Note to Homeland writers: upon pretentiously naming an episode after a T.S. Eliot poem, not only will the ears of English majors everywhere perk with excitement that their serially uncool literary prowess finally came in quasi-handy, but the expectation of quality for the show will likely multiply. So when the seventh episode of the season, “Geronation,” under-delivered in both plot and character, it was extra disappointing. In fact, the single unquestionable positive of last night’s show was the absence of Dana Brody.
Eliot’s poem, Geronation, is about an old man reflecting on a changed world he cannot control. This highbrow reference is—wait for it— a metaphor to our elder CIA bigwig, Saul (Mandy Patinkin). In an epic long con, Saul compromised the mental stability of his mentee, Carrie (Claire Danes), by portraying her as a bipolar reject of the agency on the national stage. When his secret mission successfully lured his Iranian counterpart, Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub), to seek out Carrie as an American intelligence source for Iran, Saul involved other agents, including Quinn (Rupert Friend) into the mix. All of this comes with Saul’s knowledge that his days as CIA director are numbered, Senator Lockhart, is set to replace him. So when he repeatedly compromises the safety of his colleagues, it’s unclear whether Saul’s incentive is a completely self-serving attempt to heroically save face professionally in the eleventh hour or it’s a completely self-serving internal struggle to prove himself to… himself.
Saul’s manipulations have proven reckless, as his efforts to get Javadi into the country allowed the Iranian official to find and brutally murder his daughter in-law and ex-wife, whom Saul helped to escape Iran many years ago. Since Quinn was photographed going into Javadi’s ex-wife’s house before her murder, he must admit to the crime to protect the secrecy of the CIA’s mission. By calling the murder a CIA operation, Quinn is safe-ish from repercussions, but attention is obviously negative for the agency and for himself. Despite his bravery and absolute innocence, when the FBI chastises Quinn about all the damage the CIA does, he agrees. He tells Carrie that he feels done with the job and all the harm that trails behind its actions. Quinn makes some good, honest points, but mostly it feels like he took a hit of whatever Dana Brody’s been smoking.
After we learn that Saul and Javadi were friends in a previous life, before Javadi took to mass murders—including the Langley bombing—we understand the personal connection Saul has to Javadi’s fate. When interrogating a bloody Javadi, fresh from his ex-wife’s murder scene, Saul attempts to level with him. He graciously commends Javadi for catalyzing his ascent to the directorship—without the Langley bombing, Saul would not be in power—and vows to return the favor. He tells Javadi to return to Iran, but as an agent under Saul’s own operation. The plan is to push Javadi to the height of power, so that the CIA can exert control over the enemy rather than the obvious move to kill Javadi with a patriotic hurrah, which would only put a new, and potentially more harmful, Iranian in power. If this concept seems novel or brilliant, please refer to the entire first two seasons to watch Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) play out the identical story with Brody.
Nevertheless, Javadi agrees to the plan, despite the nearly definite probability that he will not act in accordance once on the ground in Iran. Carrie escorts Javadi to the plane, and while on the way, discovers that he knows about Brody’s involvement (or lack thereof) in the Langley bombing, and that Saul asked him what he knew about the topic. Javadi says that Brody did not put the bomb in his trunk, confirming Carrie’s wishful thinking that the potential father of her baby (!) is not a monster. It also confirms that Saul didn’t trust Carrie’s word—that he needed Javadi’s confirmation. And then her chin quivers.
Senator Lockhart learns about the entire secret mission as Javadi is taking off, and Saul is practically beaming. We watch, needlessly, as Saul catches up Lockhart about the entire operation and Lockhart reacts about as badly as expected, threatening to tattle to the president immediately—so naturally, Saul locks him in a conference room and turns the light off. “What the fuck” was the response of both Lockhart and the audience. Saul has a celebratory drink in his office before going home to reclaim his estranged wife.
With this uncharacteristic kick of confidence, Saul obviously believes that he is an old man who has changed the world, but something tells me that his troubles are far from over. The unfortunate growing theme of this season is that nice guys finish last. But, with every developing storyline and confusing addendums to existing plotlines, it’s increasingly unclear who exactly the “good guys” are.