January 14, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Homeland”


HOMELAND:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

We’ve recently acquired the concept of “legacy media,” referring to things like newspapers that are actually printed on pieces of paper–still potentially useful, but decidedly out of date.  Showtime’s HOMELAND is sort of “legacy quality TV”.  It kicked off in 2011 with one and a half classic seasons, a nimble, passionate, constantly surprising romantic duel between bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and hidden-in-plain-sight enemy agent Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis).  But that story ran out of gas by the end of Season 2, and the show started relying on increasingly outlandish plot twists, as well as insisting on keeping Brody around for far too long.  After that, Homeland rebooted itself every season, until last year’s mostly ridiculous Germany-set installment was all but indistinguishable from a season of 24 (with which the series shares several producers).

Season 6 marks another re-invention, and this time Homeland seems to be trying to calm itself down a bit.  The season premiere, which has already been available via streaming/VOD for 2 weeks, was written by Executive Producer Alex Gansa and Co-Executive Producer Ted Mann, and directed by Keith Gordon, and it moves Carrie to gentrified Brooklyn.  She continues to work for the still-vaguely-untrustworthy billionaire philanthropist Otto During (Sebastian Koch), but now she spends her time as an advocate for persecuted Muslims, notably Sekou Bah (J. Mallory McCree), a politicized young man arrested out of suspicion that his angry YouTube videos are tied in with terrorism.  By Carrie Mathison standards, her current life is sedate:  she appears to be on her meds, and living comfortably with her daughter.

The second major plotline has Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and ever-scheming Dar (F. Murray Abraham) dealing with an incoming president (played, in what must have seemed like a topical touch when the season was being put together, by Elizabeth Marvel) whose liberal antagonism to the US military and intelligence services will almost certainly lead Dar to do something very bad.

And what, you ask, of Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend)?  Homeland‘s human pin cushion somehow survived Season 5, and the writers continue to abuse him in every way possible, so much so that a satisfying drinking game could be formed around a shot for every terrible thing that happens to him.

The Season 6 version of Homeland, at least in its early going, is like its heroine saner than in Season 5, and seemingly more grounded.  It certainly doesn’t offer the intellectual and emotional thrills of the series’ initial seasons, and the Carrie plotline is oddly reminiscent of The Night Of, but at least it won’t make viewers slap their foreheads at the lunacy of what once-reasonable characters are doing.  (Well, except for Quinn.)  Danes and Patinkin continue to give two of the best performances anywhere on television, reliable even when the writing isn’t, and they alone are reason enough to keep watching.

But this is Homeland, so there’s plenty of time for it to go off the rails.  The series, one of Showtime’s biggest hits, has already been renewed beyond this year for Seasons 7 and 8, so barring some disaster, it’s as safe as any show on the air–which may or may not be a good thing, given its producers’ tendency to lose control of their material.  But even though its best days may be gone for good, Homeland, like (some) newspapers, isn’t going away anytime soon.

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."