Homeland is a master platform for slow-burn drama. With insidious, paranoid intent, the tension and suspicion delicately tightens, placing threat and danger in the strictest of vices. We know at some point it simply must explode, but the anxiety surrounding such a detonation is quite frankly spectacular. Whilst some writers are finding the methodical pacing of Showtime’s sixth season a little testing, this critic is finding it utterly enthralling, and “The Covenant” continued the profound and purposeful momentum as teased in last week’s emotionally-stirring hour.
This third episode solidifies the web of secrets and lies which forms the foundations of the show’s genetic makeup within one brilliant dialogue exchange: Dar Adal’s (F. Murray Abraham) briefing with President-elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel). He informs her of Saul Berenson’s (Mandy Patinkin) findings in the field over in Abu Dhabi, in which there is “conclusive” evidence to suggest that lurid Iranian delegate Farhad Nafisi (Bernard White) has been covertly purchasing North Korean nuclear components, violating the treaty established between Iran and the United States. The word “conclusive” – as Claire Danes’ protagonist Carrie Mathison informs during her privatised meetings with Keane – is concerning, as CIA operatives prefer to “hedge their bets” as opposed to speaking so decisively. Keane has not seen Saul’s official report from the interrogation with Nafisi, nor an evaluation of his trip; she merely has Dar’s strict wording to go by.
Carrie advises her client to converse with the President; to compare intel, and to express her concern at the recommendations made by the CIA messenger, but unbeknown to the twosome – who are settling in for a quiet meal – Dar is listening in to the whole conversation. The spider-web map of deceit is thickening, and thickening fast. Carrie lied to Saul about her position advising Keane, and Dar deliberately neglected to inform his colleague of his knowledge of such engagements. Meanwhile Saul has uncovered a potential piece of evidence – a discarded cigarette packet – which could suggest Nafisi’s ‘exit’ from the interrogation wasn’t quite as swift as initially believed: an informant perhaps? Saul also doesn’t know that Carrie’s recommendations for he to travel to Abu Dhabi were supported by Dar, placing further pressure on their already fractured relationship.
Trust is shattering within the CIA, and indeed the FBI, as Carrie’s dramatic behaviour last week has caused big issues for her business partner Reda Hashem (Patrick Sabongui), and their client Sekou Bah (J. Mallory McCree). After infiltrating Sahd (Leo Manzari) – who operates undercover for the Feds – he reports her to the FBI’s Ray Conlin (Dominic Fumusa), which in turn violates a court agreement and removes Sekou’s plea bargain. He must now go to trial, where he could be sentenced to fifteen year’s in a high-security facility for committing no crime whatsoever; framed by suspicion and corrupt political agenda. However, as we know – and as Conlin aggressively states – Carrie is like “a f**king dog with a bone” – as she asks a wayward favour and has the phone calls between Conlin and Sahd traced and recorded. She now has clear, if illegally obtained, evidence which shows the FBI are actively pushing to incriminate Sekou; to provide a distinct impression that he is, or will become, radicalised, and therefore presents a threat of domestic terrorism to the city of New York.
Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) is currently riding a psychologically-bruising comedown from medication which is plaguing his mind with vivid images of his ordeal back in Berlin. However, this week he isn’t consistently dwelling in the dark recesses of Carrie’s basement; instead he is suspicious. A figure in the window across the street has his back up, and he is making preparations in case his paranoia becomes proof. Quinn heads to see Tommy (Bobby Moreno) – the low-life drug dealer who robbed him in the season pilot – pretending he wants to do some “business”. He asks to buy Tommy’s handgun, and will offer him $2000 (the amount of cash that was stolen) for it and a “bump” of Class A. Finally, Quinn has his mojo back, smashing Tommy over the head with a sock laden with heavy household goods, taking the gun and stating it has already been paid for. The trouble is, this is Homeland, and in Homeland successes – no matter how small or mighty – often lead to complex and tragic ramifications. Quinn is now armed, but Tommy knows where he lives; where Carrie and daughter Frannie live. As does the silhouette figure peering from the gloomy double-glazing. The residents of this address are undoubtedly more vulnerable now.
Performances were of the highest calibre again this week, with Danes’ conservative façade beginning to crumble under pressure. She is far from ‘Crazy Carrie’, but the return feels forthcoming. Her actions are becoming more brazen and reckless, and with plentiful eyes on her and her family, a breaking point is bound to arrive sooner than later. Patinkin’s fantastic work in the field gave his already decadent character additional layering, as he reconciles with his long-neglected sibling, bringing light of his Jewish heritage, and associations to the Iranian and Muslim communities addition weight.
“The Covenant” expertly underpinned the bitter character motivations and outlines as we press forward in this sixth season. With each passing hour, Carrie is slowly and maliciously being dragged back into the covert world of fear, whilst Saul is coldly caught on the back-foot. Dar’s fixated idea that Keane – whose son died in US Military operations post-9/11 – hates the CIA, and the actions they implement in order of National Security, has him scheming and snaking in a manner which is uncompromising and dangerous. And Quinn – who is attempting to battle emotional and physical demons and learn to understand himself again – is finding the pull of shadows as intoxicating and deadly as he did in a past life.
Fireworks are about to launch, but revealing in the feverish burn of their fuses is just as satisfying and explosive. Homeland Season 6 is finding a tremendous and timely rhythm, and long may it continue.
Homeland Season 6 airs on Channel 4 HD on Sunday evenings at 9pm.