Midseason Report (EP#1-4) – Spoilers Ahead –
Homeland has been everywhere throughout the first 5 Seasons – Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, Venezuela, to name a few, when showcasing America’s fight against global terrorism. So, given that and the current 2018 climate, it’s no surprise that showrunner Alex Gansa has turned the sights to domestic terrorism and political turmoil for the past two Seasons. Season 6 was set in New York City as Carrie, Saul and Quinn tried to get to the bottom of a conspiracy against the President. The final episode – “America First” ended on such an intense note that we lost Peter Quinn during an assassination attempt on President Keane’s life.
Now, Season 7 continues to focus on conflict within the U.S. by focusing on Keane (played by House of Card‘s Elizabeth Marvel) and a Presidency that is turning more fascist by the day. Carrie and President Keane were at one time allies, with Carrie as her trusted advisor and window into the intelligence community. But after the assassination attempt on Keene’s life, all bets are off. Carrie quickly finds herself on the outside, pushed out by chief of staff David Wellington who has motivations of his own. But what separates season 7 so far from its previous Seasons is a new 4-way divide of the narrative.
What is appreciated in episodes 1-4 is a new scope with two new main characters who get just as much screen time as Danes or Mandy Patinkin. The first is Brett O’Keefe, who had more of a supporting role in Season 6 as the ‘Alex Jones’ knockoff creating hysteria with his podcast and fervent following. In episode 4, O’Keefe is at a stalemate with Saul. Saul and the FBI who cornered O’Keefe in Virginia compound, where is protected by plenty of people celebrating their 2nd Amendment rights. O’Keefe’s podcasts slamming President Keefe has officially made him a public menace and a national security threat, according to Keane. Saul has been brought out of political exile to help stir Keane on the right path, but his first assignment is not what he asked for. Indeed, Saul’s in a tricky situation. To send in the FBI and undoubtedly cause a bloodbath, or try to talk his way to negotiations? Both Saul and O’Keefe find that they quickly lose control when armies come into play.
Meanwhile, Carrie has problems of her own, both mentally and in the physical world. Her therapist is telling her that there’s a chance the lithium doses she’s been taking to maintain her bipolar disorder could no longer be working for her. Carrie’s increasingly erratic behavior supports this theory. But unlike previous seasons, her disorder this Season is causing more problems for her than giving her the usual superhero edge. She even gets arrested after breaking into a suspect’s house, only to be saved by a new friend: Dante Allen.
But Carrie has more to lose this year than she’s ever had before. For one, her daughter Frannie is on the cusp of that age of actually needing attention. Season 7 finds Carrie living with her sister Maggie, who gets more of a substantial role this Season. But if Carrie makes one wrong move, Social Services will be back to take Frannie away. Carrie also finds herself at the bottom of the hole career wise. She’s always been someone who needs the CIA and the intelligence community to have purpose, but right now her reputation and career track is in the gutter. She’s in serious credit card debt, which may or may not have something to do with her private operations chasing bad guys. But, of course, Carrie can’t resist finding the truth. This time? Did Keane in fact have a part in the murder of a U.S. General?
But passionate fans of Carrie’s will find less screen time of her in the first third of Season 7, as President Keane and Wellington get their own tracks. At one time, viewers could understand the thought process and humanity behind Keane in the previous season, but we now feel distanced from her. Is she really a fascist? Will Wellington be able to break through her paranoia and save the country? The stakes are higher than ever, because the President has become the “villain.” (Sound familiar?) Notably, we see a “Carrie-like” character streak in Keane and Wellington, too. They all want to save the world, but have different (conflicting) methods of doing so.
What’s new about Season 7 is the new challenges. Carrie is a skilled CIA operative who had success navigating volatile situations abroad. But navigating politics? This is a whole new challenge for Carrie, and it’s compelling to watch. She tries to arrange a covert meeting between a deflector and a U.S. Senator and she fails miserably.
Indeed, the change of setting to D.C. makes this season of Homeland about politics, which is actually new for the show. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of espionage-action sequences with Carrie dawning wigs, slipping out into the middle of night and catching bad guys. But this season’s inclusion of O’Keefe and Keane as principal characters make the narrative seem fresh and add a new dimension to the terrorism conversation.
Claire Danes (who is also a producer on the show) and the writers have reinvented the show season after season, introducing many compelling new characters and situations. Some seasons have succeeded in bringing on new fans, while others have contributed to Critics’ lukewarm response. There is no doubt Homeland has been moving towards a melodramatic, allegorical tone for quite some time. (Anybody remember 24?) But in Season 7, it fully embraces it. And this guy is here for it.
And even with its hyperdramatic tone, Homeland still succeeds where so many other (mostly Broadcast network) shows fail. And in regards to other series about politics that sugarcoat domestic terrorism, Homeland doesn’t shy away from topical issues and politics. This is true even if at times it doesn’t succeed in navigating them perfectly.
There’s no doubt the first four episodes centered on O’Keefe for a reason, but there is a shift coming. The inclusion of a new (perhaps Russian character) capitalizing on America’s culture war and causing chaos signals a pivot. A whole new story line for the remaining 8 episodes is surely coming, and I’m excited.
In Season 7, what’s newsworthy about Homeland isn’t just the ability to reflect current events. It’s also the distinct characters, some new, some old. They’re all trying to save the world, but speaking different languages.
Here’s hoping these four characters find a translator. And soon.
Homeland airs Sunday nights 9pm ET/PT on Showtime Networks.