook. Reda tells Carrie to get Sekou to take it down. After a moment of hesitation, Carrie leaves.

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She knocks at the door of Sekou’s apartment, and he lets her in reluctantly. She tells him the deal was to keep his mouth shut, and that he has to take it down. He protests that he never agreed to it, but Carrie says he’s going to be rearrested for exposing an FBI informant. Sekou says he deserves what’s coming, and for Carrie not to worry about him. She asks him why he posts so much “ugliness” online, like pictures of fallen soldiers. He says it’s to shock people and wake them up to what’s happening, comparing the American invasion to a home intruder. Carrie tells him she sympathizes (after complaining, oddly, that he has no idea who she is and thinks of her as just a “blonde lady” who works with Reda), even with the argument that suicide bombers are just defending their home. But that she also has friends who died there, and that those images really offend her. Sekou says, “Good.” Then she says she’ll forgive him for saying it since he’s twenty and angry, which is a hilariously unwise tone to take with any angry twenty-year-old. She begs him again to take down the video and stop “thumbing your nose at all the people who believed in you.” He says that if she believed in him, she wouldn’t keep telling him to keep his mouth shut. She sits down and tells him, “Pressure was applied” to get him out, and that she could go to jail for what she did. Sekou shakes his head, disbelieving. He doesn’t think she’d do something like that for him. She says it was the right thing to do because the country went crazy after 9/11 and she knows that. He stares at her, thinking hard.

Saul gets out of the car and is ushered into a building guarded by wire and soldiers. They show him into what appears to be an interrogation room slash cell, and he takes a seat, crossing his legs casually. Etai tells him Tovah will be here in the morning, and Saul nods ruefully, realizing he’s going to be detained here. Etai says he doesn’t like being lied to, and Saul says, “You’re in the wrong business.” Etai tells Saul that Iran may get nukes in ten years, and that eight million of them may have to leave the settlements and go back to Europe to wait for the next pogrom.

In Carrie’s apartment, Quinn stands at the window, camera at the ready. He sees Skullcap Dude emerge, so he leaves out the front door, waking Carrie. Carrie comes downstairs, calling his name, but he’s already driven away, leaving the dish with her car keys empty. (At least, I think that’s what’s happening there—hard to tell.)

Driving down the street chasing Skullcap Dude, Quinn sees his quarry take a turn and does the same himself, slowly. Then he peers around the corner to see the other car, and holds up his phone to take a picture as Skullcap Dude gets out of the car holding a bag and enters a darkened lot.

The car drives away, and Quinn pulls up to the location, only to have a police car blare its siren at him. “Read the sign buddy,” the cop says, “No parking.” Quinn agreeably ambles off to move the car. As he drives around, he takes pictures of the vans in the lot where the man emerged. They say “Medina.” The camera lingers so that you know to remember that detail.

Sekou is woken by his mother, holding a cup of tea. She tells him it’s good to have him home, and he smiles at her, looking pensive.

At work, he’s loading up a truck when his buddies from the party join him and congratulate him on exposing Saad. They ask why he took the video down, and Sekou says he had to so he wouldn’t have to go back to prison, but that now Saad’s face has been online it can never be undone. The nicer of the friends says he’s right, but the other one clearly isn’t convinced that Sekou’s really a good guy. He assures Sekou that they’re cool, but if this show is like every other TV show I’ve ever seen, he’s clearly gonna be a problem.

In the morning, Quinn tells Carrie in a slurred, insistent voice that he followed the man from across the street to a building at 2:14 a.m. where he had a key to the padlock. Carrie duhs, “So he’s a security guard?” A frustrated Quinn has no answer.

Sekou drives his van across the bridge with his music blasting. Just as we see that his van, too, is marked Medina, there’s an explosion, and everything goes white.

Across the world, Etai opens the door to Saul’s cell and tells him he’s needed back home because there’s been an attack in New York.

We see New York from above, a cloud of black smoke rising above the skyscrapers.

Conclusion

I was actually at a writing conference last week where I went to a panel about “terror and environmental collapse.” I assumed that we would be talking about multiple types of terror—terror committed by governments against their people, plus terrorist acts committed by by far-right extremists in the US, by anarchists, as well as by radical Muslims. But the two white speakers on the panel casually referred to “terrorism” as a monolithic thing that seemingly only comprised the latter. I was shocked: haven’t we moved beyond that, especially as writers? But the truth is, we are as a country still in the grip of what Carrie called the “crazy-stupid” that our country indulged in after the 9/11 attacks. Even writers, who tend to think they’re enlightened, apparently often fail to examine these kinds of assumptions.

Which is why this season of Homeland comes at such an important time. Without knowing what comes of the attack I can’t say for sure, but basically, it seems like we’re going to be looking at white terrorism this season, presumably carried out by Skullcap Dude. The fact that the show had little obviously-signaled buildup to the attack—instead of the usual, where Carrie is frantically rushing to prevent it, or at least has some warning—and instead made it a surprise is a comment, I think, on the fact that we are so trained—not only by “the media” but by previous seasons of this exact show—to expect terrorism from brown-skinned people that terrorism by other people tends to come as a shock. My own particular conditioning was such that I didn’t even connect the Skullcap dude to terrorism. I assumed he was doing something nefarious, but I didn’t think the explicit words “he is probably a terrorist.” Even though, since it’s a show about terrorism, I obviously should have. So I continue to appreciate what they’re doing by returning to and subverting the old narratives about terrorism.

That said, I hope they don’t kill Sekou! J. Mallory McCree, who I wasn’t familiar with before, is a fantastic actor and I would hate to see him go.

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