Early on in Feb. 19’s “Casus Belli,” Quinn (Rupert Friend) and Franny (Claire and McKenna Keane) are discussing rabbits. Quinn tells Franny about sharing a name with a certain very famous rabbit conjured into being by Beatrix Potter. In the old childhood tale, Peter Rabbit defies the rules and ventures into dangerous territory, Mr. McGregor’s garden.
What with the Internet being a springboard to an ocean of ideas and hypotheses of every kind, a search for the philosophical underpinnings of Peter Rabbit can magically lead us to a theory like this:
“The garden may for instance be conceived as a model of the world outside of home, a world consisting of huge, powerful, hostile (Mr. McGregor), ambiguous (the cat) or friendly (the sparrows) competitors. In the world outside there are also possible allies (like the little mouse). The trouble is, they are all too concerned with their own survival to be of any assistance.”
And so poor Quinn has fallen down the rabbit hole, in a garden populated by hostiles (like F. Murray Abraham’s Dar Adal) and allies (like Claire Danes’ Carrie) alike who are also concerned with their own survival — not necessarily Peter’s.
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Carrie later admits that watching Quinn with Franny gave her a warm and fuzzy feeling, and she needed an interim babysitter till the nanny arrived, and… In a crunch — which this was, in spades — what’s a single working mom to do? Moreover, what’s a PTSD-afflicted ex-spy to do, when tasked with protecting the child of his only ally?
Even before you take into account the accidental death of a child back in the Season 3 premiere — a horrifying moment that set Quinn on his path to coming in out of the cold, that took him off Dar Adal’s side of the board and made him Carrie’s to deal with — it’s impossible not to empathize with Quinn here. Neither he nor Carrie could anticipate how the ripple effects of the bombing would bring chaos to their front door so quickly. And he did exactly what Carrie asked — he protected Franny, to the best of his abilities. We’re all (Carrie included) very clear on the fact that, like Liam Neeson, Quinn’s got a very special set of skills. Even poison gas couldn’t entirely snuff out his survival instinct.
They say you shouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight: An inverse correlation might be not to bring a Quinn to a Mary Poppins situation. Nonetheless, protect Franny he did. In a weird way, we could argue that Quinn proved to be the world’s best babysitter: Would nanny Latisha (Elena Hurst) chuck a ruthless reporter down some stairs, or shoot a mad rioter outside? We think not!
But just maybe, Carrie is the world’s worst caretaker for her friend. We’ve seen six seasons’ worth of Carrie’s own stabs at maintaining and treating herself, going on and off her meds and disappearing to decompress — the idea that she could do the same with Peter isn’t just classic Carrie hubris, but key to this year’s themes: Just like Carrie and Elizabeth Marvel’s President-elect Keane, the proposal that early intervention and support are the best path to stopping terrorism (which this hostage situation becomes, through all its coincidental mixups) is the most beautiful and the most easily extinguished hope the show’s ever allowed to exist.
Quinn’s dragged off into police custody, although not before telling Carrie he has proof on his cell phone revealing that none of this (the bombing, in particular) was a mistake. What initially still sounds like unstable PTSD Quinn-speak to Carrie leads to a massive spinning of her internal compass needle by ep’s end, after she finds Quinn’s cell phone in the rubble of her broken-down townhome door: As he’s been insisting, his ongoing surveillance of the man across the street immediately connects a hell of a lot of dots for her.
…And leads to the biggest revelation of the episode: Carrie’s unwilling asset at the NSA, Roger (Ian Kahn) is not just pissed to learn he’ll be dragged into the mess surrounding her apparent implication in the terrorism plot — he’s bewildered: After Carrie’s ambush and request for that damning recording of Conlin (Dominic Fumusa) pressuring his CI Saad (Leo Manzari), he reported the request upwards… And ignored it. The recording Carried used to get poor Sekou ( J. Mallory McCree) out of jail came from someone waaay over Roger’s head.
