Let Me Go
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Homeland’s greatest virtue is arguably its ability to be prescient. As the seasons have devolved and evolved in various facets, the series has garnered an unfortunate reputation for inconsistency (some of it earned and some of it not). Its prescience, however, became its most consistent factor, reaching a fever pitch last season when the terrorist attack in Berlin aired after the real-life tragedy in Paris. The sixth season’s premiere marks one of the few times where the show toes more of the line in regard to the results of the recent presidential election in order to maintain that prescience, but nevertheless it feels as if it, like so many, couldn’t have predicted the results that are in many ways still difficult to digest. That can’t be held against the series to a great extent, but one has to acknowledge that the similarities are a little too close to be innocuous. President-elect Elizabeth Keane (a terrific Elizabeth Marvel, House of Cards) is a junior Senator from New York who becomes the first female President of the United States, details which seem narratively unnecessary considering that so far in the premiere, President-elect Keane isn’t the carbon copy of Secretary Hillary Clinton that viewers might expect. She is a woman who apparently believes Edward Snowden to be a hero, something that is surprising in the President-elect but also seems to thoroughly rankle her former, more establishment-oriented peers and the intelligence community to boot. She is questioning the militarization of the political platform and the idea that somehow further military misadventures are going to solve a war that she is being told is, for the moment at least, a loss. Yet she seems quite intrigued by the drone program and that complexity and or maybe self-contradiction plays well into making her a character to watch.
One of the most fascinating, understated aspects of Homeland is the intransigence of the militarization of the intelligence community. From the heydays of that perfect first season to now, the pervasiveness of that division is handled quite well. Here that division arrives forth once again through Dar Adal and Saul, two men who were seemingly on the same side in terms of their conversation with President-elect Keane before the divisions become more readily apparent. Keane notes that a General told her that the best way to root out ISIS would be to have a ground invasion of Iraq quirk 70,000 soldiers. Saul adds that in order to prevent the next ISIS from rising forth from the ashes of the current one, there would need to be an occupation. That logic that is so pervasive is incredibly flawed, beginning with the assumption that somehow an occupation would prevent any further insurgencies from rising forth and resuming the attack. That the occupation could even increase such a risk is never discussed. Keane isn’t too keen on that option, however, and if the option of a loss could only be prevented by an armed occupation, she suggests withdrawing from the region entirely. Saul is contemplative but Dar Adal looks aghast at the mere suggestion. Dar Adal, a man who has become symbolic of a neoliberal, militaristic approach to foreign policy, is extremely troubled by Keane’s attitude towards the CIA. He blames Keane’s attitude on the death of her son, who died in the first week of his third tour in Iraq. The subtle misogyny stands out and even if that is the primary driver of Keane’s behavior, it reduces her attitude down to the emotional level and that doesn’t help anyone going forward. Saul’s conversation with a former peer of Keane’s in the Senate further illuminated how her attitude is so polarizing, but Saul takes a road that is much more in line with the Saul of the earlier days and not the wholehearted company man he had become by the previous season. The final shot of the episode, the most cinematic work director Keith Gordon does in the hour, is perfect foreshadowing for the incoming divisions that are likely to push Saul and those who are on more inclined to agree with him out of the bargaining picture.
The opening episode, however, runs back to a recurring Homeland problem that saps into the most critical error of the series and one that in the eyes of some dimmed the series from that point forward. The original sin of the show was not killing off Brody in season two. Brody dying in the first season would have been a great ending to his arc but I appreciated what the show tried to do with his shifting allegiances in the second season. He should have died in that forest and the third season should have been what the fourth season became. The damage the third season inflicted upon the show as a whole would have been severely mitigated, if not wiped out entirely. I understand the reluctance to kill characters off, but at certain points maybe they just need to die. I don’t know under what circumstances Quinn’s storyline last season was dreamed up or, as the joke became, what Showtime executive he pissed off, but it was easily the dumbest part of the season. It dragged on and while it became apparent as to what purpose it served after the halfway mark, the ending to it seemed so obvious and the road so thoroughly bumpy, it just didn’t stick the way the writers thought it would. The reason I make the Brody comparison is that the third season had Brody in a drugged-up state in Venezuela and while that gave the chance for some stunning cinematography and a couple of good story beats, it once again just dragged on. Quinn’s storyline is similar, even if the Tower of David has been substituted with the VA. That the VA hospital system needs a major public-driven overhaul (that’s not going to happen in the next four years) is apparent and I appreciate Homeland addressing that aspect of the War on Terror, but it needs to be more organic to the story and the characters within. Rupert Friend acts the hell out of what he’s given, but the material simply needs to become more germane to everything else happening in the story. Him moving in with Carrie seems like a slightly heavy-handed way to move his story forward but at least they’re moving forward.
Carrie herself is in a unique space, as she often finds herself at the beginning of every season. Claire Danes’s signature role, no matter what she does after Homeland ends and Showtime thusly becomes increasingly nervous, is something that she is so thoroughly excellent at that it never once becomes repetitive or monotonous. She embodies Carrie Mathison and it’s one of those performances that, like it or not, will go down in television history as one of the most pivotal performances in television history. In part that’s because of the writing that she’s given that’s often afforded to male characters only. It’s not always the best writing, mind you (a.e. season three), but it’s writing that is complex, sharp, and damning in ways women aren’t often allowed to be. Here Carrie finds herself continuing to make amends in some part for all the wrong that she has done, assisting Muslims who are being harassed by an increasingly authoritarian law enforcement system. It’s an interesting step for Carrie but a step that nevertheless makes sense in the character’s continuing evolution. The best aspect of that evolution is that it feels earned, that it doesn’t try to force Carrie to become a more likable character for the audience because convention dictates that she needs to be. It’s thoroughly refreshing. Her latest case should bring out the Carrie Mathison her peers are possibly unaware of but a Carrie Mathison that is the heart and soul of Homeland. A young Muslim man is arrested as being an abetter of terrorism through his videos and his open opposition to American foreign policy, an arrest that doesn’t have a material grounds but instead rests entirely upon intent. The line between free speech and terrorism relating specifically to the demonization of the Muslim community in America is a fascinating avenue for Homeland to follow through. So far, while it lacks the subtlety and polish one expects from the show, it is nevertheless looking to be valuable commentary, especially in the years ahead.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The slow jazz. I didn’t realize how much I missed Homeland jazz until it came back.
+“Most difficult transition team…” Speaking of prescience…
+“I’m on low battery.” What’s up with the filming friend?
+Otto’s cameo, as obnoxious as he was
+Covert action program against Iran. What could possibly go wrong?
Note: Showtime made the season six premiere available super early to Showtime subscribers. It will air on Showtime proper on January 15th, 2017.
Episode Title: Fair Game
Written by: Alex Gansa & Ted Mann
Directed by: Keith Gordon
Image Courtesy: Film
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Syrian Refugee/Refugee Crises
Women’s Reproductive Rights