[TELEVISION] Homeland

An American prisoner of war has been turned

Carrie Mathison, S1E1 “Pilot”

Homeland is an American political spy thriller story of Carrie Mathison and Saul Barrison , two CIA (or related agencies) operatives and their missions on American soil and overseas. To say that this show is good is a mere understatement; this drama is really thrilling and addictive to binge-watch and I am saying it as someone who usually does not watch American dramas.

Homeland has a total of eight seasons, streaming from 2012 to its last season in April 2020. Although the main plot in dramas are usually linked after the previous after, this is not usually the case in the Showtime’s drama and it is almost possible to watch one without the other. Here is how I actually divide the entire show:

  • The Nicholas Brody arc: Seasons 1 – 3
  • The Drone Queen arc: Season 4
  • Terror in Berlin: Season 5
  • Terror back home: Seasons 6 – 7
  • The Russian asset: Season 8

Obviously, if you do it that way you may not understand the characters well but it is still pretty comprehensible.

So what makes the show so interesting? For me, the drama’s straightforward and no-nonsense directing and script was what got my attention. There were few draggy minor plot lines – the most notable and boring one being the friend/relationship between Sergeant Nicholas’ Brody daughter, Dana Brody and the US Vice-president’s son, Finn Walden – but there was something about the plot progression that can chase viewers away. There seems to be a formula to how its shows are written: start the show in a new geographical setting with some explosions or bombings or sinister conversations then re-shift the focus to Carrie’s and Saul’s lives and lastly, their interactions and involvements in US and/or other foreign agencies will lead to the exposure and heroic resolution of yet another national crisis.

Saul Berenson and Carrie Mathison
Credits: https://www.moviefone.com/2017/12/12/homeland-season-7-trailer-showtime/

So this brings up another question: why are Saul and Carrie always saving the day? Why are they even able to? The answer is: they love their country so much and they are addicted to the thrills and dangers of these operations. Seasons 1 – 3, or what I dub The Nicholas Brody arc, already gives a glimpse into what Carrie is willing to do for her nation: have sex with the enemy in exchange for their trust and information. Despite diagnosed with bipolar disorder and in her manic episodes, Carrie is a true patriot and she sacrifices her personal time, family time and basically almost everything for America. Meanwhile, Saul started off as a married man to Mira and we could see that there were already strains in their marriage, partially from Saul’s devotion to his work with the CIA; these small cracks in their marriage soon led to an extramarital affair and an expected divorce. In the final season, Carrie is forced by the Russians to betray Saul in return for the flight control box that records the last moments of a faulty helicopter that crashed and killed the American and Afghan presidents. The state comes first and that was what Carrie did: betray Saul. By choosing to cooperate with the Russians, she has effectively branded herself as a national traitor. But this turns out to be an elaborate ploy of hers as we see in the series finale that she has chose to go with Yevgeny to be a Russian asset of Saul after the latter’s asset has died. That is the extent to how far Carrie Mathison can go: giving up her family life, her child Franny, her personal life for the safety and security of her nation.

Carrie Mathison and Yevgeny Gromov
Credits: https://advers.io/2020/03/15/homeland-recap-season-8-episode-3-false-friends/

Homeland is about the CIA and true enough, characters like Finn Walden (Seasons 1 – 2), Fara Sherazi (Season 4) and Astrid (Seasons 5 – 6) that stood out of the way are removed either in the season they are in or the subsequent ones. When I first watched the Brody arc, I was absolutely devastated that Brody was hung by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at the end of season three and I really hesitated moving on to season four. Shouldn’t Carrie and Brody stand a chance after the obstacles they have overcome together? In the later seasons, one would notice that Carrie has changed. Her love for America has not faltered but something is just amiss. I cannot pinpoint what exactly but Carrie seems bolder, more reckless and seductive, living like an emotionless robot that only worries about the lingering threats to United States of America, as if she has nothing left to lose anymore. No longer is she romantically attracted and attached to a man, and instead only using them for information or for her use. Carrie’s heart has died along with Brody’s death.

Would I say that this is the best show ever? Definitely not. But is this one of the best shows I have ever watched? A firm yes. Homeland certainly is thrilling and there are many unexpected turning points in the plot but I cannot help but to wonder how would a Muslim or Middle East person feel when watching this. The majority of the show’s antagonists are Muslims and they are branded as evil and terrorists. I can understand why the show produces as such but was it necessary? Seasons 6 – 7 refocused its attention to the American soil where hate, mistrust and anger were stemming from the American public and I thought it a good shift away from the Middle East. But the finale season back to the Middle East was something I felt was not needed, or rather unexpected.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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