Homeland Recap: 8×08 Threnody(s)

Previously on Homeland: Haqqani was sentenced to death; G’ulom got to Hayes and convinced him to bring in Hugh Dancy a/k/a John Zabel as an ultra-right-wing advisor on Afghanistan, who acts and looks kind of like Stephen Miller minus the “I was resurrected from a haunted Confederate burial ground after spending 150 years underground” aesthetic; Saul was convinced that if Haqqani died Afghanistan would “go up in flames”; and Carrie found Max, but the black box he risked his life for had already been sold; and Carrie couldn’t convince anyone at the base to send in an extraction team, so she went in on her own and nearly attacked a dozen Taliban by herself before Yevgeny prevented her.

Haqqani reads a book which I understand to be the Quran in his cell, when two soldiers arrive to shackle his hands and escort him out. Shouts and what sound like cheers accompany him as he walks. He’s placed before a board in front of a firing squad, where he stands facing his executioners with a frown that’s not frightened or sad so much as existentially questioning.

But just then Hayes calls G’ulom (he calls him Abdul, which I imagine is not an appropriate way to address a foreign leader, especially one as forbidding as G’ulom) and reveals that he’s received a hostage video of Max, and Max will die if Haqqani is executed. G’ulom remains silent, so Hayes blabs on about preventing American deaths (love how Hayes is too weak to stand up against this basic negotiation tactic). Finally Wellington, who’s also on the call, puts it into words that they want him to delay the execution. G’ulom says this’ll make him look weak, but Wellington says–in a way I understand to be somewhat of a threat—”Not to your partners.” So G’ulom agrees to 24 hours.

Carrie gets a call from Saul, who tells her the good news that they’ve gotten a reprieve for Haqqani. He promises her that Max’s situation is stable. After that, he hangs up and goes in to meet the others, including Jenna, Mike and Scott Ryan. Ryan asks if Carrie’s still with “the Russian,” and Saul says he “didn’t ask,” and everyone totally just rolls their eyes. This whole episode we’ll be seeing exactly how unquestioningly loyal Saul is to Carrie, even as she pushes that farther than she’s ever pushed before.

They get on a conference call with Hayes, who brags about having bought them some time. Ryan cautions that the compound is isolated and exposed, and Max is partially incapacitated. They’ll have to go in at night and on foot. Hayes looks like he’s preparing to whine about how unlucky he is but then just asks what the odds of success are. Ryan answers that they’re 50/50 at best. Hayes leaves, and Zabel runs after him to argue that the US doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. “Also, frankly… who is this Max Piotrowski anyway?” What a big jerk! Wellington overhears the end of this, and goes into Zabel’s unoccupied office, where he sees a draft of a speech about taking revenge on Jalal Haqqani. When he’s interrupted by, presumably, Zabel’s assistant, he makes off with the speech.

Saul comes to visit Haqqani in his cell. Haqqani doesn’t know why his execution was stopped, so Saul explains that Jalal’s taken a hostage. “Which, terrible as that is, bought us some time,” Saul says. I didn’t notice this on first watch, but wow, how cold! I mean, Saul knows Max. You expect Carrie to shit all over Max in favor of the mission, but Saul’s usually a guy who really cares about his people, and even he’s like, “Oh, yeah, Max, big deal, but what I’m really worried about is Haqqani.” Like, if Max knew what was really going on–if he knew that he’d heroically risked his life to exonerate the man that killed Fara right in front of him, and if he knew how focused Saul was on saving Haqqani instead of Max–how sad would that be? Or maybe the sadder part is that Max has always more or less accepted that he’s a “little guy” and that Carrie’s heroics are above his paygrade, his job being only to help her.

Jeez. Now that I type it all out in black and white, it really sucks to be Max this season. And it’s going to suck even more in pretty soon.

Haqqani says, “This will happen,” meaning his execution, and tells Saul it’s up to him to continue what they started together. Then suddenly Saul is pulled out of the cell, and Haqqani is dragged back out to the firing squad. Saul asks G’ulom about the agreement, but G’ulom says that Hayes has come to his senses. Saul continues pleading with G’ulom, who’s utterly unmoved, and with very little further ceremony Haqqani is shot. He isn’t quite dead after being hit in the chest several times, and tries to stand back up, so G’ulom orders the soldiers to reload. Outside, they can hear a crowd stamping and yelling “Haqqani!” and that’s the last thing Haqqani hears before he’s shot again. This time he’s clearly dead, and G’ulom swiftly stalks out, leaving Saul there.

