At the conclusion of last week’s episode of Homeland, the acting head of the C.I.A., Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), had successfully captured Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub), the man that was essentially his counterpart in the Iranian intelligence agency. The operation left behind two bodies in its wake, and it’s there that “Gerontion” picks up, with police officers investigating the brutal murder of the two innocent women. “You think I’m just some dick, jacking you up because I can, because you were unlucky enough to get caught on camera,” says the lead detective, interviewing his only suspect, Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). “But actually, I’m just trying to understand this shit that you people do. This shit that we’re party to because we pay taxes. This shit.” This exchange offers a bit of editorializing on par with the contextual critiques offered by The Wire, and serves as a cogent reminder of how a constant state of subterfuge can have negative emotional and societal effects not only on agents like Quinn, but on the ordinary citizens swept up in the wake of all these lies.
“Gerontion” could succeed as nothing more than a forum for discussing the pros and cons of the “ends justify the means” idiom, but it also happens to be a thrilling episode. The lengths to which these characters will go “for the greater good” is shocking, as when Quinn confesses to murders he didn’t commit, simply to bring the police’s investigation to a halt, and even Javadi admits he took the bait Saul dangled—what he believed was an opportunity to flip Carrie (Claire Danes), since she’d been denounced before the Senate and committed to a psych ward—because he couldn’t imagine Saul would push an operative quite so far. Moreover, the episode isn’t simply proselytizing: the chess-like interrogation between Saul and Javadi is gripping, especially when Saul acknowledges that without the 12/12 bombing, he—a “backroom toiler” (his own words), forever subject to the whims of more connected and corruptible people—would never have come into power, never have had this opportunity to change this quagmire of needless, back-and-forth shit.
And for all that, Saul’s plan is nearly compromised at the last moment by interference from Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts), who, along with the former head of black-ops, Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), has figured out that Saul’s been hiding something big. When Lockhart learns that Javadi murdered those women and is still in the country, he wants to “fry his ass, publically,” a form of shortsighted justice and emotional involvement (not for nothing does Sarita Choudhury’s Mira, Saul’s Iranian analyst, who’s roughly manipulated by Javadi, also desire this sort of trial and punishment). Perhaps Saul is too idealistic (human intelligence, like flipping Brody, is, as far as anyone knows, what got the C.I.A. into this mess), but Dar understands how inane it would be to simply kill Javadi. As Saul puts it, “And then what? Back in Tehran he’s replaced by someone just like him, who we can’t control. And the attack that happened here happens again and again and again.”
The episode ends with Lockhart stymied and Javadi on his way back to Iran, which means that the C.I.A. can now officially intervene and get Quinn off the hook. But Quinn’s far from a free man: this season alone, his actions have led to the death of an innocent boy, Carrie’s commitment, and the cover up of a heinous double murder; it is shit, or as he puts it to Carrie, “I just cannot believe it anymore. That anything justifies the damage we do.” The only question left, then, especially with Carrie now hot on the trail of new evidence (leaked by Javadi) that may exonerate Brody is whether it’s ever possible to do good.
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