'Homeland' recap: Plot twist propels drama toward season finale

'Homeland' recap: Plot twist propels drama toward season finale
Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar) rides through the streets of Islamabad, Pakistan, in a scene from "Homeland." (David Bloomer / Showtime)

In a season full of surprises, Showtime’s “Homeland” saved one of the biggest ones for “Krieg Nicht Lieb” as this penultimate Episode 411 called into question the status of Taliban commander Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar).

Is he still America’s most-wanted terrorist for masterminding a slaughter at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad? Or have American officials at the highest level negotiated a cynical agreement with Haqqani and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency?

Kept far away from the decision-making loop are Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), the CIA station chief in Islamabad; and her politically-damaged-beyond-repair boss, CIA Director Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts).

“Is there something going on I should know about?” Lockhart asks Carrie on a phone call from Washington. “They’re shopping for my replacement. Obviously no one tells me anything anymore.”

But something is definitely up between the U.S. and the Pakistanis, Lockhart insists, as evidenced by hastily called meetings at the White House and the National Security Council.

Acting on her own and putting her life in jeopardy, Carrie has a bead on Haqqani as he’s slowly driven out of the compound where he’s been hiding and receiving treatment for a minor gunshot wound and a serious medical condition.

Overcome with rage at Haqqani’s heinous acts, Carrie pulls a gun and prepares to fire. But she’s stopped by one of her few allies in Pakistan: Lt. Colonel Aasar Khan (Raza Jaffrey), the ISI counter-terrorism chief.

“Look who’s in the car, Carrie, with Haqqani,” Aasar exclaims. It’s none other than Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), the CIA’s treacherous black ops leader.

Now Carrie is reduced to a stunned silence as she tries to make sense of this baffling development.

At this point, Carrie -- who just learned that her father Frank (the late James Rebhorn) died of a massive stroke -- wants to get as far away from Pakistan as possible.

And she’s suddenly longing to reunite with her infant daughter Franny, who’s being cared for by Carrie’s sister Maggie (Amy Hargreaves).

But Carrie won’t leave Pakistan until she retrieves her comrade Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) before he carries out a one-man suicide mission to assassinate Haqqani.

“I don’t think it’s wrong what you’re doing,” Carrie says to Peter after tracking him down at the apartment of his former lover (Nina Hoss), an official with the German Embassy. “In fact, I’m sympathetic.

“But you have to stop,” Carrie emphasizes, because Peter is being hunted by 300 Pakistani soldiers and 50 plainclothes operatives. These men have shoot-to-kill orders because Peter abducted ISI agent Farhad Ghazi (Tamer Burjaq) and set fire to a crowded bazaar.

“What you need to do is get out of my way,” Peter angrily replies to Carrie. Then he eludes CIA security personnel by shooting one of them in the leg.

Because he can’t single-handedly invade Haqqani’s heavily guarded compound, Peter comes up with a scheme to draw the Taliban leader into the open.

First, he enlists the aid of medical student Kiran (Shavani Seth), whose boyfriend Aayan (Suraj Sharma) was shot by Haqqani while an American drone hovered overhead.

Video of the brutal slaying is released on the Internet, prompting a street protest condemning Haqqani as a "state-sponsored murderer of innocent Pakistanis."

Then Peter constructs a pipe bomb using C-4 plastic explosives and hides it inside a storm drain near Haqqani's compound. Peter is poised to detonate the bomb when Haqqani's car emerges, but stands down when he spots Carrie in the crowd.

"There's no escape," Carrie warns Peter on his cellphone. "I don't want to lose you.

"Do you hear me?" Carrie frantically adds. "I can't lose you!"