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Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 12, "A False Glimmer"

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 12, “A False Glimmer”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 12, “A False Glimmer”

The simple fact that “A False Glimmer,” the season finale of Homeland, resolves its major terrorist plot within the first 10 minutes serves to emphasize that this isn’t really what the series about. Yes, like most other shows, the hero triumphs—though Carrie (Claire Danes) stresses that it’s Qasim (Alireza Bayram), a potential terrorist with second thoughts, who truly saved everyone, including her. But instead of happily ending there, the remainder of the episode lingers almost uncomfortably long on the survivors.

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 11, "Our Man in Damascus"

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Our Man in Damascus”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Our Man in Damascus”

“Our Man in Damascus” takes place over the course of five hours, as the BND and C.I.A. race to find and defuse a canister of Sarin gas that’s been placed somewhere in Berlin. In the episode’s strongest sections, Carrie (Claire Danes) methodically sorts through the various clues dropped throughout the season, and in its weaker stretches, Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and his largely incompetent C.I.A. agents rush through a spread of undeveloped and inconsistent characters, demonstrating the dangers of “extraordinary measures.” The cool, tense logic of the former is at loggerheads with the hot, reckless action of the latter. (Perhaps the title of the episode hints at that, given the shift of “Our Man in Damascus” from the deliberate pace of prior episodes, so redolent of a LeCarre novel, and toward the entertainment of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, which pokes fun at how stupid intelligence agencies can be.)

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 10, "New Normal"

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “New Normal”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “New Normal”

It’s no surprise that Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) survived his exposure to sarin gas, as last week’s episode of Homeland lingered on the wavering faith of his jailor, Qasim (Alireza Bayram), and explained how atrophine could be used as a counteragent. Nor is it shocking that, having found a way to save Quinn, the writers quickly come up with a means for his rescue, this time by way of a fancy algorithm that Carrie (Claire Danes) and Astrid (Nina Hoss) are able to run off the little information they have about Quinn’s captor, Bibi (Rene Ifrah), and the particular type of mosaic tiling on the floor outside Peter’s cell. These events are unlikely, and Homeland falters when it focuses on the contrivances of its big-picture plotting, but they lead “New Normal” to a powerful ending, as Carrie and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) sit silently beside one another in the hospital, watching Quinn’s intubated body. Terrorists may be about to unleash an attack somewhere in Berlin, but it’s this small-picture human element that matters most.

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 8, "All About Allison"

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 8, “All About Allison”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 8, “All About Allison”

No wonder Carrie (Claire Danes) trusts Allison (Miranda Otto). When they first met in Baghdad in 2005, Allison was a loyal servant of the U.S. government. She was jaded, like most Americans mired in the hopeless ideals of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but she was doing her best to cling to the rhetoric of locals like Judge Khalil (Makram J. Khoury), who naïvely insisted that “Success is possible if we don’t give up.” But at one point, her aspirations didn’t extend far beyond a vacation in St. Lucia, at a bar surrounded by gorgeous” men. No, it wasn’t until she fell into a honeypot scheme involving her asset, Ahmed Nazari (Darwin Shaw), and his millions of embezzled dollars, that she became desperate enough to ally with the ambitious SVR Ivan (Mark Ivanir), who seemed to understand her deeper ambitions, and knew how to temper them with equal parts fear and opportunity.

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 5, "Better Caul Saul"

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 5, “Better Caul Saul”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 5, “Better Caul Saul”

Everything about this week’s episode of Homeland, “Better Call Saul,” suggests that the writers couldn’t restrain themselves from winking at audiences. To begin with, there’s its pop-culturally referent title, which calls a quite different series to mind. Then there’s the overly cute way in which the series appropriates the in-the-headlines “Je Suis Charlie” as “Je Suis Gabehcoud.” And then there’s the snarky way in which last week’s ramifications are recapped through lazy exposition: The day after the explosion, Allison (Miranda Otto) stands on the airport runway and tells Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) that “Someone betrayed us,” to which Dar Adal snaps back: “You think?”

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 4, “Why Is This Night Different?”

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “Why Is This Night Different?”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “Why Is This Night Different?”

Deception comes with the territory of a spy drama like Homeland. But the ceremony that opens “Why Is This Night Different?” illustrates the dangers inherent in following all-too-familiar traditions without seeming to fully understand their purpose. This week leans heavily on tropes and conventions of the spy genre, which is to say that the twists don’t feel justified, the plot beats are too similar to those that occurred last week, and Carrie’s (Claire Danes) most recent abduction is frivolously handled.

The opening scene, in which Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and Allison (Miranda Otto) share a Passover supper in Germany with the Israeli ambassador, Uter (Allan Corduner), exists solely to allow Saul and Uter hypothetically banter about how the U.S. would overthrow Syrian president Bashir al-Assad. (They can’t talk about it directly, as Saul continues to insist his country and agency no longer have an interest in such global meddling.) A few scenes later, Allison and Saul are embedded within a private medical clinic in Douvaine, Switzerland, where they’re surreptitiously attempting to convince al-Assad’s right-hand man, General Youssef (Igal Naor), to stage a coup so that the U.S. can help him fend off ISIS.

