Of all the surprises on Homeland this season, the one that’s given the most new context to earlier scenes isn’t the revelation that C.I.A. agent Carrie (Claire Danes) was secretly working with her boss, Saul (Mandy Patinkin), when she allowed him to drag her name through the mud and commit her to a psychiatric institution. It’s the fact that as she depressively drank in order to maintain her cover as a fallen-from-grace agent, she was pregnant—worse, that she knew she was pregnant. “What I’m doing, it has to do with the father,” says Carrie to her OB/GYN in this week’s episode, checking for lasting damage to her fetus and attempting, as always, to justify her rasher decisions. “I need to make some things right,” she continues. “It matters to a lot of people.” The doctor cuts her excuses down immediately: “But this is different, Carrie. You’re not on your own anymore.”
That’s the gist of “A Red Wheelbarrow,” the title of which is based on a famous poem that emphasizes the way in which “so much depends upon” ordinary objects: Nobody stands alone, or at least, they cannot continue to do so. Saul, who’d been hiding his long-term operation to flip Iran’s intelligence chief, Shaun Toub’s Majid Javadi, from just about everybody, now has to justify his actions to the president’s chief of staff (William Sadler). At least Saul finds himself supported: His hypercritical second-in-command, the ruthless Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), calls Saul’s further plans to use Javadi to instigate a regime change in Iran “genius,” and even his wife, Mira (Sarita Choudhury), forgives him, ending her affair with another man, who happens to be using her as a means to gain access to Saul’s files. (This is the episode’s one weak note: the revelation that Mira’s ostensibly meaningful affair is just one more ruse on a show that doesn’t lack for them—spycraft for spycraft’s sake.)
This support doesn’t extend to Saul’s latest hire, Farsi-speaking analyst Fara (Nazanin Boniadi). Not only does she have family back in Tehran who will be killed if the secret police find out she’s working for the C.I.A., but though she grimly defends her actions by asserting loyalty to her country (“I’m an American,” she reminds her ailing father), she’s constantly scrutinized and profiled by those who can’t get past her headscarf. She doesn’t want to be on her own, and yet she is, which is why being involved in the C.I.A.’s cover-up of a double-murder—two female Iranian Americans much like herself—shakes her to the core.
Despite her OB/GYN’s advice, Carrie insists on standing alone, ever the rogue operative. Her plan to draw out the actual 12/12 bomber that Javadi alluded to in last week’s episode works brilliantly: Dar spooks Leland Bennett (Martin Donovan), the gray-market lawyer who “recruited” Carrie on Javadi’s behalf, which leads to Bennett’s aide, Mr. Franklin (Jason Butler Harner), preparing to tie up loose ends, all while under surveillance. But while Carrie understands that preventing this murder would compromise not only her cover, but also Javadi’s, she leaves her post, getting closer and closer to what Franklin’s about to make into a crime scene. “You’re fucking us,” says Quinn (Rupert Friend). “Months of work. Your work.” “I don’t care,” says Carrie, so determined to use the bomber to prove Brody’s (Damian Lewis) innocence that Quinn has to shoot her in the arm before she ruins the operation.
Carrie’s actions may be morally correct, but they work against the greater needs of the country, and so she’s not permitted to act on her own. And that’s the frightening undertone of Homeland: We’re protected, but we have no real autonomy—never on our own, but also never alone. Even poor Brody, who’s fled to the bottom of the dankest, darkest pit of despair in Caracas, Venezuela (and only wound up there because he’d been brainwashed by terrorists who captured and tortured him as he valiantly served his country) isn’t alone; the final shot of the episode puts him in Saul’s hands once more, nothing more than a tool to be used.
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