Week 12: Season 4 Episodes 9-12: How Effective of a Female Protagonist is Carrie Mathison?

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Watching Homeland is not for the faint of heart.  Trust me, I know.  So much action and violence and little in the way of romance.  Week after week as I watch my four episodes, I am riveted to what is playing out in front of me.  Thankfully the final four episodes of Season 4 do not disappoint. There are many plot twists and turns,  relationship nuances that are brought to the forefront, and arguably the most intense action-packed scene of Homeland so far, despite how unrealistic it is.  While these episodes contain a multitude of story arcs and themes to pursue for this weeks blog, I am interested in discerning how effective Carrie Mathison is as a female protagonist.

Carrie, the ever complex protagonist of this show, started out this season callous and self involved.  Some of my peers agreed with my assessment and others viewed her apathy toward her daughter Frannie differently, to which I accede to.  As Season Four continued on, we saw Carrie draw on her emotions more.  Nearly getting blown up to smithereens twice,  losing most of your crew in the embassy massacre, learning that there were people in her professional sphere who betrayed her and the United States, losing your father then coming face-to-face with your mother whom you haven’t seen in 15 years (and learning you have a half brother) will do that to you.

Although it’s not all of the crazy and death defying situations Carrie finds herself in that provide moments of unclarity of her character for the viewer, rather its how her emotions change capriciously.  According to Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic, Carrie embodies the ugliest stereotypes about women in the workplace: that they’re hysterical, brittle, rude, entitled, inefficient, and governed by emotions rather than logic. Instead of earning her promotions, Carrie either fails her way up the CIA ladder (after practically everyone else is killed by the Langley car bomb) or threatens people into giving her what she wants.

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While I am pleased to see Carrie embrace motherhood in episode 12, I am perplexed as to why the change of heart?  She was bonding with Frannie before her mother returned so any revelations from Carrie about not being like her absentee mom were not there. Could it be that the writers of Homeland decided to portray Carrie as a more effective feminine hero rather then have her display unmaternal coldness that’s intended to make her more like one of the boys?  Personally I bristle at the notion of being an “effective feminine hero” as someone who has to show her maternal instinct.  True I got angry at Carrie for seemingly not to care about Frannie (she’s just so cute with that red hair and adorable smile, how could she not care), but would Carrie make such a bad female hero had she either never gotten pregnant in the first place, decided to either terminate the pregnancy, or gave Frannie up for adoption?

We have seen Carrie’s sensibilities all over the map this season. She was willing to kill both Aayan and Saul in her obsessive pursuit of Haggani, but then was doggedly talking Saul down from committing suicide and displayed anger for Aayan’s murder (when she was willing to take Haggani down despite Saul being in the vicinity).  I am not sure if this is the stuff of a strong female protagonist.  And this does not take into account her sexual exploits, aiding a domestic terrorist, and bullying people into doing what she wants!

In stark contrast to Carrie Mathison is Fara Sherazi.  Brilliant in her own right, she was caring, kind, and did not succumb into using her sexuality and beauty to lure assets or obtain critical and classified information.  This was apparent in her failed mission in acquiring Aayan as an asset.  Although Fara was a minor character initially, its clear she isn’t sociopathically detached or obsessively emotionally involved. tumblr_ng9kb4lBCY1qaqpx9o1_1280

As an aside, Fara was also a positive portrayal of a Muslim character in a show that has been criticized as the most Islamophobic show on television.  Any good Homeland did to promote an anti-Islamophobic agenda by showcasing such a favorable Muslim portrayal is erased when they decided to have the repugnant villain Haggani murder Fara in cold blood.  Not only is Haggani of the Islamic faith but is also the Taliban’s leader. No doubt many writers capitalized on Homeland’s faux pas of killing off Fara and showcasing Haggani and other Taliban soldiers viciously gunning down embassy personnel as more examples of  how Homeland is perpetuating negative stereotypes of Muslims.  The Haggani character alone, is worthy of such criticism.  Not only did he murder over 40 people in the span of one season, but he forced Lockhart into handing over a master list of all American assets in Pakistan, foreshadowing their demise.  So I will miss Fara and I feel cheated out of seeing her sweet romance she was sharing with Max develop more in future episodes.

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Reverting back to Carrie.  It is clear has much to ponder going into Season Five.  She shared a passionate kiss with Peter Quinn after her father’s funeral.  She also learned from her mother that it was her infidelities that caused her to leave Carrie and Maggie when they were young adults not that the relationship got to be unbearable due to Frank’s bipolar disorder.  Unfortunately by the time Carrie found this out, it was too late as Quinn decided to accept a mission to Aleppo, Syria and is unreachable.  Will Carrie be able to experience love with someone who is a good match for her?  Or are we going to have to watch her emotions ebb and flow like the tide?  How will Carrie deal with Saul selling himself out to remove Haggani from the CIA’s no-kill list just so he can reclaim his previous CIA director position?  Will she be an effective female protagonist and be able separate her personal and professional spheres without resorting to cheap tactics to get what she wants?  We will soon see and I can’t wait.

Week 11: Season 4 Episodes 5-8: Winning Game Plan?

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The middle four episodes of Season 4 seemed to almost entirely forget about Carrie’s reluctance to motherhood and the fallout from leaving Franny with Maggie, but instead redirected the action and excitement to Pakistan.  Carrie is still trying to rid the world of terrorists, and in this block of episodes we meet the next high profile terrorist, Haissam Haggani, a Taliban leader who Carrie and her crew targeted in the blotched wedding drone strike.  This series of episodes contained enough excitement and suspense that Homeland’s viewers come to expect, however it appears our protagonists are on a major losing streak.

