Week 10: Season 4 Episodes 1-4: Transformation of Carrie and Quinn

quinn carrieWhile watching the first four episodes of Season 4 of Homeland, I was struck by an emotion of profound sadness.  Not because the Pakistan Station Chief Sandy Bachman was beaten to death by an angry mob in the streets of Islamabad.  After all Sandy was just introduced to us earlier in episode 1, so it wasn’t like I had invested any interest in this character in order to feel some sense of loss from his demise.  Instead I found myself deeply affected by how apathetic Carrie is to her infant daughter, Frannie.

Carrie Mathison

The second episode in the season devoted a decent amount of screen time to Carrie’s interaction with Frannie.  It is through these scenes we learn what kind of mother she is.  It should come as no surprise to Homeland’s viewers that she’s not a good mother. Permanently recalled from her position as Afghanistan’s station chief as a result of the botched airstrike that killed 40 people at a wedding, Carrie goes to Maggie’s house since Maggie has been taking care of Frannie.  When Carrie arrives, she hears Frannie crying. She turns around to leave but Maggie comes out of the house with Frannie in her arms. Maggie encourages Carrie to bond with Frannie, but Carrie is clearly uncomfortable and interacts with the baby as little as possible. The next day, with Maggie at work and the nanny gone, Carrie is left alone with her daughter. While Carrie seems to display some maternal tendencies toward her daughter at times, she packs baby Franny in the car (illegally in the front seat of her car no less) and drives to Brody’s old house.  It is in front of Brody’s old home where she confesses to Frannie that with Brody dead, she can’t remember why she gave birth to her. Even more disturbing was when Carrie was giving Frannie a bath and almost drowned her.  Why Carrie does not put Frannie up for adoption is beyond me.

Prior to Carrie’s return home, it was revealed in episode 1 during a Skype chat with Maggie that Carrie did not call to check on her daughter in over a week.  After Carrie blackmailed Lockhart into giving her the station chief position at Pakistan (chiefly to keep herself away from Frannie), and telling Maggie that she must leave immediately, Maggie chillingly retorts, “There’s not even a diagnosis for what’s wrong with you”.  It is as if something changed Carrie, all for the worse.  Perhaps it was seeing Brody being publicly hanged?  What ever the reason is, I am really disliking Carrie Mathison.

I suppose I should be more sympathetic to someone who is fighting the “bad guys” in order to prevent terror attacks to the United States, but this icy cold, manipulative, and apathetic woman hardly fills the qualifications of a heroine.  According to Judith Warner of the New York Times“We have the advent of Corrupt Carrie — newly powerful, endlessly manipulative, vaguely sexual-harassing (“Well, you’re pretty enough, I’ll say that for you,” she tells a pretty-boy lieutenant before he calls her a monster and almost makes her cry)”.  Another sexually manipulative instance perpetuated by Carrie occurred at the end of episode 4, when she seduces the Aayan.  This is how Carrie operates – she uses sex as a way to get him to open up about his not-so-dead terrorist uncle Haissam Haqqani. You could argue that this callous and indifferent woman of Season 4 is, in fact, the woman that Carrie has always been — her boundaries were always fluid, she just lacked the power to manipulate up.

What is interesting is the writers of Homeland purposely created the characterization of Carrie to be a troubled CIA operative.  After all it makes for good story telling.  According to Kellie Herson, Carrie’s bipolar disorder or “madness” is the core of the stories Homeland tells as a driving action for the plot.  The narratives told in the previous three seasons clearly illustrated her madness and even used it as a baseline in a guise to obtain an important asset.  So far this series has shown how her professional and personal spheres often overlapped (fluid boundaries) which caused Carrie a lot of anguish and agitation.  Herson also attests to when Carrie’s colleagues in Homeland are unaware of her madness, it nonetheless contributes to her outsider status in that it informs her professional behavior. Though she is not the series’ only character who lives with mental distress, as several experience trauma, it is clear from the beginning of the series that the symptoms of her bipolar disorder not only place her outside the normative expectations of her workplace but also influence her observant and diligent approach to her job.

Peter Quinn

While Carrie has descended into an apathetic and manipulative persona, Quinn is decidedly the more human of the two.  This seems to be in contrast to the menacing and unfeeling Quinn introduced to viewers in Season 2.  This is really apparent in the first episode of Season 4 when Quinn and Carrie drive back to the embassy in silence after witnessing Sandy’s murder. Carrie is all business and ready to dive in to brief the ambassador however Quinn needs a minute to gather himself after the chaos. Carrie refuses to stop for anything and the episode ends with her nonchalantly wiping blood from her cheek and reapplying her lipstick.

Still upset over killing the young boy in Caracas and reeling from the events in Islamabad, Quinn is really ready to leave the CIA.  He is stressed, damaged, and resorts to drinking heavily to cope with his PTSD.  However per CIA protocol, they have to make sure he is okay before he leaves so that he won’t be a threat to himself or others. The exit interviewer presses Quinn on all of the terrible events he’s been a part in his tenure and repeatedly brings up Carrie. After touching a nerve about having any romantic feelings toward Carrie, Quinn snaps and abruptly leaves the room.

Quinn is also there to provide a voice of reason to squelch any missions that would place anyone on the team in danger.  When Carrie was ready to go after ISI agent Farhad Ghazi (whom they realized orchestrated the attack that killed Sandy), Quinn tried to stop her as it would place the rest of the team in danger.  It took a call from Fara informing Carrie that Haissam Haqqani is indeed alive and did not perish from the drone strike that killed his family during the wedding to stop her in her tracks.

