Homeland has been trying its very best in the last few years to follow the headlines in having stories that parallel current political threats, and they were caught flat-footed (like the rest of us) in anticipating the country electing a female president last season. But Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) was supposed to be the good guy. Oops.
So they were forced to do several storytelling backflips in the first half of this season to wrangle a domestic political crisis brought on by, you guessed it, Russian hackers. Luckily, once that story really got going (it isn’t really until about episode 7), the second half of the season suddenly kicks into high gear and becomes a solid, suspenseful political thriller with a wishful thinking conclusion that surmises how a clearheaded U.S. government might actually be able to get back at the Russians (have our own hackers somehow steal the oligarch’s fortunes) and solve our national crisis by having the terrible American president resign for the good of the country. Sigh. If only.
So all that was good, but boy does it take a long time getting there. The first half of this season was extremely slow and preoccupied with a failed insurrection started by an Alex Jones wannabe (last year’s Jake Weber), a really boring, really terrible storyline that thankfully, completely disappears after episode 5 (it’s actually so abrupt given how long they spent on it that I wondered if the writers realized in the midst of writing it just how bad it was and changed course). Meanwhile, Carrie is totally isolated from Saul and everyone else, hassled by her sister Maggie to get a job and attempting to figure out if Keane and her staff is good or evil all on her own, which takes her in some wild and wacky directions as she realizes she’s developed a tolerance for her longtime medication. Yep, we get some seriously Crazy Carrie this season, since it’s a rule that we always have to see Claire Danes go nuts at least once a year.
And then there’s Frannie. Poor, poor Frannie. When the decision was made way back in Season 3 to let Carrie have Brody’s baby in order to keep a sentimental connection to him on the show, I don’t think the producers realized how difficult it was going to be to write Carrie as a single mother while also having her attempt to save the world every season. So little Frannie’s been through a lot as a result and finally this year Carrie just gives up and lets Maggie take her off her hands. I never minded the idea of Carrie as a mom, but it’s not fun to watch her traumatize her child constantly due to her unfailingly horrendous decisions. I often forget that I’m supposed to think Carrie’s actually good at her job, because every move she makes inevitably makes everything worse (this season in particular might be worst of all).
I somewhat enjoyed the political parallels as Mandy Patinkin's Saul steps up as the fictional world’s version of a Robert Mueller type (even though he’s now the national security advisor who’s clearly not doing his designated job) and manages to solve everything and save the day in a much shorter amount of time (the beauty of fantasy) which kind of does make you wish we lived in Homeland’s reality rather than our own. And I liked the addition of James D’Arcy as another old CIA contact of Carrie’s who might be intended as a new Quinn (Rupert Friend’s much beloved character sadly perished for good last season). The ending is a cleaner wrap-up than usual for this show, which sets the table for another time jump and a final season set in Israel next time. The series has had an impressive run all things considered- never significantly depreciating in quality thanks to its ability to reset every year, but all good things must come to an end, and after all this time with Carrie and Saul, I’m in for one more go, but I’m also ready for it to be the last.