Oct 28, 2015 Film & TV
This article was first published in the November 2015 issue of Metro.
For all its explosions and belief-beggaring assassinations, Homeland has always been as much a relationship drama as a geopolitical thriller. The messed-up affair between CIA spook Carrie Mathison and war-hero-turned-congressman Nicholas Brody was the engine driving the first two seasons. And Carrie’s relationships with the other significant men in her life — her bipolar father, her CIA colleagues Saul Berenson and Peter Quinn — have often provided the emotional ballast in a show teetering on the edge of absurdity.
So it feels fitting when, in season five’s opening episode, the termination of a secret accord between US and German spy agencies plays out like a romantic melodrama. “It’s over,” a German intelligence chief tells Saul. “That’s a mistake.”
“No, trusting you was a mistake.”
The break-up’s precipitating event is the theft of thousands of data files revealing American covert operations in Germany. While it wouldn’t be Homeland without moments that strain credibility (like the data breach, which happens with preposterous ease), it’s a welcome change for the show to be tethered at least partly to reality, in this case both Edward Snowden’s NSA hack and the Syrian refugee crisis.
It’s a welcome change for the show to be tethered at least partly to reality.
Showrunner Alex Gansa begins the season by apparently acknowledging just how tired Homeland’s brand of Islamophobia had become. The location is now Berlin, where Carrie has moved following her departure from the CIA two years ago.
We see her at church, practising (very white) Catholicism, then switch to a shifty-looking Middle Eastern guy making his way through the city. As the music thrums, the camera pans ominously to his shoulder bag. So far, so Homeland. But then — psych! — he’s revealed as no more than a hacker-prankster, an anti-Isis one at that.
Of course, if the Islamic terrorist threat had really diminished that much, poor Quinn would have nobody left to murder with his bare hands. He’s spent the months since he and Carrie kissed in Syria having stripped away his last vestiges of optimism. He’s a great character, but I dread the potential threat to Carrie’s surprisingly functional (and therefore probably doomed) relationship with her German co-worker. Her new boyfriend is conspicuously flame-haired, just like long-dead Brody. But I’m looking forward to spending this season with a calmer, wiser Carrie. If anyone deserves some happiness, it’s her.