Week 15: Season 5 Episodes 9-12: Popularity of a Hero in Entertainment

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Through Seasons Two through Five, Peter Quinn has been one of the main fixtures on our screen when viewing Homeland.  This character is dark, brooding, and mysterious all while fighting the bad guys quite effectively.  Season Five shifted gears where all the excitement took place in Berlin, Germany.  Quinn fresh from a stint in Syria, found himself there amidst all of the adventures of Saul and Carrie and in similar fashion found himself neck deep into all their craziness. But still we tune in and see Quinn effortlessly pick off one enemy after another while looking like he can take center stage on a cover of a magazine.  Although I am not one to swoon over fictional television characters, I find myself looking forward to seeing Quinn on my screen and root for him in his adventures.  This has me wondering if the writers of Homeland purposely want their viewers to see Quinn through the lens of a hero.

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Heroes are beloved by many readers and/or viewers of entertainment.  The concept of a hero dates back a long time ago and originated in classical literature.  The definition of a hero has changed throughout time, and the Merriam Webster dictionary defines a hero as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities”.

While labeling someone as a hero is somewhat objective, I feel Quinn checks the boxes of these attributes of a hero.  He was first introduced to Homeland’s audience in Season Two as a black ops agent, under the supervision of Dar Adal.  Although we recently learned why Dar Adal recruited him (sex work for the CIA, could have done without that backstory), Quinn has turned out to be quite a good addition to the CIA organization.  We have since seen Quinn scale walls seemingly effortlessly (and only using his bare hands!), profess that he only kills “bad guys” and does so efficiently, survive a gunshot to his abdomen in the tailor shop in Gettysberg, single handily kill dozens of Haqqani’s men in the ambush on the CIA in Islamabad (while managing to not get killed himself), and most recently escaped death narrowly, not once but twice in Season Five.  (Although it remains to be seen if he truly survives the second attempt at his life).  While this seems pretty outlandish and frankly preposterous, it does make for exciting TV and glorifies Quinn as a hero.

While Quinn has his short comings, his actions demonstrate his tendency to fight for the common good.  Although he is not one to wear his feelings on his sleeve, we witnessed Quinn defend his heavyset friend when insensitive bullies were mocking her weight. Although bashing someone’s face on the table is over-the-top, his actions illustrate that he does have the capability to care for another human being.  The end of Season Five really brought forth the feelings he has for Carrie, via a romantic letter he wrote her.  I believe this was the first time in the series that romance was used in the narrative and it was a nice addition to the ongoing “will they or won’t they” storyline between them.

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Another notion of a hero is one who selfless and is willing to risk his or her life to save another.  Quinn has demonstrated this in his fierce protection of Carrie. In Season Five, a severely injured Quinn, determined to protect Carrie by severing his connection to her, slipped away from their safe house and attempted to take his own life.

Part of the troupe of a hero on TV resides with the hero facing insurmountable difficulties and setbacks.  The later half of Season Five, Quinn was not lacking in such instances.  Although Quinn tried to take his own life, he was stopped in the act by Hussein, a doctor who resides with the same group of Syrian jihadists that Quinn fell into, who were allegedly planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Syria. Quinn pretended to go along with the plan while informing Dar Adal about the group’s movements, but he eventually learned that their real target wasn’t Syria, but was right there in Berlin.  Unfortunately he gets knocked out by one of the jihadists when he went to investigate what is being loaded onto their truck during a stop for supplies.

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Quinn’s luck seemed to have ran out at this point as when he woke up, he found himself tied up and near containers of chemical weapons. It was revealed the containers held sarin, a deadly gas used as a chemical weapon. The jihadists decided to test the effectiveness of the sarin gas, by exposing Quinn to it.  Seems at this point, Quinn was facing certain death, but a sympathetic member of the group injected the agent with an antidote beforehand. Although the effects of the gas were lessened, Quinn was still grievously sick — made even worse when Carrie ordered doctors to wake him up in order to extract information from him.

Usually the hero finds a way to not succumb to adversity so it remains to be seen if Quinn’s storyline will follow this format.  As it is, at the end of Season Five, Quinn was still in a coma with no signs of recovery.  The very end of the season featured Carrie in his hospital room, ready to do a mercy killing but a bright light pierced the room.  Is this symbolism that Quinn’s soul is ascending to heaven or is it a sign from God that Quinn will miraculously survive?  I look forward to watching Season Six to find out the answer.

