Homeland S04E08 Recap: 'Halfway To A Donut'

Last week, Homeland gave us a glimpse into the post-Brody show that it can be, ironically by giving us a scene featuring a hallucination of Brody. I try to stay away from too many reviews about the show, mainly because it's not a healthy place for me to go, but I have to imagine that "Redux" was met with a healthy amount of backlash, and I would get it. Just when we thought we had rid ourselves of the show's crutch, they find a way to pull him right back into the mix. But I sort of like it, because it's recognizing Homeland's roots and the fact that it should never forget them.

"Halfway to a Donut" builds on that idea, but in a much better way. Instead of focusing on reminding us that this entire show was once built around a man and his inner conflict with resorting to terrorism, it reminds us that the relationship between Carrie and Saul is what keeps the show afloat when that first aspect is at its worst. And it backs it up with a killer action/chase sequence that would have even the writer's room at 24 blushing over its various twists and turns.

After Carrie's hallucinogenic night on the town in Islamabad, she wakes up in the bed of ISI head Aasar Khan. Of course nothing happened between them, despite last week's episode ended with Carrie in his arms thinking he was Brody. She's recovering from Dennis Boyd switching out her meds, and we find out that Khan actually had nothing to do with it. He heard about Carrie going on a rampage and pretend killing people with her finger and decided to take her off the streets before she became a real menace, thinking the last thing they needed was another agent running wild like Sandy Bachman.

But he's stunned to find out it was all Tasneem's doing, hoping to get a motivated agent like Carrie out of Pakistan so they could go about their business with a little breathing room. He doesn't seem to like that, maybe because he's an agent with a sent of respect and fairness, and seeing someone in that drugged state didn't tickle his fancy. Or he's just taken to Carrie and he thought he was being gallant. Either way, he didn't like what they did to her, and by the end of the episode, he winds up spilling the beans on Dennis being the mole.

It's a much needed with for our friends at the CIA too, because they end their episode agreeing to release a heap of Haqqani's men which make up the bulk of his power structure and would give him unfettered control over the area. A short-lived escape by Saul does nothing to change that.

The Saul sequence is by far the best part of the episode. Saul is put in front of a camera and promptly tells his friends not to give in to their demands. He doesn't want to be a pawn in their war, but Lockhart doesn't want a former CIA director to die on his watch, so they don't seem to have a choice. That is, of course, until Saul goes full badass and manages to mount an escape. He gets as far as a CIA asset in nearby city, but it's a fruitless cause, as Carrie soon finds out that Pakistanis are using their own resources against them, tracking their satellite usage and their squad movement to figure out where Saul went. The city is soon spilling over with Taliban troupes.

That's when the big crux of the episode comes, as Saul puts a gun to his head, as he promised to do earlier in the episode when he told Carrie he wouldn't let himself be caught again. Carrie can't bomb a city, and Saul has a gun, so he comes really close to pulling the trigger before Carrie talks him down. Unfortunately, there's no way out of the situation, so she leads him back into Haqqani's waiting arms, much to Saul's chagrin. He's back to cussing her out, much like he was early last season.

There's a point where Saul has a gun to his had where you believe that he might pull the trigger. And there's no way you could have seen Carrie's play to get him back to Haqqani -- where he's safest and likely to be traded back to the US -- coming. Homeland has bred us to believe the show will take the most unrealistic way out. So Saul finding a way to save himself sounds likely. At the same time, Mandy Patinkin is such a great actor that you truly believe Saul might kill himself and end it there.

And there's more to it than just not wanting to be delivered back to Haqqani. It's a matter of belonging for Saul. He's no longer an agent, be it field ops or director, he doesn't like the private sector, and the one time he tried to do anything excited led to his capture. Where does a person like that belong? Killing himself would have actually wound up doing the most good, because it would have stopped any prisoner exchange and it would have motivated the Americans to do something about Pakistan. He's most useful dead in a way, and he seems to realize that in lifting that gun to his head. He doesn't end up going through with it obviously, although I'm not sure that can be explained by a character motivation or simply a plot necessity.

Still, it continues this long-running theme on Homeland this season that examines the psyche of your average CIA agent and what the job tends to do to them. We've seen the toll it's take on Quinn back at home, Carrie in her Brody hallucinations, and now Saul, all forms of PTSD (maybe less the P for Saul) which you don't really ever see manifested in these kinds of shows. That alone justifies this fourth season, despite many people having brushed it off as post-shark jumping.

Homeland still has a lot of good left to do, as a genuinely good show. At the same time, it can be an almost over-the-top and silly action series that delivers truly gripping and surprising action, like they did here with Saul's attempted escape.

"Halfway to a Donut" gets 9 delicious pastries out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • I'm glad they spilled the beans on Dennis being the "breach". That whole thing was closer to the worst parts of 24 than I'd like to see on Homeland.
  • Saul pretending to hang himself so he could distract the guard and kill him was badass, but I actually thought he was doing it for real. Suicidal Saul is not a great place to have the character right now, at least not for what it's doing to my emotions.
  • Seriously, Tracy Letts is a breath of fresh air for this show, as you'll see by the two quotes below. His curmudgeonly behavior and his give-no-fucks attitude is exactly what the show needs. I was almost expecting him to sass the Pakistani agents to their faces at one of those meetings.
  • It's also really interesting how the CIA this season always seems to be one or two steps behind their enemy. It's also the first time we've seen them go up against the resources of an entire nation, as opposed to just a group of terrorists. Still no word on Haqqani's endgame though.
  • "Transparency, teamwork.... ah, there was another T but I forget what the fuck it was."
  • "I was really looking forward to telling those people to go fuck themselves."
Comments 2
Patrick Storto's picture

I really like how Homeland has built itself up through the years to the point where I really had no idea whether Saul would pull the trigger or not. Not many shows convey that doubt around its main characters.

George Prax's picture

Both the hanging scene and the scene in the park were were tense as fuck. And what's funny is that before last season everyone's main complaint was that they wouldn't kill Brody off. Now that they have, all bets are off.