At the start of Season 4, we meet Aayan who is Haggani’s nephew and survived the drone strike that killed the rest of his family at the blotched wedding.  Viewers got the impression that Aayan and Haggani were close – Aayan risked a lot to get life saving medication for Haggani and also relayed tales of Haggani’s endearing mannerisms, like how he drank his tea.  After a period of time, Aayan revealed that Haggani is alive. Carrie concocted a ruse to get Aayan to seek refuge with his uncle, Haqqani, by initially having a couple members of her team break into the safehouse and try to capture Aayan.  Of course Aayan is able to escape, but unbeknownst to him, Max hid a tracker in his passport. Aayan is located by a drone which relays a visual of his whereabouts to the operations room where Carrie, Quinn, and Redmond observe.  Score one for Carrie and her crew.

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However After calling Haqqani, Aayan goes to a secluded location where he is met by a convoy of vehicles containing heavily armed men.   Haqqani tells Aayan that his “friend” (Saul) has led them into a trap and that there is a drone waiting above to kill them. Haqqani thanks Aayan for the medicines and kisses him, then shoots him in the head, killing him instantly.  So much for family loyalty!  Furious over Haqqani murdering Aayan, Carrie ordered the drone shooter to take the shot to assassinate Haqqani despite a kidnapped Saul being right in the vicinity.  It took Quinn to talk down Carrie from ordering the hit on Haqqani, which surely would kill Saul.  This is a major loss for Carrie’s team as it was decided that when Haqqani was in sight, the drone shooter would take him out for good.  So not only is Haqqani still alive and a viable threat to the United States, they lost an important asset in the process.  Poor Aayan – he was such a sweet but naïve kid.  RIP Aayan!

Of course one of the biggest losses for Carrie and co. happened when Saul got himself kidnapped.  En route to the United States, Saul sees Farhad Ghazi at Benazir Bhutto International Airport. Following Ghazi into a bathroom, Saul is attacked by two other men and given an injection which renders him unconscious. Saul is taken out of the airport in a wheelchair.  To make matters worse, a guard at a checkpoint discovers Saul bound and gagged in the trunk of Haqqani’s car, but takes no action and just waves them through.saul

In the episode titled “Redux”, CIA director Andrew Lockhart arrives in Pakistan.  Lockhart, Ambassador Martha Boyd, Carrie, and other representatives from the U.S. Embassy meet with a delegation of Pakistani intelligence officials. These officials disclosed a prisoner release plan for Saul, but instead of one prisoner, they wanted to exchange Saul for several high profile terrorists. Lockhart accuses the ISI of being complicit with Haqqani, and declares that the U.S. will suspend their federal aid to Pakistan if Saul is not returned safely.  The Pakistani intelligence officials got offended at Lockhart’s harsh rhetoric and and left the meeting.  Another loss for the CIA.

In the episode “Halfway to a Donut”, Saul managed to get a hold of a nail that he used to free himself from his shackles with a nail.  After killing the guard and stealing his cellphone, he contacted Carrie.  An elated Carrie directed him to walk 20 miles or so to the town where an asset is located.  Finally a win (and a big one at that) for Saul and the CIA!

Unfortunately this was a short-lived win.  At the next meeting between the Americans and Pakistanis, Carrie notices how confident the Pakistani officials are.  Initially confused by their attitudes in the meeting, she quickly realizes the Pakistani military can detect the drone over where Saul is and give Haqqani those coordinates. As she rushes to the operations room, the Taliban surround the town. To her dismay, they open fire on a van carrying the team sent to rescue Saul.  Unfortunately the van is outnumbered and forced to turn back.  While Carrie was able to talk Saul out of committing suicide, she directs Saul out of a building and into a group of Taliban, where he is recaptured.  Lockhart, watching all of this unfold, declares that the United States is accepting Haqqani’s terms for the prisoner exchange instead of telling them to fuck off.  Another big, rather huge loss for our protagonists.

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Meanwhile Carrie had her own troubles to contend with.  Earlier in the season we see Tasneem Qureshi blackmail Dennis Boyd in order to get him to do some unethical things for the ISI.  She was able to get a key to Carrie’s apartment where Dennis was able to use it to enter and snap pictures of her medication, a picture of Franny, and other personal items.  At a pharmacy, Tasneem picks up some pills that have been filled with an unidentified powder. Dennis switched Carrie’s pills with the pills that Tasneem acquired. Carrie eventually takes the tainted pills and soon begins to suffer the effects.  When she goes to the hospital to question Aayan’s girlfriend Kiran, she becomes paranoid and starts hallucinating.  She attacks a security guard at the hospital, while hallucinating that it is Quinn, and thinks she is shooting at police officers.  The police apprehend her and drive her to a stately home.  She sees Brody greeting her and eventually lets down her guard to allow him to comfort her.  Of course Carrie was hallucinating this whole time as in reality it was ISI colonel Aasar Khan who was holding her.

Fortunately the following day, after the effects of the pills wore off, Carrie realized someone must have tampered with her medication.  Carrie confronts Colonel Khan, who denies any involvement.  He eventually discloses to Carrie that it was Dennis who poisoned her with the fake medicine.  A loss for Carrie, but she does have the upper hand now that she knows who tampered with her medication.

So the final score board for Season 4 so far for our protagonists are two short-lived wins although they are overshadowed by several major losses.  I hope Carrie and her crew can turn their luck around, including rescuing Saul from Haqqani’s clutches.  Speaking of Haqqani, let’s hope Carrie can be successful in her mission in ridding the world of this Taliban leader.