Previously on Homeland, things were going badly. “Active Measures” turns down the temperature a bit following the explosive end to the standoff; it’s more of a simmer than a full boil, but the potential for another eruption is never far off. As Saul arrives at a federal building in Richmond, Virginia, tensions are already running high, with protesters threatening to turn into a violent mob and riot police on hand in case they do.
Keeping the lid on this volatile situation is President Keane’s primary objective during this hour, and for the first time in a while, the creative team appears invested in making her a three-dimensional character with genuine leadership potential. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the episode is both written and directed by women, Debora Cahn and Charlotte Sieling, respectively.) With a memorial service at a church to be followed by a rally, and with Virginia being an open carry state, the potential for disaster looms. Keane’s advisors suggest letting local law enforcement take the lead, but that’s a non-starter. A show of force, such as federalizing the National Guard, would send exactly the message that the protesters are expecting to see. Keane needs another way to defuse the situation, but the solution she comes up with could easily backfire.
That would be sending the widows of the fallen FBI agents to the memorial service, specifically led by the African-American wife of the murdered hostage. She also happens to be an FBI agent, so there’s a sense of obligation to go along with Keane’s plan even though she’s very hesitant to do so. With good reason: Richmond is going to be crawling with white supremacists who will be angry enough about the very notion of honoring the federal agents they view as responsible for the massacre. The presence of a black woman who was part of an interracial marriage to one of those agents might be just the thing to push the hatemongers over the edge. This being Homeland, that’s what we expect to happen: one clusterfuck leading to another. Instead, we get a rare moment of grace. The widowed Mary Elkins rises from her seat and greets the widows, quieting the crowd. Keane’s gambit has paid off and she wastes no time in going on television to crow about it in the guise of a somber address to the nation.
This is probably the highlight of her presidency so far, but could Keane’s past actions come back to haunt her? We’ve been led to believe Wellington conspired with Simone Martin to have General McClendon killed, and that’s the lead Carrie is pursuing this week. She’s assembled a team led by another old fuck buddy we’ve never met before, Anson (James D’Arcy), with the goal of linking Martin to the hit and then to Wellington. (If the episode revealed how this op is being financed, I missed it.) The idea is to have members of the team pose as disgruntled prison guards after a bigger payoff, and then capture Martin’s subsequent meeting with Wellington via a planted bug. There’s a sub-team within the team, however, as Carrie and Max already have Wellington’s place under surveillance; planting the bug is all for Dante’s benefit, since he doesn’t know about that. Everything goes wrong, but not catastrophically wrong; the first bug fails and the replacement planted by Carrie in the bathroom of a bar (nice sleight-of-hand) rides off in an Uber. Still, the connection is made...until Carrie watches the surveillance tape and it becomes clear that Wellington isn’t in on the McClendon hit after all. So who is really behind it?
Could it be...the Russians? Sharp-eyed viewers noted that the hospital photographer responsible for the fake news last week was played by Costa Ronin, who plays the KGB agent Oleg on The Americans. It’s up to Saul to plug Homeland back into the current of Fear In Our Time, and that means Russian interference and fake news. He flies to Wyoming to visit a Russian defector and pick his brain about possible masterminds behind the fake news that sparked the Lucasville shootout. Between this and the ongoing alt-right storyline, it’s more and more evident that Homeland is doing a Trump season without Trump. Whether or not they ultimately pull it off, what began as an erratic season is starting to coalesce nicely.
- One quibble with that moment in the church when Jackie and the other FBI widows enter: how is it that everyone in the place instantly knows who they are? Granted, Jackie is probably the only black person at the memorial, but are we to assume these women have been prominently featured in the television coverage of the massacre? I guess it’s possible.
- Another weird moment: when Saul’s defector friend mentions Russian interference in the US election. Which election is he talking about? Trump never happened in this world, so are we to assume the Russians meddled on behalf of Keane? Or were they on board with her opponent and end up falling short?