October 6, 2014



HOMELAND:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

Everyone knew that the fourth season of HOMELAND was going to be fundamentally different–the question was how.  Seasons 1-3 relied, for better and then for worse, on the dynamic between CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and her target/lover/obsession Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) as its central story engine, and with Brody’s belated permanent exit, that had to change.

Last night’s back-to-back premiere episodes (Hour 1 written by series co-creator Alex Gansa and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter; Hour 2 written by Executive Producer Chip Johannessen and directed by Keith Gordon) established the new template for the series.  Homeland, probably wisely, hasn’t tried to bring in a new male lead, and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) has been somewhat marginalized now that his character has left the CIA for an uneasy stint in the private sector, so Danes is even more front and center now than she already was.  Carrie’s pathology has shifted somewhat, although not for the better:  while her bipolar disorder appears to be under control for the moment, she’s responded disastrously to her motherhood of Brody’s baby, unable to bond with the child and doing everything she can to stay away.  In the premiere’s most horrifying moment, forced to spend an entire day with her infant daughter, she put the child’s head underwater while bathing her, on the verge of committing infanticide before she recovered herself.  It made sense in the context of what we know about Carrie, whose new job is to unemotionally order drone attacks (her staff calls her the “drone queen”) on high-ranking Taliban figures, even if the explosions cause collateral damage to innocents–but whether viewers will accept a “heroine” who seriously contemplates killing her own baby is a real question.

Carrie’s need to be disconnected from her daughter as much as possible tied in with the espionage plot that will drive the season’s story, as we learned that Carrie has repeatedly made sure that she’s stationed not just overseas, but in “hardship” posts where dependent children aren’t permitted.  When the season began, she was based in Kabul.  The drone target information, however, was coming from Islamabad, and specifically by way of that embassy’s head of station Sandy Bachman (guest star Corey Stoll, a deservedly very busy man these days who one wishes could have stayed longer).  The central crisis of the premiere was that his intelligence led them to a Taliban target, all right, but at a family wedding, where dozens of relatives, including women and children, were killed.  The story went public when an amateur video shot by the target’s nephew, medical student Aayan Ibrahim (Suraj Sharma) was posted to YouTube against his will, and while the world responded with outrage, resulting in Bachman’s death in a riot, Carrie was mostly concerned that the info had been deliberately compromised to cause that result.  In her usual single-minded manner, she found out that the quid pro quo for the target locations had been top-secret US intelligence, given with the knowledge of CIA head Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts), as untrustworthy as ever.  By the end of the second hour, Carrie had blackmailed her way into becoming the new Islamabad station chief.

This is a perfectly serviceable start to an espionage thriller, if not as fascinating or emotionally complex as the one that began the series.  (The real successor to Season 1 of Homeland was this summer’s brilliant Sundance miniseries The Honorable Woman.)  Perhaps to make up for Carrie’s constant state of fixation, it appears that we’ll be seeing a lot of Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) this season, a character who has his own internal mess (he put two idiots in the hospital when they insulted the heavy-set woman he was with), but who has a more conventional humanity than Carrie’s.

The likelihood is that Homeland 2.0 will be less special than the series has been at its best, but more cohesive than Season 3, when the show seemed to be holding on for dear life while its showrunners threw narrative tricks and desperate ploys at viewers in order to keep the Brody plotline going a little bit longer.  The fact that most of Homeland‘s senior producers (Howard Gordon as well as Gansa and Johannessen) are 24 veterans doesn’t mean that Homeland will be as dumbly brawny as that show, although it does make one feel as though the initial seasons of Homeland might have been as much fluke as inspiration.  Danes remains one of TV’s most riveting performers, and Patkinkin is remarkable when given the chance.  The new Homeland may not be thrilling, but it should still be superior 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."