While 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.
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.
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.