THE UPSHOT
Haqqani is executed by G’ulom. Jalal kills Max. President Hayes makes a provocative speech, and Carrie refuses to return to Kabul.

Director: Michael Klick
Writers: Gideon Raff (original Israeli series Prisoners Of War), Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Patrick Harbinson, Chip Johannessen
Cast: Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Maury Sterling, Numan Acar, Costa Ronin
Streaming on: Hotstar Premium
Season: 8
Episode: 8 – Threnody(s)

Spoilers ahead!

Haqqani and Max are dead

We knew it was coming. The build-up had been there all along. The episode gives us a fleeting ray of hope that things may take another course, before turning back and heading towards the inevitable. Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar) had been sentenced to death in his trial. Max (Maury Sterling) was being held hostage by Haqqani’s son Jalal (Elham Ehsas). Now, just as Haqqani is about to be executed, G’ulom (Mohammad Bakri) receives a phone call from Ben Hayes (Sam Trammell). Turns out, Jalal has threatened to kill Max if his father dies. Hayes is eager to bask in the credit of putting the Taliban chief to death within such a short span of his tenure, but he can’t risk the spilling of American blood. He asks G’ulom for time to straighten the Max situation out. G’ulom grudgingly agrees to wait, but only for 24 hours. The last few episodes have brought about an interesting paradigm shift between the Afghan-American relations. Between the two presidents, the Afghan president is clearly the enforcer, possibly for the first time in history. G’ulom is running this show. In the most un-American way, Hayes almost pleads to G’ulom to grant him some time. When G’ulom agrees, he’s doing a favour to his allies.

It is at this moment that you believe something will change. Perhaps Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) will pull off something spectacular in the next 24 hours, that will result in both men staying alive. But this euphoria is shortlived, for president Hayes has a change of heart. Max Piotrowski isn’t that important, he decides. He isn’t even a soldier, he’s just a technician. Putting Haqqani to death at the earliest is more important. Soon enough, Haqqani is tied to a pole and shot dead. Almost immediately, across the border in Pakistan, Jalal kills Max.

In Haissam Haqqani, we’ve seen one of the greatest transformations in Homeland. Once the chief antagonist who helmed an attack on the US embassy in Islamabad, Haqqani was rooting for peace all along this time around. All his actions this season were towards achieving peace. In the end, he was killed to make a political statement, for a crime he didn’t commit. It is, however, Max’s death that hits harder. Loyal, good natured Max who always had Carrie’s back.

Jalal seizes power

After the death of his father, Jalal wastes no time. The Taliban are holding a meeting in Pakistan’s Miranshah region. Firooz (Mustafa Haidari), Haissam Haqqani’s loyal aide, is talking about furthering the late commander’s endeavour for peace, when Jalal walks in with his men. Jalal declares that his father had weakened with age and his intention of peace was a folly. He also claims responsibility for the attack on the two presidents’ helicopter in Korangal. At this point, it’s uncertain whether Jalal really did kill the two presidents or is making a false claim. Firooz is inclined towards the latter, but the others seem to believe Jalal.

The president has a penchant for bad counsel

It’s been established by now that Ben Hayes has no mind of his own. He seems to be acting solely on the advice of others. We’ve seen G’ulom manipulate him into doing his bidding. Influencing Hayes’ decisions now is the chaotic presence of John Zabel, the latest joinee in the west wing. We got a brief glimpse of Hugh Dancy (Claire Danes’ real-life husband) as Zabel towards the end of the previous episode.

One gets the feeling that in Zabel and Hayes, the makers have attempted to mirror present-day American politics. Zabel is a hot-blooded bloke whose idea of solving any crisis is America arm-wrestling other nations into submission. It is Zabel who advises Hayes not to postpone Haqqani’s execution, even if it means sacrificing Max. Hayes, on the other hand, is a loose cannon and easy to provoke, something he shares with the real American president.

David Wellington (Linus Roache), the chief of staff, isn’t a fan of Zabel. Having served two previous presidents, Wellington knows a thing or two about diplomacy. When the president has to address the country about Haqqani’s execution, Zabel prepares a controversial speech that would potentially damage the United States’ relations with Pakistan, an ally. Wellington steps in to prevent this from happening. Zabel, however, isn’t one to back down. Through one of his sources, he gets his hands on video footage of Jalal Haqqani claiming responsibility for the helicopter attack. Just before the address, he shows it to the president. Hayes announces on television that it was Jalal and not Haissam Haqqani who killed the presidents. He demands that Pakistan arrest Jalal, who is operating from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of the country, failing which America will send in troops to get him themselves.

Carrie plays truant again

Carrie has been lurking around the camp where is Max is being held, waiting for American forces to arrive and rescue him. The forces never turn up, and Max is eventually killed. A helicopter flies in to collect the body, and Carrie decides to return with them. Saul has made it clear that Carrie is turning herself in and thus should be treated with respect. The soldiers, however, turn a deaf year to Saul, and insist on searching and cuffing Carrie. Carrie panics and draws her gun. An enraged Saul tries to calm things down, but Carrie runs towards Yevgeny (Costa Ronin) and the two make off again.

This has easily been the darkest episode of the season. Everything seems to have gone dramatically wrong. Saul has been scrambling relentlessly for peace in the region, but seems to be running out of all the aces up his sleeve. Now that Jalal Haqqani is helming the Taliban, one can expect insurgency in the region again. The Pakistanis are also likely to be unhappy after the president’s incendiary speech. It will be interesting to see how G’ulom reacts to the speech. It certainly didn’t make him look good. He implicated and killed the wrong guy for the presidents’ assassinations.

The only ray of hope at the moment is the flight recorder from the chopper. In the previous episode, Max managed to tell Carrie where the black box is headed. Carrie and Yevgeny are likely to pursue it. Meanwhile, we still don’t know what Yevgeny’s motives for doing all this are. He has done everything right this season, but his dodgy reputation precedes him.

Episode 9 of season 8 of Homeland will be released on Monday, April 6.

For recaps of previous episodes, see here.