Thursday 22 March 2018

Carry on, Carrie... Homeland returns tonight

Claire Danes returns as Carrie
Claire Danes returns as Carrie

Emily Hourican

Homeland is back, now set in Germany. Emily Hourican speculates on possible new plot lines and resolutions. Spoilers ahead? Oh yes

Season five of Homeland opens two years after the end of season four, with Claire Danes's Carrie living in Germany, with a boyfriend and her daughter Frannie, and working as a private consultant for a benevolent company that tries to 'secure peace by alternative means', rather than for the CIA. Alas, the boyfriend isn't Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who is so clearly right for her that I can quite see why the show's writers are having a hard time allowing them to be together. Once that happens, there really is no more drama. Instead, Carrie has walked away from Saul and Quinn, from the duplicity and moral dubiousness of her life as an agent of Homeland Security, and into what she presumably hopes will be a respectable, low-key future. Fat chance. As Claire Danes said of her character, "Carrie has settled into true domesticity. She's doing great - for about five minutes."

Quinn is now in Syria, still with the CIA, despite - or perhaps because of - his deep disillusion. Saul (Mandy Patinkin), meanwhile, having entered into some fairly shadowy negotiations towards the end of season four, just might be in line for the top job at the CIA after all. Snatched from his grasp repeatedly, this time he may finally get the poisoned chalice. Which, presumably, will put an end to his irritatingly on-off marriage with Mira, setting him free to do what the viewers want him to do - analyse rather than emote. In this case, the action begins with a security breach, leaving Carrie vulnerable in her new life, and dispatching Saul to her door. Game on.

The tension of the first two seasons revolved around the will-he-won't-he of Sergeant Brodie's defection and betrayal, heightened by the chemistry between him and Carrie. Without those things, the show has never really regained its initial momentum, although season four was a distinct return to form. That said, the plotline of the kidnapped Saul seemed fairly glib, the sub-plot of Carrie's seduction of Aayan was very suspect and nearly lost viewer sympathy with her entirely, while the frisson between her and polished Pakistani Lieutenant Colonel Aasar Khan (Raza Jaffrey), a man who's possible decency seems entirely in proportion to his veneer of a good English education, was unconvincing.

Claire Danes in Homeland
Claire Danes in Homeland

So what's left to re-energise season five? Saul and Quinn are still close, leaving open the possibility of some decent tradecraft action sequences. The motives and intentions of treacherous Dar Adal (F Murray Abraham) need to be resolved, and we are not yet done with the impact of Carrie's delicate mental health on affairs of the nation.

Along with the new location, season five will introduce new characters - just as well, given the bloody shoot-em-up that did away with so many, including, alas, Fara, played by Nazanin Boniadi, at the end of season four. Miranda Otto plays the CIA Berlin bureau chief, with Alexander Fehling as Carrie's new love interest, and Mark Ivanir and Micah Hauptman also joining the cast.

The move to Germany is also a chance to get away from the increasingly anti-Middle Eastern sentiment that seemed to be creeping into the show during its spell set in Pakistan - the Pakistani government complained about Homeland's portrayal of Islamabad as somewhere primitive, dangerous and dirty; a "hellhole" refuge for the Taliban. This added fuel to the anti-Muslim accusations, only barely mitigated by the fact that last time out Homeland managed to offend the Israelis also ­- by the apparent parallels drawn between former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and the show's fictional Afghan Taliban leader, Haissam Haqqani.

Season five starts with a relatively clean slate; it's all to play for.

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland

Homeland begins on October 6 at 9pm, RTE2

How much longer can Homeland get away with it? 

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