Homeland: The English Teacher
April 20, 2020 8:03 AM - Season 8, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Saul backchannels. Carrie needs one more favor.

Recaps: Vulture, EW, AV Club
posted by Nelson (7 comments total)
I continue to be enthralled by this season. It's so tightly plotted, it feels like every scene is perfectly placed. Contrast with the early seasons of Homeland where they were writing as they were filming and sometimes came out too long or too short. This one's feeling a little short, a lot is happening in a short space, but they're not skipping anything that matters to me.

I particularly like the denoument of Yevgeny's relationship with Carrie. She's not some brainwashed Manchurian Candidate spy ready to do whatever he wants. She's just predisposed to talk to him enough that she's in place to be recruited to do this final dastardly thing for him. It's quite subtle.

The addition of the English Teacher felt a little deus ex machina; surprise new agent! But also reasonably logical and well placed. A bit surprised to find that Saul was responsible for every major CIA/Russia intelligence success of the last 20 years but he is our hero afterall.

At least until Carrie kills him. I appreciate the setup for this, that the show is going to come down to Carrie vs Saul. It started that way too, Saul her mentor. Remember that cringy episode in the first season where Carrie tries to turn her sexy spy tricks on Saul and he's all like "stop it, that's grotesque, and I taught you how to do that?" Now we're going the other way, to killing him. I assume she can't go through with it, or won't, but I'm kind of hoping she simply chooses not to and she doesn't find some magic way out of her predicament in the last and final episode.

One tiny complaint is this episode was more Le Carre than Le Carre himself. I guess it's unavoidable if you're going to do a spy show and include 1980s Berlin. But all the details about the language school, the ancient files being unearthed, even the schoolmarmy translator are all Le Carre tropes. Eh, if you're going to steal then steal from the best.

My other tiny complaint is David, the useless sidelined advisor, is really too useless to even be on screen. I like that he serves as a bit of a Greek chorus for us, eliciting the basics of the story out of Saul so we can keep up. But I wish his character had any agency at all. Instead it's up to Saul to figure out how to undermine Stephen Miller Zabel.

This season has been the best yet of Homeland in terms of execution. It's a shame that there's so little discussion here. I imagine the show's ratings aren't great, either.
posted by Nelson at 8:11 AM on April 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

I confess I don't really understand what Yevgeny's endgame is. Russia wants to out a mole, then Russia wants Carrie to kill the mole's handler so that Carrie will become the mole's handler? Carrie, who is no longer employed?

I do love this season, but a lot didn't make sense last night.
posted by emelenjr at 9:05 AM on April 20, 2020

I think Yevgeny explained this pretty explicitly? He wants the mole. Carrie can't give him the mole, so Yevgeny says "ok then take out Saul, and that will neutralize his asset" since Saul is the only one who knows who the mole is. Carrie counters that Saul would have some backup plan for the asset in case of his demise. Yevgeny says "well yes, and that backup would be you!". Saul doesn't seem to care that Carrie is no longer in the CIA, nor does he seem to be running his agent by the book anyway. Makes sense to me that Carrie would be the backup designate and that Yevgeny would guess at that.

I mean it's all a little implausible, real life spies are nowhere near as meticulous. At least, the ones who we get caught and know about it. But within the confines of a spy story it seems reasonable.
posted by Nelson at 9:41 AM on April 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

I imagine the show's ratings aren't great, either.

Ooof, just looked at this. 0.7M viewers, except the one episode with "Fuck" in the title has 1M. Compare to 1.3M / episode last season and 2M+ in the best years. What a shame, I wonder if it just wasn't promoted?
posted by Nelson at 6:39 PM on April 20, 2020

The source where those numbers came from seems to be cable broadcasts. I don’t believe any of the services provide numbers via their apps, which is where I’d guess most people watch Showtime these days.
posted by sideshow at 9:08 PM on April 20, 2020

Huh. Old Ben Savage looks and sounds a lot like a young Saul Berenson, but not a ton like a young Mandy Patinkin - but I see he's also played a young version of a Patinkin character in 'Criminal Minds.' before.

Carrie sorting the red books on the floor was visually great.

As for "old ways," I knew about the book spine thing since I was a kid.

For me, the major implausibility of Carrie being Saul's backup is - who the heck would appoint her into a position of authority, or are Saul's plans after his death that his entire operation/ empire goes rogue?
posted by porpoise at 7:51 PM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Every time I heard young Saul speak I felt like I was listening to Mandy Patinkin overdubbing him. Just couldn’t connect that face with that voice.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 9:48 AM on April 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

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