For all the sound and fury it expends to propel this season’s narrative in new directions, the aptly titled “Redux” in fact sends Homeland hurtling into history. Saul (Mandy Patinkin) returns to the fore, enduring the humiliations of captivity at the hands of Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar); C.I.A. Director Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts) returns to the fray, blustering before a Pakistani delegation invited to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad; Carrie (Claire Danes) returns to the “understandably fragile” state of panicked obsession that has long threatened her career; and the specter of Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) returns to disrupt, fleetingly at least, everything we thought we knew about Homeland itself.
The hallucinatory atmosphere of “Redux” stems primarily from the rather cruel scheme implemented by the ISI’s Tasleem Qureshi (Nimrat Kaur) and her inside man, Dennis Boyd (Mark Moses), who conspire to replace Carrie’s meds with the nefarious, unnamed white powder that ends up producing her tailspin. Granted, after the murder of Aayan (Suraj Sharma) in “From A to B and Back Again,” the Islamabad station chief is already in rough shape; even before she ingests the ISI’s “prescription,” we learn that Carrie’s sidelined herself from the C.I.A. operations room, and ISI operative Aasar Khan (Raza Jaffrey) more or less accuses her of being strung the fuck out. Whether Carrie’s breakdown is the product of pharmaceutical intervention or her own riskily intimate strategy for winning Aayan’s trust remains an open question, but in the end both lead to the same place. The impenetrable heart of darkness in Homeland is Carrie’s—and perhaps by extension America’s—gnawing sense of guilt. “You’ve come back to punish me for what I’ve done,” she tells Brody near the end of the episode, and indeed it’s the ghosts of the past that have haunted her from the beginning. “I missed something once before,” Carrie confessed to Saul in the series premiere. “I won’t, I can’t let that happen again.”
Unforeseen consequences run through Homeland in provocative ways, and “Redux,” despite coming across as a somewhat manipulative departure from this season’s committed realism, focuses on several iterations of history’s long game. Seeing Saul pelted with a shoe and forced to listen in as Haqqani has sex with his wife is nothing compared to the indignity of losing the argument: At dinner one evening, Saul lays out all the received wisdom of American meddling in Afghanistan, but Haqqani, whatever you think of his tactics, gets closer to the truth of the matter. “And you stayed, and stayed, and stayed, and destroyed our culture and our religion,” he says. “America despises what it cannot understand.” Lockhart, though correct in his assessment of ISI involvement in Saul’s kidnapping, proves this point in the meeting with the Pakistani delegation. “Who in God’s name told you threats get you anywhere in this country?” Ambassador Martha Boyd (Laila Robins) laments, her face so pained by his blunt tactics she looks as if she’s trying to pass a kidney stone. “Redux” is indeed a return to, and a revival of, the past. It pores over the interwoven stories of Afghan mujahedeen, Osama bin Laden’s Saudi group, the Taliban, 9/11, and the War on Terror to suggest this country’s grave misreading of the facts on the ground. It’s not necessarily to support Haissam Haqqani’s fundamentalist vision to acknowledge that we, like Carrie, “missed something,” and that the punishment for doing so is to confront the resulting “blowback” for a generation or more. “I sent him to his death,” Carrie says remorsefully to Fara (Nazanin Boniadi), referring to Aayan. “We all did,” Fara responds.
And so it may not matter, thematically at least, that the man Carrie believes to be Brody is in fact Aasar Khan, holding her close in an opulent mansion after her drug-induced rampage through Islamabad. (Narratively speaking, the surprise of Brody’s appearance and the subsequent revelation of Carrie’s hallucination left me ambivalent: While these twists succeeded in grabbing my attention, I found the deployment of Brody rather cheap, unfairly playing on my fears that the series would double down on the operatic drama of season three.) Rather, Carrie’s upsetting descent into madness seems designed to illustrate the notion, first developed near the end of season one, that the dark clouds of Carrie’s illness also offer a kind of clarity. She’s always been at her most perceptive, and least trustworthy, when she’s struggling hardest to retain her grip on reality. The look on Saul’s face when Haqqani describes him as a “human shield,” for instance, seems to support Carrie’s assertion that Saul would rather be dead than an unwilling accomplice to the enemy, and yet the exasperated hissing sound she makes while advancing her argument is enough for Quinn (Rupert Friend) and Lockhart to dismiss her out of hand.
Is Khan as genuinely sympathetic as he appears? Did Carrie really beat up Quinn in the hospital corridor? Is Dennis Boyd really willing to go to such lengths to aid the ISI? Is John Redmond (Micheal O’Keefe) the neutral functionary he presents himself to be? Is Carrie going crazy, or crazy like a fox? The topsy-turvy, addled arc of “Redux” offers more questions than answers, but that may be the point. In the insane cycle of violence, blowback, and more violence that defines American foreign policy, the most untenable position turns out to be reason itself.
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