October 5, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Homeland”


HOMELAND:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

It’s been a bumpy ride for HOMELAND fans.  For its first season and a half, the series was as good as anything on the air, only to go off the rails for a like amount of time, as it tried with increasing desperation to accommodate the doomed romance of CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) with double (triple, quadruple) agent Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis).  After Brody was finally put out of his (and ultimately our) misery, last season had some effective thriller sequences, but it was disjointed and ended weakly.

Season 5, based on its opening hour (written by Executive Producer Chip Johannessen and Co-Executive Producer Ted Mann, and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter), is taking a different approach.  This is the most businesslike Homeland has ever been, a straightforward espionage story that’s engaging with very current events.  The mental state of bipolar Carrie isn’t even addressed in the course of its story, and from what we see of her personal life, she’s become a caring mother to the child she nearly drowned last season, and is in what appears to be a healthy relationship.  It remains to be seen whether Homeland‘s writers can stick to this more measured style, but it sets the season off to an effective start.

In series-time, two years have passed since the end of Season 4, and Carrie has left the CIA and relocated to Berlin, where she serves as head of security for a slightly confusing German firm that seems to encompass both a charitable foundation and a news service.  The events of the premiere deal with two events that are for the moment separate:  the decision of her boss, billionaire Otto During (Sebastian Koch) to travel to a refugee camp on the Lebanon/Syria border that’s effectively run by Hezbollah, and the accidental leak of classified Agency documents regarding Germany’s deal with the CIA for the Agency to keep suspected terrorists under surveillance in ways not permitted for Germany’s own intelligence services.  Carrie is asked to secure During’s safety for his trip in the first instance, and is also asked to vet the secret documents before publication in the second.

The hour is mostly set-up for what’s to come, although Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), back to being a burned-out Agency assassin, does blow up a bombmaker with his own works.  Carrie has only the briefest interaction with Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), her one-time mentor who now blames her for blowing his chance to retake his job as Agency head–instead he runs European operations under Dar Adai (F. Murray Abraham)–and for taking a job with anti-Agency sympathizers or worse.

All these plot and character lines will presumably cross as the season goes on.  For now, Homeland seems content to be an up-to-the-minute thriller with a heroine who isn’t on the brink of psychological collapse, perhaps losing some of what made the series distinctive in the first place, but building a template for the longer haul.  Homeland is already Showtime’s biggest original hit, so that haul is likely to go on for as long as Claire Danes wants to play Carrie.  Even though the premiere didn’t give her the opportunity for histrionics that she’s had earlier in the run, she’s still its magnetic star, and Patinkin is her match.  This less extraordinary, more streamlined Homeland is poised to deliver a more sustainable form of spy drama.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."