No previouslies: it’s a new start for Homeland, folks. Carrie’s in Berlin with her daughter Frannie, working as head of security for the Düring Foundation, a philanthropic organisation with interests in the Middle East. Through her job she’s acquired a new boyfriend and also, joyously, an office nemesis named Laura, demonstrating that do-gooder workplaces have just as much backbiting tension as nasty capitalist ones. Otto Düring, the head of the Foundation, wants to go to a refugee camp on the Syrian/Lebanese border to help feed its inhabitants, but Carrie makes it clear that she can’t guarantee his safety there. She tries to get intel out of the Berlin CIA, on a sort of I-used-to-be-one-of-you basis, but the CIA didn’t get to be the world’s most feared espionage operation by falling for that. On the other hand some hackers have just breached their network, so it looks as if Berlin’s taken its eye off the ball.
Meantime, back in Langley, our old friends Saul and Dar Adal are in a meeting with some important people – we may have been told who they were, but I didn’t pick it up. They’re clearly important enough to get a debrief from Quinn on his recent mission in Syria fighting ISIS. Quinn also offers some mild insubordination, and eventually the suggestion that they might want to consider pounding Raqqa “into a parking lot”. It’s an electrifying scene, at least in part because Quinn still has that quiet, all-consuming rage simmering under the surface, but Saul can’t hang around to enjoy it: as head of the European division of the CIA, he need to go to Berlin to take care of the security breach. It turns out that the hackers have obtained sensitive documentation which seems to prove that the US has been spying on Germany’s behalf, thus neatly getting round German law, and it’s leaked to Laura, who is infuriated by Carrie’s refusal to authenticate it. My guess is that Laura totally suspects Carrie of taking milk out of the fridge without telling anyone as well, and of never being first to the karaoke on nights out.
Carrie contrives to bump into Saul, who’s clearly very unhappy with her leaving the Company and going over to the other side: she’s “naive and stupid, something you never were before”, he growls. Mind you, he’s got a lot on his plate: with the under-the-radar Germany/CIA links about to be revealed, the Germans are withdrawing from the operation, although Saul tries to persuade them that there’s value in continuing: there are, he claims, jihadis on German soil, and since the Germans can’t watch them the CIA should, with benefits to both of their countries. But the Germans are unconvinced, and pull the plug.
Thus far the episode has been evenly paced and interesting if not compelling. The first jolt – and it’s elegantly delivered – comes when Saul stuffs a handkerchief into his front jacket pocket and wanders through Berlin, crossing the path of Quinn, who until this moment we didn’t know to be in Germany. Neither acknowledges the other, but it’s obviously intentional – and the handkerchief is presumably code – because Quinn subsequently breaks into someone’s flat, waits until the occupant comes home, knocks him out, ties him up, makes a bomb, and gets out before it detonates. Yes, we’re back in the world of unofficial black ops: notwithstanding the Germans pulling out of the operation it’s still on as far as Saul is concerned. He’ll give Quinn the names, Quinn will go to (wet) work, and the Germans need never know. As Quinn hasn’t been the same since the unfortunate business with the child at the start of the third season, and looks both dangerously calm and dead behind the eyes throughout, this might well be his ideal job; and, of course, he’s in the same city as Carrie.
For now anyway: she’s still determined to get her boss safely to Syria, and reaches out to a Berlin-based Hezbollah commander through an imam. Needless to say she doesn’t just get an email saying yes or no, she gets the usual Homeland treatment: snatched off the street, forcibly hooded, taken to a deserted warehouse or whatever it is, tied to a chair, then after an inconsequential conversation with the Hezbollah dude about her CIA past she’s put through the process in reverse, ending up dumped on the street outside her apartment. But then she’s told – by phone – that Hezbollah is prepared to give the Düring team safe passage after all. (I say again: a quick exchange of emails would have covered it.)
Looks as if we’re going to Syria next week, then, which is presumably when the action will start. In consequence ‘Separation Anxiety’ feels a little like a preface. It’s a slow burner, a scene-setter; not great by any means, but good enough.