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Homeland Review: Season Six Imminent Risk

Diabolical Dar is the puppet master.

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The sway she has over you and Saul, I'll never understand it. - Dar Adal

At least it had a point in the end, that's the one thing I'll say about the main story surrounding last night's Homeland. This was a step back after last week, mainly because I still don't care about Frannie Mathison as a story catalyst. I've never been interested in Carrie as a mom, and I still don't care. We got Claire Danes back in form as the ugliest crier in recorded history back, and we began to see her crack for the first time in a while.

All of this amounted to very little to me, until what I expected to see happen...did.

Dar Adal was behind child services taking interest in Carrie's life. While I didn't necessarily pinpoint it to Dar initially, I knew it came from on high, from someone with interest in taking Mathison off the scent, off the grid, and off her medication. So of course it was Dar. Plus, it put her back on the sauce, and led to the awkward phone call with Elizabeth Keane, which may have at least partially wrecked her credibility in the eyes of the new administration.

My guess is it didn't, but that was Adal's thought. He wanted to put the screws to someone he deems a major nuisance to his hopes to engage the Iranians and kill the nuclear deal. Dar Adal doesn't have friends, which is why he's the slow motion villain of the last few seasons. He's not always wrong, but his methods know no boundaries, whether it's delaying Saul through a bogus debriefing session or snatching Frannie from her mother's arms in an attempt to drive her back to the bipolar, unstable existence that nearly killed her on numerous occasions in the past.

Not only is Dar manipulating Carrie and Saul, he's also enlisted Astrid to keep Peter Quinn out of New York City. Whether you agree with what he's doing there or not, we're right back where we were. Quinn drags this show to a crawl, even when he's trying to hitchhike his way back into trouble. Adal strikes again in the conversation with Quinn, where he informs Peter that Carrie isn't the altruistic friend she appears to be. She ordered that the doctors wake him up out of a deep coma, despite the heavy risk of cerebral brain hemorrhage, stroke, or death. Dar points to guilt being the rationale for what she's done for Quinn since, not romance and not love.

Dar is an ass, and he believes Quinn's longstanding crush and near obsession with Carrie is what might draw him back to New York. Yes, he's keeping Quinn out of jail, but all of this has helped to isolate Carrie Mathison from everyone that matters in her life other than Max and Reda Hashem. Conlin is dead (not on him...probably), Frannie is in foster care, Saul hasn't spoken to her in weeks, Quinn is now on vacation, and now Keane might not trust her judgment. He's a mastermind. That much is certain.

In some form or fashion, nearly every second of this episode was in some way orchestrated by Dar Adal. Saul believes (correctly) it was Dar that informed on Javadi's trip to New York and on his collusion with the CIA and Berenson specifically. As much as I enjoy watching F. Murray Abraham be this diabolical and calculating, this episode wasn't what I consider to be great television. It wasn't terrible, but after last week's thrill ride, we're back inside a John LeCarre novel, even though we're now past the halfway point and down to the season's final five episodes.

Here's a question for you. What exactly is the threat this season? Are we merely supposed to see Dar Adal as the baddie, or is more going on here? Yes, the show tells us Iran is bad, but alsi that Israel isn't the innocent victim, at least in some respects. We've seen a van explosion, and we've seen an FBI agent murdered in his home, presumably by the same man responsible for the death of Sekou Bah. We've seen a little torture, including that nasty fingernail scene last night with Javadi.

Christine Lonas (Marin Hinkle) was great as Frannie Mathison's case worker. She was immediately unlikable, as she needed to be, but also made valid points. We aren't really rooting for Carrie to lose her daughter - though it makes the show better - but two weeks ago I discussed just how stupid it was for her to leave her child with a mentally dangerous man, simply because she thought he looked cute with Franny as the two played with stuffed animals. When she brings up bipolar and manic episodes and Carrie sleeping against a wall with a loaded gun, all I can do is nod uncomfortably.

She loves her daughter, no doubt, but is she a fit mother? Honestly I just don't care, but we've seen five seasons of evidence to indicate she's questionable at best. Obviously, she'll end up with Frannie back at home, as Dar isn't a monster, he's just someone whose interests and affinity for control trump morality, friendship, or decency.

That brings me to the other thing I don't have much interest in, and this one's much more important than the first. Homeland has done a terrible job in simplifying the players and fields involved in the Iranian nuclear arc. I know where people stand, but the clandestine manner in which the show has laid out both the stakes and the various points of view makes it feel like the writers are actual intelligence agents and we're their marks. It's frustrating. I feel like a lot of you out there have either been lost or bored with talks of parallel programs, Mossad's involvement, and Saul hanging out in the West Bank. It's not confusing. It's just dull. Both are problematic.

Nafisi was Mossad for eight years. Saul offers to get Javadi in a room with Keane to confirm there's no parallel nuclear program. All of this, except the bouncing cleavage in the hotel room earlier this season...all of it amounts to nearly nothing for me as a viewer. Hopefully it will soon, but these incidents and sequences have wasted a LOT of my time, at least as it pertains to me as an entertainment-seeker.

I would be much more involved in Season 6's overall plot if it were focused around domestic terrorism and ties overseas, as opposed to deep policy issues that are inadequately explained in clunky, loose fashion. I don't think anybody's lost watching this content, but my mind wanders during almost every one of these sequences. It's been that way all year, and it's time to directly tie the Iranian situation to the bombing, attach it to something huge, or wind it down and go somewhere else. It's been by far the least intriguing of all the major international angles the show has done during its six seasons on air.

Javadi killing Amir was cold-blooded, and immediately the show reminds us Saul taught this man how to think. The CIA has never been a white hat on Homeland, but the shades of grey sometimes overwhelm everything else. Dar Adal is the poster child for it, as he weaves in and out of every character's personal and professional business, seemingly with impunity. If it weren't for Dar, god this season would suck. Even as ridiculous as some of his actions and moves are, at least they're fun to watch. And Abraham is awesome in the role.

I didn't hate the episode, simply because it was heavy on Dar the jerkface, but it was a big let-down after the high of last week. Season 6 remains forgettable, and for those that ask whether I'd recommend it, the answer is a strong no. Nothing this season makes me enjoy Homeland more than I have in the past; in fact it's diluting the series as a whole. Five episodes remain this season, and the last few MUST be solid, or this will go down as an inessential, unnecessary mistake of a twelve-episode bundle. I have no doubt the different tributaries of the story will come together, because why else would be seeing all this stuff, but I'm getting really tired of waiting.

Aren't you?

I'm @JMartOutkick. No loose ends. You taught me that, Saul.