While there seems to be this underlying romantic possibility between Quinn and Carrie from the start (although it seems more on his end than hers), Carrie does not deserve Quinn.  Sure he has a checkered past, has violent tendencies, is an absentee dad to his son, and appears to be heading down the road to alcoholism (if he’s not there already), but at least he’s looking for redemption.  I wonder what is in store for Quinn.  Will Homeland resort to using Quinn’s madness as a plot device?  Or will they, in an effort to appease the proportion of its audience who expects romance mixed in with the action, offer Quinn and Carrie as a new romantic pairing?  Guess we will have to wait and see.

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8 thoughts on “Week 10: Season 4 Episodes 1-4: Transformation of Carrie and Quinn

  1. I think you are asking some really good questions about Quinn here, and I’ll be interesting to hear your feelings as the show moves forward with this season. As I mentioned on another blog, I think the conflict between job and emotion is most relevant when examining the relationship between Carrie and Quinn. How far are these people willing to go (especially Carrie) to get the job done at the expense of a person they seem to care about – or at least think they care about? What, in fact, does a person like Carrie actually care about, and how do we know? I’ll also be interested in your feelings about Carrie as this season, and particularly season five, move forward with this Carrie/Franny plot. Can Carrie turn it around and become a “good mother”?

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  2. You bring up a really good point in comparing and contrasting Carrie and Peter in that there seems to be little sympathy towards Carrie and her inability to handle motherhood versus Peter who is clearly distraught and saddened by what he has experience is Islamabad. In addition, I think Peter’s character is a bit redeemed because even though he beats the two dbags in the diner, he later receives a note which reads, “no has ever fought for me before.” In other words he seems to be doing “crazy” things with good intentions, while Carrie is doing “crazy” things with negative intentions. The show also shows both characters desire to work because while Carrie is stressed and should be home her focus is on the job, While Peter who having recently chocked Dar Adul turns on his computer and watches Sandy’s abduction. It is clear that leaving the CIA is a true hardship and for some they really are “lifers.”

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  3. I find this quasi role reversal between Quinn and Carrie to be really interesting. I find it important to note the way in which Quinn’s obsession and Carrie’s apathy seem to be affecting their job performance. Where Carrie used to use her emotion to divine certain truths, her lack of emotion in these episodes seem to be causing her to miss things and become less effective. After all, it is Quinn’s obsessiveness with what happened in Islamabad (not Carrie’s) that clues them into the fact that this was orchestrated and it is Fara who discovers that Haqqani is still alive. Where, in earlier seasons, Carrie’s talents would have probably been the one to make these discoveries, thereby moving the plot forward, we are relying more on other characters to perform these functions this season. Carrie is certainly still in the center of it all but it would appear that her effectiveness is being hurt by the fact that she is so emotionally turned off.

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  4. Marilyn made some excellent points above–Carrie is removed and hence it is the attention of Peter and Fara that moves the plot ahead. Is her lack of focus a function of guilt about her inattention to Frannie?
    You’ve got to remember that a key premise of this show is that Carrie is driven because she thinks she could have stopped the 9/11 attack had she been doing her job. Which brings us to her new status as mother. What if she pays more attention to changing diapers and misses the next 9/11? Frannie is in D.C. and could be at risk? It’s a complicated premise.
    Really glad you posted that NY Times link. The comments to Judith Warner’s analysis of the Landlady sex scene were really furious and interesting. Be sure to check them out.

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  5. I like that you bring up Quinn’s “role reversal,” towards a sort of Foil to Carrie. I’m interested to see how his character progresses through this season. What I find odd about Carrie this season is that she doesn’t seem to be exhibiting any features associated with her disorder. So her treatment of Franny doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything but selfishness. Additionally, it seems to imply that all those suffering from mental illness would make poor parents, or that they would entertain the idea of drowning their child. i just think there’s a disconnect between what is good for the plot, versus what makes sense for the character. (Carrie knows her illness makes her uninterested in parenting, which logically would result in her putting Fanny up for adoption. But it’s a more dramatic plot device to have her consider drowning the child.) I don’t know…it all just made me feel really turned off by the show.

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  6. Regarding Quinn, its interesting how the CIA has these extensive processes for those who want to leave the organization. From a psych eval to a polygrpah test, it seems like a lot of legwork just to make sure that the person is stable enough not to disclose classified information and as you mentioned, be a danger to themselves or others. I do think, however, most of it has to do with safeguarding the CIA from rogue former employees than their actual care for how well Peter is doing. Adal seems very uninterested in Quinn’s recovery or emotional issues when visiting his apartment.

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  7. It really seems as if Carrie and Quinn have begun to switch roles as the show has gone on so far. At first Quinn was always the bad ass spy that followed orders and got his job done damn the moral implications and Carrie was the emotional one feeling about everything and constantly losing her mind about everything. Now Carrie is the emotional detached one and Quinn is the one worrying about everything and feeling miserable. It’s really been strange to see this role reversal but I’m interested to see how this continues.

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  8. I think that this role reversal of Quinn and Carrie is interesting. I wonder if this is what Quinn was like upon becoming a father (emotionally detached and uninterested, focused on work to distract him from the fact that he technically has a child) and now regrets it, so perhaps Carrie will find herself in a similar pattern in a few years. The New York Times article you linked to here was a very good read! Warner’s comments about Quinn were especially interesting to me.

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