Carrie Redux (Homeland Rewatch S4.05-S4.08)

I think that most would agree that the fourth season of Homeland has felt quite different from the other seasons. We are down a main character (i.e. Brody), much of the action is taking place in the Middle East, and, by far, one of the biggest changes of the season comes in the form of Carrie’s characterization.

Many of my classmates argued last week that Carrie’s characterization in the beginning of the fourth season is highly troubling and it was hard for them to sympathize with her or to forgive her for her apathetic parenting or asserting her power (via sex) Carrie Pakistan situation roomover a much younger man. Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic wrote a piece around the beginning of season four that seems to echo many of their concerns, and her article even goes so far as to insinuate that season four was taking a nose dive as a result of Carrie’s troubling story-line and character attributes. To be fair she wrote this very early on in the season, but the criticism, particularly as it aligns with some of my classmates’ concerns seems fair even though I mostly disagree.

I made the argument in class and even within comments to my classmates’ blogs that I thought that much of Carrie’s changed characterization in this season can be both understood and attributed to Carrie’s “turning off” of her emotions and not wanting to deal with Brody’s death or Frannie, the product of their intimate relationship. Where seasons one through three relied quite heavily on Carrie utilizing her affective talents to see her through challenging situations, her professional effectiveness has waned this season because she has distanced herself from these very skills.

Episode eight of season four offers Carrie a chance to redeem herself for the remainder of the season and beyond. Through a plan orchestrated by the Pakastani ISI agent, Tasneem Qureshi, Carrie’s medication is switched out with another substance which initiates a psychotic episode. Although Carrie’s ability to hold back these emotions has been coming to a head for the last several episodes (i.e. we have been seeing indicators of the toll this emotional suppression has been taking on her: grinding teeth, trouble sleeping, near-infanticide, crying during sex with Aayan, lashing out at work, etc.) this chemically induced psychotic episode acts as a catalyst for Carrie’s return to what the audience would recognize as “normal” for her character. Probably not what the ISI intended, but here we are…

For the audience, who up until this point in the season has (likely) had a similar experience to my classmates in finding Carrie’s character absolutely reprehensible,  this moment centers Carrie, once again, in a position that calls her mental and emotional stability back into question. Carrie bloody faceAlthough this does not seem like such a great thing and Carrie’s mental state is at an extreme, this scene also works to bring Carrie and the Homeland audience back into something of a relational stasis. The audience is used to dealing with story-lines that directly implicate her mental stability as a question that is always at the center of each of her actions (is Carrie crazy or a genius?).

Throughout  this episode of mental instability, Carrie is clearly being pulled out of her apathy and toward a state that will force her to deal with the emotions that she has long been avoiding. This is made the most clear when Carrie hallucinates that Aasar Khan is, in fact, Brody. During this scene, both Carrie and the audience are offered a moment of emotional catharsis. The audience is able to have a few additional moments with a character to whom they grew attached over the first three seasons and Carrie is able to release some of the emotional baggage (i.e. guilt) she has been suppressing in the aftermath of his death by admitting that she was “willing to let [him] die.”

Episode seven, “Redux,” as a result, serves as a turning point in the season where both the audience and Carrie can turn the page on the absence of Brody – and the emotionally tied repercussions of that absence – and get back to business as usual. We can tell that this is that point where we “return to stasis” because Carrie begins working with her emotionally based instincts again after several episodes in which, mostly, a cold, hard, logical approach (lacking reasonable emotion) has been at her center. Carrie and Khan homelandIn episode eight, for example, she appears to “get a feeling” that her pills have been tampered with before she has a chance to swallow her next one. She also has the foresight to suggest discluding any further personnel from knowing that there has been a breach in the embassy before having a better grasp on who can be trusted, a suggestion that Lockhart shortsightedly dismisses. Later in the episode Carrie is also able to infer that Khan can be trusted based on what little she can remember of the night of her chemically induced episode. She also saves Saul and returns him to his captors, an act of emotion that counters her earlier cold logic that was willing to let him die for the mission.

Where earlier episodes of season four strongly suggested that an emotionally cut off Carrie Mathison is an ineffective one, this newly emotionally charged Carrie seems to be returning to her super spy roots. We will have to continue this rewatch to see if Carrie is back to stay or only here for a limited engagement.