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Over the last fifteen weeks, I eagerly viewed Homeland for my graduate school COMS 650 course at Northern Illinois University.  Although I wasn’t sure what to expect from a class where you watch a TV show and then blog about it, I learned a lot more than what I thought I would.  The articles assigned for the class to read, provided another layer of depth to this show.  Clearly, Homeland is smartly written show, containing some real representations of real life and a whole lot of embellishment.  As I mentioned above, I look forward to watching Season Six and any additional seasons during the course of Homeland’s lifetime.  I hope to interact with my followers from time to time and look forward to more musings on Homeland in the future.

 

 

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Week 14: Season 5 Episodes 5-8: Be Careful of What You Say

The middle four episodes of Season 5 of Homeland continued to provide some context to one of the main plots of the season, who is trying to kill Carrie?  While this plot is somewhat ridiculous (really is Carrie that important that the villainous Russians need to kill her?), it does provide the narrative that makes sense for Carrie to resume her action filled pre Berlin life.

However what intrigued me out of the four episodes I viewed (and it was also the episode I enjoyed most watching) was episode 8 “All About Allison”.  This episode spent a good portion of its time in flashback mode, where we saw a fresh-faced and newly appointed CIA agent Carrie (and seemingly with a spring in her step!) and a wary and jaded Allison Carr‘s first meeting back in 2005 Baghdad. Carrie had just arrived to relieve Allison of her post, with Allison positively itching for her vacation time at a St. Lucia beach side bar called Banana Joe’s.

While this may seem like such a mundane part of the narrative for this episode, this flashback was actually integral to the narrative because viewers found out how and why Allison became a spy for the Russians – she was caught by her now-handler Ivan Krupin when she was conspiring to run off with Ahmed Nazari, along with millions of dollars of stolen U.S. currency.  Ivan proposed that if Allison agrees to become a double agent for the SVR instead, he will offer her a hefty monetary compensation with mutual information exchange that will help her climb the ranks of the CIA (and avoid federal prison).

All the while in this season Carrie has slowly been solving the mystery of who wants her dead.  After combing through an exhaustive list of potential assassins, and coming up empty handed, it took a screen saver of a picture of Banana Joe’s (a bar Allison mentioned during the flashbacks of this episode) and confirmation from an internet search that unravels the mystery for Carrie.  I guess Allison is right, Ivan is underestimating Carrie.  What are the odds that such an insignificant utterance a decade or so ago will be the very thing to kick start your downfall and potentially lead you to prison or to get you killed?

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This episode really illustrates the characterization of Allison.  While putting someone’s name in the CIA’s kill box, and making it look like someone else put that name there (Saul) usually does not garner much sympathy for someone, it’s clear Allison is not some sociopathic cold blooded killer.  In fact, it’s clear she’s not heartless; she’s simply ambitious. She also knows she’s trapped, and that one day Carrie will somehow find out the truth and she is worried about that happening.  Clearly Allison has some empathy as she could have easily had Carrie killed by simply lighting her cigarette as a signal to the sniper nearby.  Instead she caves to Carrie’s anguished cry that she “had a life and wants it back”.

According to Aaron Riccio of Slant,  “All About Allison” provides a reasonable explanation for the way she’s let her loyalty to the United States lapse over the course of 10 years; she’s most recently helped the Russians disrupt American plans in Syria.  But there’s nothing in all of her present scenes to indicate why she’d continue to risk being exposed by leaving Carrie alive. If Homeland‘s writers are attempting to demonstrate that Allison is adrift, seeking to cling to a happier, less compromised moment in her past, then they’ve failed. If anything, Allison comes across as more bipolar than Carrie, constantly split between extremes.

This episode also imparts a feel that Allison has become the protagonist, while Carrie, Saul, and Quinn scurry off in the background to their own adventures, eventually fitting the puzzle pieces together that make up this season’s general plot line.  While it’s plainly obvious (at least by seeing previews of Season 6) that Carrie is not going anywhere, it remains to be seen how Allison will fully fit into Homeland’s world.  Will she be more than a one-season-wonder?  Could Allison become a villain to the likes of Abu Nazir, Javadi, or Haggani? She has an emotional connection with Saul and is a high ranking member of the CIA. Plus she given her connections, she may be able to evade Saul and Carrie for a while or become an asset herself (akin to Javadi) so they can take down the SVR.

Allison is a new character to Homeland this season and although she played an important part of Carrie’s professional life early on, a minor detail spoken a decade ago can be the thing to derail Allison.  With Saul and Quinn getting themselves into their own respective situations, the concluding four episodes of Season 5 are sure to be action packed and full of excitement.