Over at the compound, Carrie sees a flurry of activity through her binoculars. Yevgeny’s still there, too, of course–and he shows her the picture on his phone of Haqqani’s death, with a sympathetic little grimace. Without Haqqani there’s no reason for Max to be kept alive. But now they can see the men taking Max somewhere, pushing him around. Carrie grabs the binoculars again, and says, “Let’s get ready, they’re about to leave.” Yevgeny immediately complies.

But then—

Gunfire!! Max falls down and the cars all drive away without him. Carrie runs towards him without a thought of being seen, even as Yevgeny calls her name. She reaches him and bends over him, crying. He’s dead.

It is SHOCKING, y’all. How often does a beloved (I don’t know if Max was widely beloved, but I like him so I’m going to assume everyone else shared my opinion) character get gunned down in this way? Usually there’s a buildup–a last escape attempt, a final glance shared between him and a loved one, some sense that the inevitable is approaching. In fact, Haqqani had this moment with Saul. But we don’t even see Max’s face here. We just see him through Carrie’s eyes, through binoculars. It’s a really cold, grim way to kill off a gentle soul. In a way I think it emphasizes how gentle his soul is–too gentle for the world he found himself in, mostly through his loyalty to Carrie.

Zabel finds Wellington making ten copies of his stolen speech. (I’m impressed, it seems like there’s a big fancy copy machine right in the lobby type thing outside his office, so he doesn’t have to go to some dreary copy room to do it.) Zabel insists the President wanted his speech, so Wellington indignantly recites his least favorite passages from the speech. Apparently Zabel wants to “make” the Pakistanis secure the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Also he wants the President to call Pakistan a “failed” state. Gee, who does this sound like? “How did you even get in here,” Wellington mutters after telling him exactly what he thinks of him. But of course, Wellington can fret all he wants–never once has he actually effectively done anything to stop whatever he’s fretting about.

Saul is watching people wrap up Haqqani’s body when Carrie calls and says accusingly, “Max is dead. You brought him to this country. It was your job to protect him.” She wants Special Ops to come pick up Max’s body. Saul says he’ll do it. Then he tells Carrie she can’t keep running around with a GRU officer. Carrie actually claims that Yevgeny was the only one who cared what happened to Max, which–now we know that she’s buying into whatever Yevgeny is selling her, at least a little bit. But when Saul tells her again to come in, she seems to be amenable—”I’m with Max. You know where to find me.”

Yevgeny and his men arrive in cars. He sees Carrie crying by the body and says gently enough that they’ll take him inside, but Carrie wants to do it. So the two of them lift Max’s body and carry it inside on their own.

Jalal and his entourage have arrived in a town somewhere and find Haqqani’s second-in-command, Balach (I don’t know if we’re ever given this guy’s name, I found it on IMDB) making a speech to a group of Taliban, saying that they must keep on Haqqani’s path towards peace with the Americans. Jalal interrupts and gives a speech basically saying that that isn’t Haqqani’s real path, but just a mistake he made as an old man. He says that Haqqani stood on his feet even after being filled with bullets, and that they should be like the real Haqqani–in other words, keep fighting. Then, he whips out a giant gun and does a little show-and-tell, saying that he shot down the Presidents. Everyone is very excited by this. Baby Jalal is coming into his own.

