Homeland is back.
It's not the meandering tale of two lost souls who connected after one was turned in captivity to become a treasonous spy, while his CIA love fought both to save him and protect her country.
No. This is a series truly tuned into the drama that unfolds in what we consider "terrorist" nations; in this case, Pakistan. If that doesn't seem the right location, these are the top two headlines when you search for Pakistan, "Pakistan Taliban vows support for IS in Syria and Iraq," and "US drone strike kills senior Uzbek commander in Pakistan."
Yes, as we're re-introduced to our characters in their new location in Homeland Season 4 Episode 1, it feels very timely, indeed. Carrie's team has coined her the Drone Queen. It's just like being there. This is a powerful, gripping start to the season and it proves that the series wasn't tied to the chemistry of two actors, but centers on Carrie and her keen insight into the political world she lives in.
It's not easy to make a political show without revealing your politics, but Homeland manages quite well. There are good guys and bad guys on our side and on their side. That's as it should be. Nothing is black and white and Homeland isn't afraid to cover the gray areas.
We discover fairly quickly that the Station Chief in Islamabad, Sandy Bachman, calls the plays from Islamabad that Carrie runs with from Kabul. Corey Stoll is doing double duty tonight as he appears as Bachman here end Eph in The Strain. We're also introduced to the Ambassador to Pakistan, Martha Boyd. We don't see much of her tonight, but she'll prove quite interesting as the season progresses.
When Bachman had a last minute hit he wants carried out on the fourth name on their "list," Carrie had some reservations. There wasn't time to double check the intel as they've always done in the past, but Bachman's source had always come through so Carrie ordered a strike.
That one strike sets the stage for the season. She chose against drones, using fighter jets (the old fashioned way) and a farmhouse was decimated. There is always an expectation of collateral damage, but this damage was over the top -- they hit a house where the target was at a large family wedding.
It hits the fan. One survivor, Aayan, a medical student and nephew of the target, caught the wedding and the explosion on his iPhone. He hates politics. He probably hates Americans. There is a scene where Carrie is surveying the damage with one of her drones and he's standing beside the body of his dead sister, staring up into the drone, anger pouring out of him.
Although Aaryan has no desire to further enrage either side of the war he lives with every day, when the video is uploaded without his consent, he's tossed into the fire. So is Bachman.
Bachman was clearly up to no good, but we don't find out exactly what he was doing until later. His secret rendezvous at an unknown location left him stranded in the street right after his face was shown on the local news. Somehow the scene of him being beaten to death by an angry mob, screaming Quinn's name, was far more harrowing than watching Brody hang in Homeland Season 4.
Quinn started having a crisis of conscience a while ago. He lost his "taste" for killing, if he ever had one. He probably just had his dial turned down so low that he could tolerate the atrocious things he did. I would imagine if you didn't do that, you'd break.
Experiencing Bachman's killing with Carrie's safety weighing on his mind really tossed him over the edge. It's true to his character to be going in this direction and it was difficult not to cheer for him when he attacked two idiots for being nasty to his breakfast companion in Homeland Season 4 Episode 2.
Carrie: Well, I will, because I'm the one dropping fire on all of these people.
Quinn: Yeah, well I know what that's like.
Quinn: Ticking names off a kill list for a living.
I'm not sure it could be much more uncomfortable watching Carrie's attempts at motherhood. Not only does she briefly consider killing Frannie in the bath, but the way she hands her to her sister in another scene was like watching someone trying to get rid of a rotten sack of potatoes.
Carrie isn't fooling anyone with her desire to be in a war zone. She's doing it to stay as far away from Frannie as she can as much as she is because of her passion for the job. I agree with her assessment that her sister, Maggie, is much better for the little girl than Carrie could ever be. It doesn't stop Maggie from spitting out, "There's not even a diagnosis for what's wrong with you."
I tried to hold onto that and feel it, happy that you're here, but with his being gone, I can'tCarrie
remember why I had you. I loved him so much. When I close my eyes, I still see him there.
Of course, there's little doubt that Carrie's determination to get back to Pakistan in Bachman's place as Station Chief is out of a sense of justice and duty, but there is a little fire of panic brewing inside her at the thought of staying at home with her daughter. She'll do whatever it takes to get back into the fight, to track down the truth around Bachman's source.
Lockhart knew Bachman's source was dark, but he didn't care. Lockhart didn't care much about playing by the rules last year and he still doesn't. He wants to get the job done and keep his hands clean. If that mean tossing someone else under the bus, he'll do it without hesitation.
While he trashed a former field agent for revealing a leak under Bachman's direction, Carrie hunted the guy down to discover what he knew. Her tactics are always entertaining. She didn't beat round the bush and with her daughter in the car next to her she interrogated this man, Harris, assuring him she know he was an exemplary agent. His reveal was that Lockhart knew about the leak but wanted the kills to continue. Carrie's position as Station Chief was secured.
In Pakistan, Aayan was feeling the heat of the uploaded video. He may hate politics, but there is an as yet unrevealed reason behind it. He took a bag of medicine (A-xeron Injection turned up no data on the net) to his girlfriend's house for safe keeping and when he was later attacked, told to stop talking to the press and uploading videos, it was pretty clear we have no idea how he was connected to his uncle.
Reporter: Aayan! Aayan, the CIA Chief that ordered that bombing is now dead. Does that feel like
justice? It doesn't? Aayan, people want to know what you think.
Aayan: The Americans are murderers, OK, but we did to that man, how is that any different?
Could he turn and be an asset to the United States? It almost seems that way. When your own people are making trouble for you, turning is a genuine consideration. It will be interesting to find out what he's up to as the season progresses.
Saul's work with Total Security Solutions will come in handy for Carrie, who has asked his firm to provide it for her in Islamabad. I was surprised to discover he was still with Mira and had committed to three years in New York so she could have "her turn." She obviously doesn't know her husband well at all. With Carrie's power position, I fully expect to see him join her in Pakistan and it will be great to have them working together again.
Carrie wanted Quinn with her, as well, but he's waffling. His feelings for Carrie will outweigh any other prevailing factors. Expect to see him return to his team of which she's now leading.
I'm glad they chose to air two episodes back to back tonight, because it was warranted. They fit together like puzzle pieces and to leave viewers hanging after the beating in Islamabad would have been a disservice. Finding the dark asset should be interesting, especially as it relates to Lockhart. Saul admitted he's interested in regaining the CIA position he lost to the man, but I'm ready to see what he can do as a civilian.
There were a plethora of great Homeland Quotes, including the one Saul gave as his firm was trying to land a contract. It's a little scary to realize how short sighted we are as a nation when it comes to dramatic decisions about terrorism abroad when at any moment it could find it's way back to our shores. Maybe that will be Homeland Season 5.
Hit the comments. Share your thoughts on the two hours. Is a strong, in-charge Carrie to your liking? What about wayward, angry Quinn and determined Saul, hoping to get his chance to right 14 years of bad moves?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.