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 3, “Super Powers”

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 3, “Super Powers”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 3, “Super Powers”

Watching Homeland sometimes feels like trying to crack the Enigma code: Viewers are left very much in the dark to the overall plot, and Clare Danes’s performance as Carrie Mathison remains the single unshifting cipher from which to get one’s bearings. Consequently, when Carrie’s the center of the show, Homeland is an outstanding and methodically paced LeCarre-like thriller. At best, the other characters are used as blunt tools for political debate and critique, particularly when dealing with Carrie’s colleagues, like the During Foundation’s philanthropic founder, Otto During (Sebastian Koch). At worst, they end up like Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who’s been pared down from a character with romantic feelings for Carrie into a blank workhorse of an assassin, a man who now thinks nothing of kidnapping the nine-year-old son of Carrie’s boyfriend, Jonas (Alexander Fehling), in a ploy to lure Carrie into the open. When the C.I.A.’s Berlin Station Chief, Allison Carr (Miranda Otto), climbs into bed with the C.I.A.’s European liaison, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), it’s shocking not because it’s implausible, but because it doesn’t fit with the fight they’ve been having in which each tries to have the other take the fall for the data breach that occurred in Germany.

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 2, “The Tradition of Hospitality”

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “The Tradition of Hospitality”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “The Tradition of Hospitality”

From Gandhi to Mandela, wise men have often said something to the effect of a nation’s greatness being measured not by how it treats its strongest, but by its weakest members. That concept takes on special meaning in the context of this week’s episode of Homeland, “The Tradition of Hospitality,” in which Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) escorts her boss, the wealthy philanthropist Otto During (Sebastian Koch), to a refugee camp along the Lebanese/Syrian border. Throughout, director Lesli Linka Glatter chooses shots that emphasize the separation between the haves and have-nots as well as the connections between sleek, industrious Germany and ancient, ruined Lebanon.

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 1, “Separation Anxiety”

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “Separation Anxiety”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “Separation Anxiety”

The fifth season premiere of Homeland, “Separation Anxiety,” represents a deeper, grayer look at the line between Us and Them, especially since the audience surrogate, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), is no longer working for the C.I.A., but for a German billionaire philanthropist. The theme is familiar, with sympathy for both the so-called terrorists and idealistic spies, but because it’s now presented from a neutral standpoint, America is no longer the default hero.

It’s a startling and effective shift in perspective, with Carrie serving as the outside arbiter to every player in “Separation Anxiety.” She now comes across as level-headed and adjusted (motherhood suits her well, now that she’s actually raising her daughter), which makes it easier to spot how insane some of her former acquaintances are. Take her former mentor, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin): He believes so fervently in what he’s doing with the C.I.A. that he brusquely bristles at the idea that Carrie might feel the need for forgiveness. “What are you atoning for?” he asks her. “Keeping America safe?” Any view aside from his own extremes is written off as naïve, and there’s an especially savage bit of irony when he and Allison Carr (Miranda Otto), the Berlin Chief of Station, lament that their German allies no longer “fight like hell,” as if Nazi determination was a good thing.

The Lord of the Rings: Moments Out of Time

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<em>The Lord of the Rings</em>: Moments Out of Time
<em>The Lord of the Rings</em>: Moments Out of Time

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy has earned wide recognition as one of the most significant accomplishments in the modern age of cinema. The films translate J.R.R. Tolkien’s prose through popular filmmaking tropes and cutting-edge technology into a stunningly visceral travelogue of brotherhood, grief, sacrifice, and storytelling itself, enlivened by the panoramic vistas of New Zealand where they were shot. However, there’s a caveat to the retrospective glow that has steadily amassed around the trilogy since The Return of the King swept the Oscars in 2004. Perhaps due to the epic scope of the project, which forms an almost 10-hour opus when connected together, the long view of director Peter Jackson’s accomplishment deemphasizes the minutia tantamount to its success.

Therefore, as we await Jackson’s latest foray into Middle-earth with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the time appears ripe for a fresh look at The Lord of the Rings films. However, rather than focusing on where and how the pieces fit into a broader mosaic of the trilogy, an inside-out approach to these movies would make for a more worthwhile account of their riches.

For this piece, I’ve appropriated the concept of Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy’s “Moments Out of Time” annual look-back at a given year’s cinematic offerings. My hope is to highlight individual moments, disconnected not just from the trilogy’s story, but also from the generally accepted account of its collective achievement. Thus, the “Moments Out of Time” concept applies beyond merely the format of highlighting specific excerpts from the movies. These moments—some of which are individual shots, others extended sequences—aren’t necessarily the best or most pivotal within a certain context for evaluating the films.

Each of the following 10 moments illustrates a slightly different shade of the films’ fluid realization of a complex visual, thematic, and emotional spectrum. They encompass moments large and small, every one offering a distinct flavor of Jackson’s interpretation of Middle-earth, and all magnifying the larger accomplishments of the trilogy as a whole. I’ve limited my list to 10, though dozens more could arguably have been featured.