Over at the White House, Hayes complains that he has an important speech tomorrow but has nothing to say. Gee, that sounds like a personal problem, Hayes. Zabel wants to go with his racist war-mongering speech; Wellington just wants Hayes to brag that Haqqani the Elder is dead. Hayes, faced with two opposing viewpoints, does what any strong and decisive leader would do: tells the two of them to “work it out” so he doesn’t have to decide. Out in the hall, Wellington adorably suggests they sit down and find some common ground. Zabel pretends to agree to this and excuses himself to get a coffee. Clearly Wellington has never seen TV before… or met a Republican before… because he takes this at face value instead of assuming that Zabel is going to use the next five minutes to stab him in the back. Sure enough, Zabel calls a woman who we see at some kind of governmental event, and asks for “Kompromat” against the people getting in his way. According to iMDB her name is Claudette, so… thanks, iMDB, now I don’t have to refer to her as “the woman with shiny hair.” I know we make fun when shows overemphasize the full names of guest characters (remember Clifton Smalls?) but actually it makes for very difficult watching (and recapping!) when shows err too far in the other direction.

Jalal’s men are getting ready to go when Balach protests that Haqqani wanted peace. Jalal threatens to accuse Balach of leading Haqqani down the road that led to his death… Secure in his power, he asks if Balach is with him or against him. Balach stares angrily at him.

This next scene is so good. Yevgeny comes to find Carrie sitting vigil with Max and a single candle. He asks her to tell him about the dead person. She says it’s Max, like he should know: but then she realizes that she never told Yevgeny about him. Which is shocking, because she apparently told Yevgeny everything. And yet completely believable, as even Carrie immediately realizes. She tells Yevgeny that Max would do anything for Carrie, that he was always by her side, and she must not have said anything about him because she took him for granted. And it’s really sad. Max didn’t even get a death at the end of an episode. He was shot, point-blank, no big deal, in the middle of one. The show is Carrie, the show’s perspective is often Carrie’s perspective in a way even as it holds a very critical eye on Carrie, and so Max never got to carry the emotional weight that even Yevgeny, a late-season addition and (this bears repeating) a Russian spy, is imbued with, because Carrie never gave him that weight. To her, and thus to the show, Max was Max. He was a workhorse, a prop. (Yet of course, you also have to love him: this season especially showcased his humor, his strength, his quiet loyalty.)

It’s both exactly as terrible as Carrie realizes it is, and slightly less terrible. It wasn’t like she was using him to get her dry cleaning. She was using him as an accomplice for her missions to save the country (or missions she believed would save the country); and he trusted her judgment about what was good for the country implicitly, and that was why he would do anything for her. Yes, he loved her, but his service to her was, in my opinion, entirely patriotic: because of that love, he believed serving her would help his country. It wasn’t as simple as “I care about you and I’m a pushover so I’ll do whatever you say.” Not at all. So that’s a saving grace for Carrie, not that she can really tell herself that at this moment.

So as she cries and says “I’m so sorry, Max,” it almost seems like she doesn’t quite realize that he died a hero: he died for his country. Not really for her. She was the instrument of that, but not really the cause; he made his own decisions.

Oh, and then while Carrie cries Yevgeny comes over to pat her back and she falls into his arms, weeping. Not gonna lie, I like this part of the scene too. Such chemistry!

Hayes has his two squabbling advisors in the office, and is reading a rather anodyne speech to them, clearly not written by the firebrand Zabel. Once the two rival siblings are out of Hayes’ office, Zabel gets a call and leaves a suspicious Wellington behind. It’s Claudette, who meets him in a back hallway and plays him a LQ video of Jalal’s power play in Miranshah, including where he claims to have shot down the President. Then she says, “It’s unverified. You can’t use it.” “Of course not,” says Zabel. Yeah… sure.

Mike tells Saul that he’s sending people to pick up Max’s body. Saul wants to go to bring Carrie back, and becomes only more determined when Mike refers to her as a defector. Offended, Saul says that Mike did nothing while Carrie found Max, and “now she’s coming home.” Saul’s faith in Carrie is so absolute and so magnificent. They really emphasize that in this season.

Zabel finds Hayes getting his makeup done for his public address announcing that Haqqani is dead. “Who is it? What language is it? Why am I looking at it?” says Hayes when Zabel shows him the video. Now, Hayes is not Trump, but I can totally imagine Trump saying that every time someone tried to show him anything that didn’t feature his own face. Can’t you? When Zabel tells him that Jalal killed the President, Hayes tries to cancel–but they’ve already preempted the networks. They can’t announce that they’ve killed the wrong guy, but they have to announce something–and oh gee, Zabel happens to have a prewritten speech on hand about how they’re going to be even more violent towards Muslims now! Of course you know the ending to this scene: Hayes is convinced, because he’s always convinced by the last person he talks to.

