The following blog includes spoilers for the first 4 seasons of Homeland:
With the American thriller TV series Homeland recently beginning its fifth season I felt it was time to stand back and give it a relatively objective look, although reading it back now it looks pretty subjective, to see whether it’s still worth investing into the ever increasing adventures of Carrie Mathison and co. The first season still stands head and shoulders above the rest with each episode more thrilling and tense than the last and sense of realism lacking in other shows/films in the genre. If the show had properly concluded with that first season then history would look back on Homeland as one of the best shows of the last 20 years. However the show continued and it’s critical reception became tainted. I really enjoyed Season 2 despite it being considered the worst out of the four that have currently aired. Sure it became a bit more absurd and a bit more like the showrunners’ previous programme ’24’ but it expanded and developed the characters who I had already grown attached to. Season 3 was where I began to lose interest. It didn’t know whether to continue the Brody storyline or move on to something else. The season kinda did both and merged the two and it didn’t work. I liked the finale because it closed the Brody storyline for good and his death was done surprisingly well. Season 4 was my favourite since the first with it being a soft reboot for the show and finally moving away from Brody, apart from that scene where Carrie hallucinates and sees him and the inclusion of Carrie’s baby. But is the show still worth watching? Is it too far removed from its small beginnings and running itself into the ground like 24? Or has the show still got the momentum and ideas behind it to make the fifth season quality television? Let’s take a look:
WHO IS THE MOLE!!!
So let’s just get this out of the way right now. Who was/is the mole in the CIA? In the first two seasons there was almost constant talk of a mole being in the CIA. When we learnt for definite that Brody was a terrorist then a fair amount of things could be attributed to him, slipping that guy a razor blade in the first season for example. In late season 2 Carrie went as far to accuse one of her colleagues as being the mole but it turns out he wasn’t and then we never hear about the plot point again. Seasons 3 and 4 didn’t mention the mole and it is still an unanswered question. It looks to stay that way with the show becoming ever removed from that storyline and it’s a shame such a big thing will never be answered. I remember theorising that Saul was the mole back in season 1 when he failed that lie detector test but with his actions over the past few seasons that theory no longer makes sense and all the other characters it could have been have been killed off or written out the show. The question will linger on and continue to affect my enjoyment of the show.
The characters of Homeland are the most fluctuating issue in the show. Thankfully the days of Dana Brody sub-plots are over but as each season changes location so does some of the cast list. Season 5 brings in a character played by Miranda Otto and it’s just a waiting game to see if she and the other new cast members will be great new additions or dull characters like those brought in last season. I can barely remember the new CIA characters from last year who worked with Carrie but they soon bought in Max and Fara to make them redundant. As much as I like Carrie as a character she does seem to be locked in a loop of being in the CIA, getting thrown out of the CIA and then checking into a mental hospital. Rinse and repeat. And so Saul is my favourite character in the show but he is always underutilized. Saul shined last season when he was kidnapped by those pesky generic terrorists. But all too often he is left in the side lines and his few scenes per episode usually include him arguing with Lockhart or some other government figure. More Saul, nuff said. Quinn is a character who feels like he’s from a different show entirely. His black ops exploits are fun to see but has he ever been a character truly needed in the plot? In short I need more Saul, Quinn to be relevant and new directions for Carrie to keep me fully invested.
Homeland has always struck an interesting balance between the realistic and the absurd. For the most part season 1 felt grounded in ways very few shows manage while seasons 2 and 3 went too far the other way. Abu Nazir went from a believable villain to a generic horror movie killer in his final episode in the second season. The fourth season however got the balance just right. Yes, the raid on the CIA station was a bit silly but the quiet and calm episodes in the season allowed the show to get away with a big action episode. Homeland could easily fall into the trigger happy zone of absurdity but if the writers have learnt anything then season 5 will, and should, play out like season 4. Season 5 including plot points like the European immigration crisis, Syria and ISIS is also a stroke of genius for making the show feel real and relevant.
Soft Reboot/ Location Change
The location change has done wonders for Homeland. It means the show isn’t falling into the trap of telling the same story over and over again like 24 and reinvigorates the show with each new season. The new plot lines re-ignite my interest each year but the fact like it leaves the old ones without complete resolution is a bit annoying. In season 3 Brody gave his life so the CIA could have an asset at the top of the Revolutionary Guard but did it work out? What happened next? We just don’t know. Will Hiqqani, the big bad from season 4, be mentioned again? It’s a shame we are left with questions at the end of each season but if that’s the cost of the show being of good quality then so be it.
All in all is Homeland still worth watching? Yes. Its had its rough patches and there are still issues that need resolution but I’m intrigued with the new season already and Season 4 turned the show around. How much longer it can continue on for, I’m not sure but while it’s still around I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can despite having one thing constantly in the back of my mind: WHO IS THE MOLE!
Are you enjoying season 5 or have you given up on the show? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter @kylebrrtt. Like, Subscribe and why not have a look at all the awesome stuff on the site. Come back next week for another dose of First Time writing.