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

Carrie hallucinates

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.

Aayan

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.

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Week 6: Season Two Episodes 9-12: Torture and Interrogation in the United States: Glamorized or Real?

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I was eager to view the last four episodes of Season Two of Homeland, even more so since I had prior knowledge of what will transpire, culminating into the best ending of a season in this series. (Granted I have only viewed the first two seasons so my comparison base is admittedly pretty narrow). Goodness the writers of Homeland certainly have put their creative talents to good use to create an electrifying ending: Brody killing Vice President Walden, CIA operatives finding and killing Abu Nazir (after Carrie insisted they search the tunnels again where she was certain Nazir was hiding), a massive explosion to the CIA facility in Langley, resulting in the murders of over 200 innocent people, Brody being wrongly accused for this horrific terrorist attack, a dissolution of a marriage, and promises of love in a tumultuous and ill-fated relationship. Such storylines would take most serialized television shows a couple of seasons to complete, Homeland accomplishes this in just four episodes.

The point of this post is not to discuss all that transpired in these four episodes. After all, my readers have viewed these episodes and certainly do not need me to restate what they know and likely incorporated portions of these episodes into their own writings. Rather I would like to devote this week’s post to torture and interrogation tactics used in the United States. While I shied away from this topic last week, several of my readers encouraged me to pursue this topic at a later date. Given this has been a prominent topic in the public eye with the current administration and Homeland’s portrayal of torture and interrogation tactics in the second season make this a worthy subject to write about this week.

The use of torture and interrogation tactics were pervasive in the second season of Homeland, that one has grown accustomed to their occurrences. Viewers watch these scenes for emotional narratives such as the torture Abu Nazir inflicted on Brody when he was a prisoner, Brody being forced to beat Tom Walker while both were in captivity, the questionable interrogation tactics employed by the CIA to the Saudi diplomat and in a particularly violent example, Quinn stabbing a knife into Brody’s hand in an attempt to extract information about his past with Abu Nazir. Certainly these scenes contributed to the action and excitement in the second season, however they were not a completely accurate portrayal of the methods the CIA practices during an interrogation (especially when Quinn stabbed Brody’s hand). Much of what the writers and producers embellished in these episodes were to contribute to the storytelling of Homeland’s spy genre. Image result for homeland interrogation tactics

According to Jason Mittell of “The Ends of Serial Criticism”, how Homeland uses these torture and interrogation tactics is a strategy that serial storytelling can emphasize or ignore particular meanings simply by the amount of attention afforded to them through serial reiterations and articulations. Season two occurred in 2012, eleven years after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and national security was still forefront in the minds of Americans. The idea of torture tactics employed by the CIA, FBI, and other government agencies who deal with terrorism, were prominent in mainstream media stories. This issue was then and still is currently a controversial topic as even though the horrific events that unfolded at the turn of the century occurred a decade and a half ago, the war on terror remains a prominent concern to Americans. Homeland’s use of flashbacks to illustrate Brody’s torture in Afghanistan is not merely for additional detail in a vast sea of character information, it helps to shape our view of torture tactics used by Al-Qaeda. This can also help to shape the view of either the series or the U.S. military policy.

Although Season Two aired almost five years ago, the current administration has reignited controversy on the United States’ stance on torture. According to an article in “The Atlantic”, torture was a key part of Trump’s national-security platform as a presidential candidate. He publicly defended torture on the trail, proclaiming that “torture works” and “only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.” Even if it didn’t work, Trump concluded, “they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.” One has to wonder if such inflammatory rhetoric were uttered when Season Two aired, what direction the show’s writers would take these torture and interrogation scenes. Would they retract, contradict, revise, or simply ignore these political statements and just let that part of Brody’s history fade into the background? While conducting research for this article, I did not run across any viewers voicing dissent about the current season and Trump’s political utterances on this topic so my assumption is that either Homeland shifted its focus overseas off American soil where the instances of torture would not be such a common refrain or viewers do not find Homeland’s depiction of torture particularly offensive.

The CIA has often used Hollywood to present a rosy portrait of its operations.  Homeland has become a platform for Alex Gansa (Homeland’s co-creator) to explore all the most compelling and controversial aspects of the war on terror from a reliably pro-CIA point of view.  According to Gansa, the show tries in a vigorous way to show both sides of the political spectrum and not be polemic.  However as the war on terror endlessly grinds on, it will be interesting to see if Hollywood takes a more critical look at national security.  Not just in Homeland, but in other popular television shows or movies that of the same genre.

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