Saul arrives at a hangar to find some soldiers watching Hayes’ address. Hayes is saying out loud that he has evidence that Jalal did it. No one, apparently, explained to him about how you have to verify intelligence before you blab it all over the airwaves. It shows so clearly how insane it is to want to vote someone for President who’s never governed before–Hayes just literally has no idea what he’s doing, and when the stakes are high, he doesn’t know enough to avoid making huge and deadly mistakes. Saul, of course, makes his Disappointed Dad face. Man, I’m gonna miss that face when I’m done recapping. Then it’s time to go, and he reminds one of the soldiers that they’re not “apprehending” Carrie, she agreed to come in–not that they seem super convinced. Gee, I wonder if this is going to work out badly.

Wellington rushes into the Oval Office–too late, of course, to actually save Hayes from himself. Isn’t that Wellington’s life story, basically? Hayes is telling everyone that he’s gathering forces in Pakistan to force them to turn over Jalal. “What the fuck have you done,” Wellington says. “This was a nobody you just turned into a folk hero. You are pushing us into a war we don’t want and can’t win.” As always, Wellington is right, but far too weak to actually convince anyone or do anything about it.

Carrie and Yevgeny carry Max’s wrapped body out to the entrance of the compound together. A helicopter approaches, with Saul in it. He looks a little bit more in suspense than he’s willing to admit–you know deep down he’s probably not really sure if Carrie’s going to go off and elope with Yevgeny, though I think he is sure she’d never do anything to hurt her country–or himself. (More poignancy.) Yevgeny says to Carrie, “You know they will give you a hard time.” But Carrie trusts Saul to protect her–and, she says, she can’t stay out here forever. Yevgeny says “Why not,” but she just shares a smile with him, and he ambles off towards his getaway car.

The helicopter touches down as Yevgeny reaches his car. Carrie stands there, waiting, leaning over Max’s body to keep the covering over him. Yevgeny stops to watch–and sees soldiers lining up, guns cocked, on the ridge approaching Carrie. Saul leads the way, unarmed. They stop by Max’s body; two soldiers carry it away, while Saul and Carrie face each other. He summarizes the developments around Jalal, and Carrie says she has a lead on the black box that could prove Jalal is lying. Saul promises they’ll follow it up together–and that he’s on her side. Carrie isn’t entirely trusting, and she looks over at Yevgeny, who’s still watching–waiting, presumably, to see if she’s really going back with Saul.

As they walk towards the plane, Carrie tells Saul that Yevgeny doesn’t know about the black box–but then the soldiers demand to search Carrie, and brandish restraints. Carrie freaks and pulls her gun, while Saul, still unarmed, tries to stand between them. Yevgeny fires his gun to distract everyone and Carrie starts backing towards him! Saul begs that he didn’t know about the handcuffs, but it’s too late–Carrie calls him a liar in a guttural voice and runs over to Yevgeny. Saul turns back and blames all the soldiers for driving her away with the restraints. And Carrie? Carrie arrives at the car, takes one sad look back at Saul, and–as Yevgeny holds the door–she gets in.

They drive away, and the helicopter takes off. Yevgeny asks if Carrie is OK–and she tells him about the black box.

Holy shit you guys.

This season takes the weakness in Carrie’s character–her need to be right all the time, her need to test boundaries, her belief that she alone knows exactly what her country needs most, and of course, her propensity to get so close with the enemy she’s pursuing that she falls in love with them–and shows us how it leads to this, Carrie on the run with a Russian operative and giving him access to an important national secret. Look, is it reasonable for Carrie to be that mad about being handcuffed when she just spent days on the lam with a Russian operative? Um, no. But is it believable that she’d grab at the chance to be offended because something self-destructive inside her wants to make a break with the agency that’s demanded so much from her, and wants to go back on the lam with her sexy Russian frenemy? Yes. I believe that. She’ll always tell herself that she’s doing what’s right for her country, but she’s capable of doing that while simultaneously doing extroardinarily foolish things, especially when sexy enemies of state are involved!

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