More than most other TV series in recent memory, Homeland excels at rebooting itself.
The show’s creators have already proven that they can do away with a major character and love interest — and switch the focus of the series — while retaining the same appeal of the epochal first couple of seasons.
The start of Season five brings perhaps the most sweeping changes yet, with a skip two years forward in time, an entirely new setting and a new life for Carrie Mathison; It’s almost like a spinoff series. Yet Homeland remains as compulsively watchable as ever, the same satisfying mess it’s always been.
Berlin is now the backdrop, and it gives the show a refreshing new look and mood, with some of the Euro atmosphere of a James Bond or Jason Bourne spy caper. The German capital is undoubtedly one of the worldwide epicentres of cool right now, in everything from shopping and dining to its famous 24/7 rave-party scene (which which Claire Danes has taken full advantage of whilst filming on location), promising plenty of possibilities for intrigue and eye candy as the season progresses.
The new setting also allows for timely commentary on a number of issues facing Europe and dominating headlines right now, including the refugee crisis and US spying on EU citizens. Hacktivism, whistleblowing, the ongoing political and human-rights disaster in Syria and the expanding Islamic State are also important plot points.
More than ever, Homeland is not exactly the show to watch if you want to escape the problems of the world. It also keeps up its habit of playing different sides of the political spectrum – the morally dubious spooks portrayed here could serve as commentary on government abuse; though the depiction of a terrorist around every corner in Berlin keys into a pretty paranoid worldview.
But never mind all that – you want to know what’s going on with Carrie. As the season opens it’s clear that, two years down the track, she’s hit the reset button and moved on from the chaos of the end of Season 4, including her departure from the CIA, her colleague Peter Quinn’s last-ditch confession of love for her and his subsequent disappearance into the shadowy world of special ops in Syria.
Click through for a gallery of Homeland star, Claire Danes (post continues after gallery):
She’s now working in the private sector, as head of security for billionaire industrialist Otto Düring. And she’s settled down: she seems to have accepted motherhood (Brody’s daughter Frannie is now a red-headed toddler whom Carrie totes around on her bike) and is living with her new boyfriend, lawyer and fellow Düring employee Jonas Happich (also a ginger).
She’s been sober nine months and is now devoutly practicing her Catholic faith – perhaps seeking atonement for her many sins in 10 years in the CIA. It’s nice to see her about as happy, or content at least, as she’s ever been. For longtime fans, this domestic tranquility is made more poignant by the certainty that it will all implode horribly at some point.
Indeed, by the end of Episode 2, things are already unravelling. Düring is almost assassinated by Islamist militants on a philanthropic mission to a refugee camp in Lebanon; Carrie finds out she was the real target and remains behind to investigate (and freak out).
That leaves new beau Jonas to look after the kid and deal with the fallout when a colleague publishes leaked government documents revealing Germany’s shady dealings with the CIA. Berlin CIA station chief Allison Carr (Aussie star Miranda Otto) clashes with Saul Berenson, sent from the States to clean up the political and security mess. Unbeknownst to anyone else, to this end Saul empowers Quinn to go rogue, targeting and remorselessly killing Berlin-based jihadis.
Sure, there some of those Homeland moments that make us groan – especially the murky plot twists, and Carrie’s knack for inserting herself in dangerous situations that make no sense.
There’s also a lot to savour. Otto does a fine job as the scheming and ruthless Allison; her early confrontation with Carrie is deliciously nuanced and passive-aggressive.
Check out the trailer for Season 5 courtesy of Showtime:
The embittered Saul’s callous dismissal of the “traitor” Carrie bodes well for drama down the track. The obvious sparks that fly between Carrie and her dashing boss at a party in Beirut will no doubt complicate both her work and home lives, even if she manages to stay on the wagon.
But it’s her shared destiny with Quinn that’s probably the most compelling undeveloped thing about the season so far.
He’s gone to a really dark place, and it seems inevitable that she has the potential to do the same. It’ll be hard to stop watching.