After ten years and eight seasons, Homeland has come to an end. The show has had a fascinating journey from its acclaimed first season to its surprisingly strong final instalment that both brought the show full circle and reinvented it once again. The series seemed to fall out of favour with critics and audiences for a time and I often felt as if I was the only person left watching the political thriller. Back in 2011 I never thought the series would be able to justify continuing weaving its tale for eight seasons but it did, and could have run for even longer. Series lead Claire Danes decided to leave and therefore the writers brought the show to an end just a few weeks ago. Homeland has changed so much season-to-season, and has suffered from huge peaks and troughs in terms of quality over the years, that the fact that the show delivered one of the most genuinely satisfying series finales in a long time is an unexpected delight. I’m very happy with the ending and I don’t need the series to return, but I can’t help thinking it could, and maybe it wouldn’t be a bad decision.
Homeland truly is the master of reinvention. That cat-and-mouse game turned twisted romance between CIA agent Carrie Mathison and turned Marine Nicholas Brody seemed like the core concept of the series and yet was shed after its third season with Brody’s death. Could the show succeed without one of its main stars? It certainly could, and was better for it. While the series never topped its debut season, its fourth came awfully close and completely reinvented the show by placing Carrie on the other side of the world – in Afghanistan – in a very different plot mixing politics and spycraft. Homeland then continued this reinvention every season, moving the action to Germany, the United States and back to the Middle East for the final season. Some of these reinventions worked better than others – I’m not particularly fond of the seventh season – but despite major changes, the show remained Homeland through and through. If the show could survive and thrive in the wake of Brody’s departure, then why not Carrie’s too?
Homeland has proven that it can operate quite well without Carrie as a primary focus time and again. While the final season began and ended with a very strong and satisfying story for Carrie that echoed Brody’s journey in the early seasons, for most of the season she was just one cog in the machinery of the plot. Once the President’s helicopter went down the season began focusing on several aspects of the investigation and aftermath with a variety of characters, with Carrie’s hunt for the black box being just one of them. Personally, I was much more invested in Saul’s storyline and with what was going on in the White House than I was with Carrie and Yevgeny – a character I really dislike. While overall I did enjoy Carrie’s moments, the show was telling a compelling story without her. And while season eight returned Carrie to being an interesting protagonist, the character felt exhausted in some previous instalments. Her storylines became repetitive, with each time she came off her meds or failed her daughter having to be more dramatic than the last. The series outgrew her and often Saul or Quinn were the best characters.
If the series were to return in some shape or form then I’d like it to have a completely new protagonist, but for some supporting characters to carry over. The series would retain its identity as Homeland through the subject matter, plotting and tone, but also through the huge backlog of characters it could pull from. While I know some were speculating that the character of Jenna Bragg was introduced to be the series lead going forward, I’d rather see her again in a supporting role. There’s Pakistani operative Tasneem to continue to tell stories with; and the always faithful CIA agent Scott Ryan who’s been in the show since season three. Taliban leader Jalal Haqqani is still active and a significant threat to peace in the Middle East. It would be nice to get closure for that storyline, as well as John Zabel and the failings of the White House, in a future season considering the final episode instead – rightfully so – focused on the personal conflict between Saul and Carrie. There are still plenty of stories that can be told with the pieces left on the board at the end of Homeland’s eight season, let alone new ones that can be introduced if the series is revived.
Who doesn’t love a good prequel series following a character called Saul? Now that Better Call Saul has arguably transcended its status as a spin-off to Breaking Bad, I don’t see why Homeland can’t follow suit. Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson was the show’s best supporting character from the pilot to the finale, and in the penultimate episode we were granted an intriguing flashback to his days as a young CIA operative in 1980’s Berlin. Ben Savage plays the younger Saul, complete with some slightly awkward dubbing by Patinkin, and these brief scenes captured my imagination, as well as that of the fandom at large. The insights we get of him as an agent tasked with recruiting KGB students are great and we’re told stories of him risking his life, carrying his wounded asset through gunfire, that sound like a spin-off waiting to happen. It would be a superficially different show than the Homeland we’re used to but the political thriller nature of the series could continue, just with a Cold War backdrop.
There are plenty of viable options for Homeland to possibly continue in the future but I hope the finale is left untouched. It ended Carrie’s arc in a shockingly brilliant way and I don’t need to see Saul again either, at least not in the present day. Would it still be Homeland without them? I think so, but I also admit that the series isn’t something like 24 that had a unique concept that could continue on with a new character. Although reviving that show wasn’t much of a success. I’m going to be interested in any thriller these writers create next, original or otherwise, but I just can’t help thinking that there’s a world here with eight seasons of development and characters that could be ripe for future spy stories. I do think Homeland could continue quite easily without Carrie. I guess we should also listen to Jeff Goldblum and instead of contemplate whether we could, wonder whether we should. And, while I’m content with Homeland being over, I think I’ve persuaded myself over these past 1,138 words that maybe it should indeed return.
Do you think Homeland should continue without Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.