Homeland Season 4 has been all over the place in terms of providing strong and engaging stories.
While the two-hour premiere was a hit in terms of the realism with the death of the Station Chief, Carrie's determination to get back to Islamabad and flee from any life with her daughter, things started to fall apart when Aayan was brought into the picture.
With Aayan's death and Saul's subsequent capture, the plot got tighter and with Homeland Season 4 Episode 8 we're once again faced with how brilliant the series can be.
The relationships that are formed between the characters on Homeland are its greatest asset. The most essential is the mutual respect and deep emotional connection that Carrie and Saul share.
As their professional dynamic shifts, there is still no doubt each is the person the other trusts most in the world. That's why it was so difficult to imagine Carrie's determination to bomb Haqqani where he stood, right next to Saul. But Carrie knows Saul as well as he knows her. Even Lockhart understands the last place Saul wants to be is as a bargaining chip to release known terrorists in exchange for his life.
Yet that's exactly the position he is in. It's hard to believe that Saul was out of commission for just long enough to have put himself into such jeopardy, but now that he's there, what we're watching is incredibly intense and powerful.
Carrie realizes her meds were tampered with, meaning there is a breach in the embassy. Although she practically demands that only she, Lockhart and Quinn be in on the breach until they know who they can trust, since Lockhart keeps putting his foot in his mouth with the Pakistani government, Martha wants transparency in all of their dealings.
As the only living government official who has ever taken the request of transparency to heart, Lockhart informs Martha of the breach and in doing so, allows Dennis the opportunity to panic a bit, reaching out to Nasneem in plain sight. In the end that works out to the advantage of the US, but in the meantime, it puts Saul in grave danger.
Mandy Patankin does some of his best work as a result of Saul's capture. He's riveting on screen and his skill in deceiving the audience with Saul's decision making process is exceptional.
Don't do it. Don't do it. Nothing they ask. Don't do it. Not anything. Not a fuckin' thing. You tell them to go to fuckin' hell. They can go to fuckin' hell!Saul
After that outburst, it seems perfectly plausible Saul might want to kick the bucket, and he does just that; not to end his life, but as a means of escape. His courage in that moment is astounding. With just a coat and a cell phone, he takes off into the desert hoping to be intercepted by the CIA.
Saul resolves never to be taken alive again. His faith in Carrie carrying out his wishes is all that keeps him going the 20 miles to the nearest town and to a rendezvous point. Once again, Saul is involved in a great discussion with a local man whose father was murdered by the Taliban, after which the rest of the town gave up the fight -- all but his son.
Hearing his story gives Saul what he needs to persevere when Carrie gives him his next order to run, but being faced with so many Taliban soldiers in the area, he quickly decides all is lost and it's time to take his own life. He will not be taken in alive again.
With the first opportunity to end Saul's situation still weighing heavily on her mind, it's difficult to know exactly what Carrie is feeling as she talks him into lowering the gun pointed at his neck. Does she have faith the team will reach Saul in time if she can stall him long enough, or does she take to heart Quinn's assurance they can't do it?
Although she leads him straight into the arms of the Taliban again, hearing his cries of betrayal as she is the person he's counted on to keep her promise of "escape or die," she is as uncertain of what she's done as the viewers are.
Clearly everything is a horrific mess. Carrie is in a damned if you do damned if you don't situation. When in one instance, emotion drives her to drop a bomb on her friend and mentor's head, in the other, a varied emotional state means his life is saved, even if it ends their relationship should he survive.
Aasar remains a bright spot as he shares with Carrie what he witnessed between Dennis and Nasneem. It's hard to imagine what Lockhart will do when he discovers going along with Martha's desire for transparency put Saul right back into the hands of the Taliban. Granted, the ISI may have thought to follow the drone on their own, but knowing the CIA's awareness of the breach kept them on their toes.
It's encouraging Homeland isn't portraying every layer of the Pakistani government as corrupt. Aasar's respect for Carrie and understanding her illness is a more satisfying story than him joining in the exploitation.
The way Lockhart took over the CIA has been all but erased. Being in the thick of it as he is now, he realizes how screwed up diplomacy is, no matter how hard you try to swim through it. I'm actually looking forward to whatever happens with him and Martha when he receives word Dennis is the breach.
With "Halfway to a Donut." Homeland is firing on all cylinders and serves as a reminder why it's an awards darling. For the first time all season the wait to next Sunday seems too far away.
What did you think of the hour? Did you think Saul was going to make it to the end? Will he make it to the end of the season? Hit the comments!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.