After two critically hailed seasons and a drastic tumble in its third year, Homeland was reinvigorated last year with fans and critics becoming engrossed in the story of Carrie Mathison once again in its fourth season. In fact, Showtime’s efforts were so accomplished last season, Homeland gained attention from the Emmys once again with an Outstanding Drama Series nomination. Now that it has earned everyone’s trust back, there’s pressure for Homeland to deliver in its upcoming season, and “Separation Anxiety” is a good starting point for the show to fulfill its promises.
When we last saw Carrie, she had professionally failed in Islamabad, rejected Quinn’s romantic advances, and witnessed Saul’s morally compromising decisions. From season four to season five, the timeline has jumped ahead two-and-a-half years, and Carrie has relinquished her responsibilities with the CIA, carrying pejorative feelings about working for the government. Season five is the most domesticated Homeland’s audience has ever seen Carrie. Now living in Germany, she’s focused on being a mother to Frannie, with a committed male partner, and working at the Düring Foundation.
“Separation Anxiety” begins the season with Düring Foundation’s intentions to travel to Lebanon in order to acquire charitable funds for a refugee camp, but Carrie disagrees with the plan, assuming it’s too dangerous of a mission. Meanwhile, the Berlin’s CIA base was hacked, including the leak of over a thousand classified files about United States’ surveillance of Germany and the role the German government has played in bending its own laws. One of the documents is received by a journalist working for the Düring Foundation who plans to publish a piece revealing the disruption privacy.
The episode is a worthy premiere, but it’s rough around the edges. “Drone Queen” kicked off season four last year and completely recreated the show’s post-Brody storyline with its own time jump, new location, and fresh storyline, all of which “Separation Anxiety” tries to do for season five. There’s timeliness and prestige dripping from the new season already, but it doesn’t ignite the same levels of excitement that was found last year. In fact, in the expository scenes describing the current setting for the “Homeland” gang are insipid. The writing in particular is at fault for not introducing the new characters or the new situations for the old characters in a thorough and intimate manner. (Many backstory questions were left unanswered, because presumably they will factor into the season at a later time.)
“Separation Anxiety” is plot heavy and, with the exception of the climax, relies on its characters sitting in a room dissecting the CIA’s hack or the foundation’s trip to Lebanon. Assuming from the trailers and TV promos, the action and drama will begin to boil soon, now that the writers have positioned the plot basics for the rest of the season to run with. The trailer shown after the credits of the premiere depicting makes the rest of the season look stunning, especially when coupled with the groundwork we learned in this past week’s episode.
The most interesting thing “Separation Anxiety” brought to the table from a character standpoint is Carrie’s newly developed faith; she attends church twice during the premiere, an uncharted area for the character up until this point. Throughout the episode, a theme of redemption is presented in Carrie, directly resulting from her guilt about Islamabad’s massacre and her lost faith in Saul and the CIA. She’s channeling her remorse through religion, which is a fascinating development for the character a bold move by the show. And as always, Claire Danes fastens her seatbelt for an emotionally unpredictable ride as Carrie; the brilliance of her performance in the series, on display in the premiere, is how she intensely embodies Carrie’s vulnerability and strength at the same time.
Homeland remains as the most technically savvy of a show (not based in fantasy) currently on the air. The directing has been resilient since day one and was the highlight week in, week out, accentuating the show’s setting, the plot’s tension, and emotion among the character’s relationships. Homeland did not have as much of a chance to capitalize on that in “Separation Anxiety” except for some aesthetically beautiful shots such as the opening scene, where Carrie waits for communion in Mass, and the dually plotted climatic sequence with Carrie’s brief kidnapping and Quinn’s discrete assassination in a German apartment building. Both of these events set up the next chapters for the two storylines this season: Carrie was granted access to the Syrian refugee camp after a successful meeting with people who captured her, and an undercover Quinn will continue the United States’ work taking out German threats without the surveillance program.