Homeland Season 5 Is off to an Impressive Start
There’s a war in Syria, US government sites are being hacked into, terrorism in Europe has shot up, and conversations aren’t complete without references to Edward Snowden. The Homeland Season 5 premiere seems to have factored in all the buzz words that would make another run of the show relevant. One scene is all you need to get a sense of where this season is heading (a good place, it seems), and no, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) isn’t in it.
Instead, we have good old Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who has spent over two years in strife-torn Syria since we saw him in Season 4. He’s in a room with high-ranking US officials, among them Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and Dar Adal (F Murray Abraham), when he’s asked if America’s strategy in Syria is working. “What strategy?” he responds to an uncomfortable audience. “Tell me what the strategy is, and I’ll tell you if it’s working.” You can’t expect Quinn, who seems to be battling demons ever since we can remember, to be polite to a bunch of “planners” who seem to have little or no understanding of what it’s like to stare death in the face.
Carrie, meanwhile, has kept herself away from the action, choosing to lead a normal (?) life in Berlin instead. Her espionage days are behind her, and she now handles security for a billionaire whose family, according to a sour-faced Saul, made its fortune during World War II. She seems happy parenting her daughter and sharing a house with a good-looking boyfriend (who won’t die a brutal death, hopefully). In one of the episode’s more redundant scenes, Carrie is told she could take herself out of CIA, but not the CIA out of her. You can’t help but agree; how much longer will it be before Carrie returns to what she does best – keeping America safe (Saul’s words, not mine).
Homeland, for a couple of years now, has been mastering slow drip storytelling on television, giving viewers little to work with in initial episodes before upping the tempo around the mid-point mark, the pieces eventually falling in place rather gracefully. Keeping that in mind, this is a terrific return for the series, setting up what looks like a deliciously thick plot with great lines and familiar characters. The quality of a long-running show can be judged by how well it retains its old charm while introducing fresh elements, and it looks like Homeland has enough fire-power left in its characters to fuel effective storylines for at least a couple more years.
After struggling to disconnect from the events of the very first season, which revolved around the return of a US prisoner of war (sourced from Israeli show Hatufim), creators Alex Ganza and Howard Gordon seem to have finally shirked off the baggage, facilitating a reboot in a more complete sense. “Hit reset” seems to be Quinn’s solution to end the war. We all know, though, it’s really the mantra to keep Homeland ticking.
(Aniruddha Guha is a Film & TV critic, and columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @AniGuha)