Carrie Mathison and President Elizabeth Keane are both faced with life-changing decisions this week. Carrie’s daughter Franny could be taken away from her forever, while Keane could play right into the hands of Russian operatives who have been working to dismantle the entire U.S. government all season long. Carrie ends up making the right decision when she’s at that crossroads; Keane almost certainly does not. And as our actual president faces ongoing investigations about Russian collusion, it’s impressive how much Homeland season seven has been a funhouse mirror version of the real world.
In a tone-setting, sad opener, Carrie gets her third electroshock treatment after the breakdown she had at the end of last week’s episode. We also learn that Dante Allen really is dead and that Yevgeny got away … wait, how the hell did that happen?! Not only did Yevgeny apparently walk right out of the hospital after killing a man in federal custody, but he got all the way out of the country! Unless we learn that Saul or Paley helped him, this is the kind of Homeland twist that’s ridiculously hard to believe. And it’s not the last eyebrow-raiser this week.
While Carrie is “getting better,” the second arc of “Clarity” begins to play out in the nation’s capital. In a meeting between David Wellington and Vice President Warner, we learn that Senator Paley has completely dismissed the Russian story and continues his assault on the presidency. But why? Last week, Paley believed Saul and said it all made sense. Later we’ll learn that the death of Dante Allen convinced Paley that Keane was silencing people in custody, including McClendon, Simone, and now Dante. But Warner isn’t buying it … yet. He tells David that the President has nothing to worry about. The VP has to sign off on any use of the 25th amendment, and Warner says he won’t do it.
Despite those suspensions of disbelief, the episode draws a really interesting parallel between Carrie and Keane. As the President considers her options in the face of the possibility that her own cabinet will march her out of the White House, Carrie mulls what to do about the custody battle with her daughter. They’re both struggling to hold on to things. Carrie learns that Maggie wants sole custody and is offering visitation every third weekend. Otherwise, there will be a hearing and Carrie may not be allowed to see Franny at all. Carrie tells Anson that Maggie gave her sister the meds she needed off-book so that the agency wouldn’t find out. In other words, Carrie has information that could get destroy her sister’s medical license. Will she use it?
Almost as if he knows that Carrie is trying to get back to normalcy, Saul comes to his favorite spy with an offer. They’ve figured out Simone and Yevgeny were lovers and they’re likely together somewhere in Russia. They need an extraction team, and Saul wants Carrie to lead it. Carrie claims she wants to put her job behind her once and for all, but Saul looks like he doesn’t really believe her. Of course, we don’t either.
After the VP goes to meet with the Secretary of Defense and is ambushed by Senator Paley, the wheels really start to come off the Keane Presidency. Via David, she learns about the meeting and she presumes that Warner, who is so easily manipulated that she calls him a “weather vane,” will be swayed by Paley and the Secretary, and then she totally panics. She tries to call Warner, but when he hasn’t returned her calls by the next morning, she decides to take drastic action: She plans to fire the people she suspects will push her out. While the idea that Keane would fire half her cabinet to keep her grip on the office seems ridiculous on paper, it makes sense if you consider everything she’s been through. She’s been under attack, sometimes literally, for the last year. She has abandoned reason and logic in an effort to hold on to what she’s fought so hard to get. It’s such a horrible, almost naïve idea to think that a president could fire half her cabinet and expect to keep her job, but Keane’s panic is more understandable when you remember what she’s been through. She’s on tilt, acting through fear and emotion.
While Keane is making a horrible decision, Carrie is about to make the right one – for her daughter, for her sister, and for herself. After an emotional custody hearing, including Maggie’s testimony about how Carrie keeps making promises that she simply doesn’t keep, Carrie gives in. She agrees to give up custody if she can visit every other weekend. It’s the right decision and Danes sells the emotional tumult of it all very well.
If Carrie Mathison seems to finding the titular clarity this week, Elizabeth Keane keeps losing it. VP Warner marches in when the cabinet firing news breaks. He informs her that her panic was for naught. He never signed a document. He needed time to think, and so didn’t answer Keane’s calls. In the end, he chose to side with his president – but not if she does something this insane. “Power without authority is tyranny,” he tells her. Will Keane trust him? If he’s lying or changes his mind, she could be seen as unfit. And she chooses not to take that risk. When presented with the option to, as Warner says, “plunge this nation into crisis or defend it from its real enemies,” she chooses the former because it guarantees her more control.
As Keane is arguably losing her sanity, Carrie tells Saul that she’ll go to Europe to lead the extraction team. She goes to tell Franny about it, and there’s a beautiful beat for Danes as Carrie hugs her child. It’s tender and emotional. As long as this subplot has been, it’s a strong scene for both Danes and Amy Hargreaves as Maggie. And then Carrie marches out the door with her bag. After ten episodes, the seventh season of Homeland is finally going overseas. “Go do what you were born to do,” Maggie tells her sister.
• Could Anson be next year’s Quinn? Remember, Quinn started as more of a supporting character becoming a fan favorite. It feels like we haven’t seen the last of Anson.
• Beau Bridges rules. Always. While I wish his character had been more prominent all year to give this end game more heft, it’s nice to see him getting a juicy episode.
• If you’re wondering about the opening scene and only know of electroconvulsive therapy from horror movies, it is still a practice used to induce minor seizures to “reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses.”
• Thinking about the opening credits again this week and the final line we’ve heard every week, Carrie really did “steer clear of the rocks.” Will she continue to do so for the final two episodes? And has President Keane crashed right into them?