The twinned conversations — with first her unwilling NSA compatriot and then her FBI frenemy — are masterpieces of acting: The number of times Carrie has to jump through the “I know what you’re saying, wink wink” conversations to get the real truth across are as funny as they are frustrating, and Carrie’s wry chill in negotiating through them to the place where it’s not just spy talk is as relatable as the stakes and ticking clock back home make every conversational moment that much more intense. And then, when Carrie does eventually make it into her home, she’ll do the thing for a third time, navigating through Peter’s paranoia and/or insight after several attempts to talk down the cops outside, for both their own safety and her daughter’s.
Carrie shares this discovery with her FBI rival — and although he’s naturally distracted by the TV news coverage of the unfolding “hostage situation” playing out on Carrie’s own doorstep, we see a sign of his complexity in that he buys her story immediately, and starts connecting dots of his own. Considering how he comes at Carrie angrily immediately after the bombing, this second exchange feels rife with potential for more. Carrie’s in dire need of allies, and with Peter clearly out of play, possibly for quite a while. Conlin’s now the agent who facilitated Sekou’s release — in response to blackmail, no less. Both of them have some reputation restoration to do. It could be a mutually beneficial collaboration. (And as you obviously don’t cast Dominic Fumusa just to play a one-note obstructionist, of course, it’s been fun watching this play out.)
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Tonight’s episode title, “Casus Belli,” refers to “an act or situation provoking or justifying war” — and refers to every situation in play, of course. But the episode could just as well have been called “Dar Adal & the Wonderful, Fantastic, Not Terrible, Very Good Day,” which is bad news for everyone but him, as usual.
In the hours following the bombing, President-elect Keane is rushed into hiding, where she’s denied her phone and staff, but not the pleasure of Dar (F. Murray Abraham)’s company. Moreover, he delivers the news of Carrie’s involvement to Keane in an elaborate song and dance number entitled, “And Now You’re Gonna Believe Me,” complete with a chorus line of back-up dancers doing Bob Fosse jazz hands. Dar is precisely that “on,” that in his element, that elated by the turn of events. He’s all but beaming from ear to ear. Which… Sucks!
Dar assures a returned Saul that Keane is now “a little more open,” and Saul of course asks for clarification: To Dar? To war? “To reality,” Dar says. Ah, yes,”reality.” (We couldn’t have been the only ones waiting for Mandy Patinkin to respond with, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means…”)
Saul in turn tells Dar about Nafisi (Bernard White)’s magic trick involving the cigarette case that can pass through walls, and he mentions the visit with Javadi (Shaun Toub), too: If Nafisi was part of a larger Mossad charade to convince the US that Iran’s nuclear shell game is going nowhere, which Javadi’s intel only helped to prove, then it’s possible we’ll need Dar to be right. His willingness, once again, to sacrifice Carrie for his own hardline war-hawking is just more salt in that wound.
But we can’t stop thinking about Quinn. It’s such an evocation of Carrie’s first several years on the show to have Quinn’s paranoia and observation braid themselves into intuitions that he can’t ignore: The Brody Years were a continual revisitation of this concept, a classic Antigone narrative, in which Carrie’s understanding of unprovable truths motivated her to break rules and undermine her own credibility, because she couldn’t just sit still knowing what she knew. It’s such a huge theme of the show that one season-ending cliffhanger saw her choose to lose her memories in electroshock, only to recall — and then lose, leaving us the only ones with the information — the key to the whole house of cards.
While we’ve seen Quinn’s wreckage of a life and body as parallels for an older, wiser Carrie to consider all season, this second parallel started quietly indeed. But as he put together the clues that only we could see — the spy across the way, his trip to rig Sekou’s truck, etc. — it’s been painfully frustrating to see Carrie on the other side of it: Not believing him, the way people spent all those years not believing her. And while it’s a compelling story and one of the show’s strongest seasons so far, there’s still a great relief (and narrative momentum) in seeing her finally open her eyes.
But that’s about Carrie, and the spirit of the show: Right now, we’re worrying for Quinn. Last week felt like a huge stride toward redemption, so what now? This hero’s journey of his, the descent into the abyss keeps revealing subterranean levels, with rock-bottom looking exactly like Hades. We want Quinn to resurface, but the gates of Hell don’t traditionally include revolving doors. How (or if) he’ll fight his way back from here is anyone’s guess.
“Homeland” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.
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