8 thoughts on “Carrie Redux (Homeland Rewatch S4.05-S4.08)

  1. Marilyn,
    I like your focus on Carrie’s characterization. I think these episodes really centered on a push/pull effect with Carrie’s emotions. As you pointed out the season opened with an emotionally detached Carrie which at times made her appear weak. However, I found these episodes highlighted the strengths verses the weakness of Carrie’s character, in that despite being drugged, she still managed to be insightful, an she correctly “decodes” who can and who cannot be trusted. I think these episodes provided Carrie with some audience redemption, something I feel her character needed.

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  2. I found Carrie to be emotionally detached when she was willing to have Saul killed just because he was forced to be in the vicinity of Haqqani via a drone strike. So it’s interesting to me that she talked Saul out of committing suicide and purposely led him back to the Taliban. While I still find her actions reprehensible, I felt for her when her medication was tainted by Dennis Boyd and suffered enormously from its side effects.

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  3. I agree that despite the roller coaster ride that is Carrie’s emotions, she is definitely better this way than the emotionally devoid Carrie that we have been witnessing. Many people might think it might be better in this field of work to be emotionally detached considering what she has to do and deal with, but Carrie has shown that she has a higher rate of success when she is a psycho despite what everyone else likes to believe about her manic episodes. Its easier to relate to this character when she is more human and emotional than when she is cold and hard.

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  4. Interesting read on her emotion. You got me thinking about the session with Khan a bit more. It’s very intimate to the point where you wonder for a second whether they had sex during the hallucination–she has a suggestive line about not remembering what happened. I don’t think they did, but why exactly is Khan lining up as some sort of handsome angel for her? Why does he care what she thinks so deeply? Does he prefer the American blond to the Pakistani brunette? But on a deeper level, is he the more age-appropriate replacement for what drove the Aayan sexual fumble? (which makes the transfiguration to Brody even more interesting) Somehow I think this part of the show is a lot more about Carrie’s psychosexual projections than it is about U.S./Pakistan relations.
    I’m dimly remembering how this resolves, but given what we’ve seen so far my wager would be that the Carrie/Khan romance is not long for the world, as seems the case with most of her encounters, save Brody.

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  5. I mentioned this on another blog as well, but the show tossed Carrie around a bit ultimately to bring her back a bit closer to her original characterization. She needed to go through the emotional downturn because – come on – she isn’t the same as she used to be. She is a mother now, and her “true love” is dead. But if the show is to keep Carrie in tact in any way it has to somehow push the Franny subplot into the background. And it does that to perfection in the middle of season four. The feeling that the show starts cooking again during these episodes has a lot to do with the show’s ability to stop dwelling on Carrie’s messed up personal life and move her concerns and thoughts almost completely back to her CIA job. And what better way to do that than to make the villain meaner, the stakes higher, and the terror plot more sinister than ever before. We thought Nazir was bad…now we get Haqqani.

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  6. I found the Khan/Carrie dynamic pretty damn interesting. The showrunners set up an interesting dichotomy with Taneesh and Khan whereas the former is cold and calculated and the latter is portrayed as not approving of the medication switch. Carrie eventually believes him, but should she? It would be intriguing to have seen them have more direct one-on-one contact while she was in the “numb state” at the outset of the season.

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  7. I have found Carrie to be a little more palatable towards the end of the episodes this week, as her emotions started to resurface. She seems to be having more reasonable reactions to what is happening and what she is doing. Even though I was upset for Saul when Carrie went against his wishes, this was at least an appropriate reaction to the idea of losing Saul, especially compared to when she was willing in an emotional state to let him die along with Haqqani. I hope that this signals a better shift in all aspects. Maybe she will head home to take up her responsibilities there soon.

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  8. I was one of the classmates (lol) that you mentioned that felt a lot of frustration and disappointment with Carrie’s character in the first four episodes of this season. But after watching further into the fourth season, I agree with your assessment about her character being emotionally “turned off” in the first four episodes (perhaps having watched it one time through already allowed a bit more clarity on that point?) But I think a lot of what Carrie went through in the first four episodes was in some part a reaction by the writers with a need to separate Carrie from the Franny story line so that the season could continue and they could “get back in the swing of things.” At first, I thought this choice was a poor one, and it seemed a bit contrived. But I think that as the season goes on, it actually seems more and more logical that Carrie is disconnected from her emotions based on recent life events and the new role she has in commanding drone strikes, etc. In any case- I felt that I “bought in” to it more as the season went on.

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