Spoiler alert: this blog is published after Homeland airs in the US. Only read on if you’ve watched series six, episode one.
The world has never looked so dangerous, so it’s a welcome return for Homeland and those fearless guardians of national security at the CIA. Having watched her foil the Berlin terror attack, we left Carrie single and jobless but with the very real prospect of both a new relationship and a new role at the agency. Quinn we left on the verge of death. We pick up the action several months later in America.
“Law enforcement needs to stop harassing and demonising an entire community.”
Having made some dicey ethical decisions in her time, Carrie is now living back on US soil and heading up a non-profit organisation with law professor Reda Hashem, defending the rights of Muslim-Americans from the Patriot Act and the new normal. Once she was the Drone Queen, the Empress of extrajudicial killing but now it’s all rights awareness workshops and outreach work. When Saul asked her to come up with a new paradigm for her roaming brief at the CIA, I’m pretty certain he didn’t foresee any of this.
“There’s two sides to every story. Know that.”
Living in public housing with his mom, listening to loud rap music and with conservative views about his sister’s dress code, young Nigerian-American firebrand Sekou Bah has a lot of anger. A committed citizen journalist, he celebrates terrorist activity on his website and is a fierce critic of US foreign policy. There’s a subversive family history too, with his father being expelled from the country 14 years ago. But when does being an angry kid with a big mouth cross over into material support of terrorism?
FBI Special Agent Ray Conlin thinks he knows, and noisily arrests Sekou with a SWAT team in tow. Stopping DIY terrorists before they make their first move is his strategy. The plane tickets to “playground of Boko Haram” Nigeria in Sekou’s possession don’t help his case, but Carrie is there to fight his corner.
“If the war isn’t winnable, what are we still doing there?”
It’s a big day for Saul and Dar. They are summoned to the customary pre-inauguration intelligence briefings with President-elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel). “You know how I love to talk,” she tells them. It’s true, she has the best words. Furthermore, she takes to the briefing like a pro and isn’t shy about challenging established orthodoxies.
Although she was elected without ever exploiting the memory of her son who lost his life serving in the Armed Forces in Iraq, she’s promising to be a hands-on commander-in-chief when it comes to foreign policy. She seriously considers pulling out of the Middle East altogether and wants to know about the lethal programs that don’t require the president’s signoff. Anything done abroad in America’s name by the CIA, she wants to hear about.
It’s safe to say that Dar would have a few issues with that. Saul is willing to give her a chance (“She’s not entirely wrong. Where she is wrong, she’s persuadable”) but Dar already has his mind made up.
“I think she despises us, Saul. I think she blames us for her boy.” It sounds ominous. Dar reaches out to his Mossad contact Tovah Rivlin to accelerate their joint covert action program before the new president starts curtailing it. Later, he hosts a secretive gathering of generals, senators and other hawkish types, presumably to discuss what is to be done with the troublesome new dove in the White House.
“I’m not getting any better.”
No one likes Quinn’s indefatigability more than me. Many (including Quinn himself) have tried to kill him and many have failed. This was always part of his attraction. But a certain closure was achieved when he appeared to expire at the end of last season with Carrie watching over him, the ultimate sacrifice paid, his legacy secured. But now there’s a ghost Quinn, one severely diminished – one with distorted vision, slurred speech, mashed memory and klutzy motor skills.
His care team feel that Carrie’s persistent daily visits only worsen his mood, not that she’ll listen to them. When he sneaks out of his veteran’s hospital care facility to score drugs he ends up getting rolled for his government check and knocked out. Then he moves out of hospital into Carrie’s basement, which she locks behind her. It’s all so tawdry. Death seems a better outcome – a view he seems to share.
“Let me go,” he tells Carrie. And it’s good advice; the show should have heeded it. I’m not saying the struggle of disabled military veterans isn’t a story worth telling. There’s absolutely a TV series in it – just not this one.
“You think you’re better off alone. You think your sins require it, but they don’t.”
The last we saw of Otto Düring, he was asking Carrie to share his life with him. Whatever attracts people to the handsome billionaire philanthropist still hasn’t worked its magic on her though. He chastises her for persisting with her “small potatoes” advocacy gig when she could be saving the world with him. He thinks she’s doing penance for contributing to Quinn’s plight, and he’s probably right. He’s also in a new relationship – a blow for all you Carrie-Otto worshippers out there.
Notes and queries
• Quinn’s reduced circumstances remind me of The Fall series three, with Paul Spector reduced from magnificent bastard to bedbound amnesiac.
• “On the plus side, it didn’t last long.” Robert Knepper will always be T-Bag from Prison Break to me, but it’s good to have him here as General McClendon in what I assume will be a significant recurring role.
• Homeland has often been eerily prescient in reflecting real-world events. I wonder if, like so many, the showrunners anticipated Hillary Clinton as President-elect at this time and wrote Elizabeth Keane accordingly.
• If President-elect Keane really does think Edward Snowden is a hero, at least that’s one thing she has in common with Trump supporters.
• Sekou identifies El Sayyid Nosair’s assassination of the ultranationalist Jewish Defence League founder Meir Kahane as the first Al-Qaida strike on American soil. Some background here.
• Sekou also references the horrifying case of the rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi by American soldiers.
What are your thoughts on Homeland’s return? Is Carrie the advocate working for you, or do you long for the drone years? Do you think they should have let Quinn rest in peace or are you just happy he’s alive? Let me know below.