A quick review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as we initiate the failure protocol...
This season of "Homeland" has been all over the map in terms of quality, tone and character motivation that it's almost as if the show as being written by Carrie Mathison herself. Some weeks, it's an embarrassing shadow of its former self; in others, it's as gripping and devastating as it's ever been. Sometimes, it's the Crazy Carrie Hour; at others, it's just a taut spy thriller with a heroine who doesn't think quite like her colleagues. One week, Quinn is in love with Carrie and desperate to get out of the Agency before one more innocent person dies by his hand; another, he's gone full Jack Bauer and will kill as many people as is necessary to get Haqqani.
As the penultimate chapter of season 4, "Krieg Nicht Lieb" tried to tie all these pieces together to make them seem like part of the same picture, and did as reasonable a job as could be expected, given the many peaks and valleys of the year. Quinn's apparent reversal of motivation, for instance, was addressed in the conversation between Carrie and his German ex, who sounds very believable as she recalls all the previous times Peter Quinn has decided he's had enough of killing. And though the season's clumsy early attempts to write around the death of James Rebhorn (where Carrie's dad had always just left whenever she called) at least led to a well-timed revelation that helped set up Carrie's decision to stop Quinn. In other circumstances, she would have been the one leading the off-the-books assassination plot, life and career be damned — and, in fact, she can't resist taking out her gun once she gets a close look at the man who killed Ayaan, Fara and so many other people she cared about. But having seen so many colleagues die, and then getting this news about her dad, is enough to make Carrie decide she can't afford to lose anyone else she's close to. She might be willing to die herself (though this seems more a spur-of-the-moment impulse than a plot), but she can't sacrifice anyone now, just as she couldn't let Saul shoot himself when he was surrounded by Haqqani's men.
The episode seems to have us set up for another unequivocal triumph of our enemies — maybe signifying an even-season pattern for the series? — but the last shot of Dar Adal in the back of Haqqani's car complicates things. Is Dar part of the coup Khan has objected to? Is he playing his own version of Saul's move with Javadi last season? Has he gone off the reservation altogether? F. Murray Abraham has been absent for most of this season, but this seems to be setting him up as Carrie and Saul's big opponent for the fifth season — a season I find myself much more interested in seeing now than I would have been a month ago.
What did everybody else think? What do you think Dar's up to? Do you think Khan could have actually made his way to Carrie in time? Do you want a spin-off prequel about Quinn and his ex?
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com