Friday 9 December 2016

A window into the dark, murky times we have failed to understand

The award-winning series Homeland is disturbingly prescient in light of recent events in Europe

Published 29/11/2015 | 02:30

An insecure world: Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in 'Homeland', a series in which its characters seem to understand Isil more than those who should be leading a campaign against the terrorist threat
An insecure world: Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in 'Homeland', a series in which its characters seem to understand Isil more than those who should be leading a campaign against the terrorist threat

It may not have won an Emmy this year, but if there had been categories for Cassandra-style prescience and astute political predictions Showtime's Homeland would have swept the boards. This award-winning series has been around since 2011 but I only reluctantly started watching it this autumn. I say reluctantly, because those who recommended it to me did so on the basis that the leading CIA spy character was a blonde, bi-polar woman called Carrie. Seemingly we had a lot in common, which was enough to ensure I mulishly made a point of avoiding it.

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But then US National Security Agency (NSA) documents were hacked by ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden; Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was released after five years as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan; the US made a breakthrough deal with Iran over its nuclear programme; and Isil declared Europe a target for its terrorism. These very real events have all been predicted by plotlines in Homeland, a series which increasingly seems to have become a dark reflection of our very murky times. Courtesy of Netflix I binge-watched the first two series, half-watched the third, slept through the fourth (don't bother with either) and am now glued to the current series five, (the best of all) which can be seen on RTE each Tuesday night.

The first episode of the current series has Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), now ex-CIA, living in Berlin, working for a philanthropic billionaire (is there any other kind?) who needs her to secure safe passage from Hezbollah to visit the Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon that they control. A pair of German techno wizards working from the back of a lap-dancing club inadvertently hack into top secret CIA files. These document how US intelligence is working with their German counterparts against Islamic terrorism, thus violating EU privacy law. Meanwhile, CIA super-operative Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) returns to the US after two years spent guerilla fighting Isil in Raqqa, Syria. Quinn - a human black hole through which no glimmer of hope can penetrate - unwillingly briefs the suits in Langley about the reality of the situation in the newly proclaimed "Islamic State". Anyone who has been reading the reams of - often contradictory - commentary about the origins and aims of Isil, particularly in the wake of the Paris murders, will know this is no easy task. Whatever geopolitical camp a person is standing in can define what they believe is really going on. There are myriad, and what seem like contradictory, issues involved. And then there's the history involved - how far back do the origins of this crisis go?

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