I think she despises us, Saul. I think she blames us for her boy. I think she intends to hold us all accountable. – Dar Adal
Homeland picks up a short time after the concluding events of Season 5, which was the best year of the show since its first. Following a disappointing, illogical feel to Season 2 and a mess in Season 3, the series has been on an uptick. My only major qualm with the fourth year was its finale, which I found to be one of the worst on all of television during that 365 day span.
I remain of the belief that had Nicholas Brody’s vest gone off in Season 1, we’d all be better off, either because it would have been a seminal one year event, or because it would mean Homeland was an anthology series. The focus could have been on Saul Berenson and the CIA as a whole, rather than a ridiculous romance angle that forced us to watch Dana Brody as a character go through whatever the hell it was the writers felt would be interesting about that girl, which was precisely nothing. The entire Brody family became a giant albatross on the show, and though some will argue that without Carrie and Brody, there would be no Homeland, I disagree.
Without Carrie and Brody in Season 1, there would be no Homeland. Other stories could have easily replaced that pairing in subsequent years. For example, Carrie could have been chased by a cougar, while also attempting to escape from a violent Billy Burke. Okay, maybe that would have been worse.
Season 5 had intrigue and action, Carrie Mathison wasn’t quite as much of a basket case, and the finale delivered where its predecessor failed. The expectations were higher coming into Season 6 than at any point since the Season 2 premiere, and unfortunately, the two episodes I’ve seen thus far haven’t done much for me. I won’t be spoiling the events of next week’s show until next week’s review, but tonight’s opener was flat out dull. I found myself struggling to care about anything taking place outside of the Sekou Bah storyline.
J. Mallory McCree was awfully good tonight, but the circumstances surrounding Sekou’s incarceration are bothersome, simply because this is the first time I’ve felt overwhelmed by finger-pointing in the politics of the show. I don’t need jingoism from Homeland, that’s not what I’m saying, but the way in which Carrie aligns herself with Sekou and with the Muslim-American cause was a bit unsettling. She’s obviously been through quite a bit, and her distrust of the intelligence community and the United States government isn’t altogether unnatural, but there seemed to be NO balance from the opposing side.
The FBI’s response was pretty basic and didn’t come with near the vociferousness of Carrie’s pleas on behalf of the Muslim-American community. If the show can somehow manage to arrive at an adequate medium in the coming weeks, the Sekou Bah scenario might well finish as a big success. I felt a little too much propaganda in the arguments tonight, without the necessary push back. I will say that Sekou’s videos, explaining the most extreme Muslim positions and depicting just how dangerous the anti-American (or anti-anything) paradigm can become if anyone only hears portions of a story, was RIVETING stuff. It was uncomfortable to hear the details of Meir Kahane’s assassination, but that was good television and McCree was exceptional as he told the tale in almost celebratory fashion.
While Mathison worked with Reda Hashem and against the FBI on the Bah case, the other two major plot points were underwhelming. I enjoy a good Dar Adal scheme as much as the next guy, but I can see where things are headed with the Elizabeth Keane administration. I’m happy to have Elizabeth Marvel on a big-time show again, and she’s great as a foil politician, but a new president distrusting a CIA that has goofed repeatedly but will no doubt try to undercut her week after week is an idea we’ve seen no less than 47,285 times over the past 20 years.
At least the acting should be good, even if we’ll likely be able to predict the outcome of POTUS v. CIA long before we get to the climactic moment of that fight. Also, another coming plotline will be based around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more colloquially referred to as the Iranian nuclear deal. How the series approaches that debate will no doubt be more interesting than much of what we saw tonight.
Dar Adal is again working behind Saul’s back, cutting him out of the closed-door meeting that ended the episode, and of course it’s Berenson who wants to slow down and try to work with President-Elect Keane, rather than immediately go on the offensive. If there’s anything we know about Dar Adal, it’s that he loves making big decisions that result in his own personal power gain. He believes she’s after the CIA because she blames them for her son’s death in Iraq, and when we see the locket scene, it’s clear that’s what the show wants us to think. None of this was bad, but it was overly obvious. I wasn’t taken aback or even “hmmm”ed by anything that happened.
I enjoyed the back-and-forth, but none of this feels fresh in the way you’d want. I don’t want constant twists, but it would be preferable to get a new coat of paint on our government issued SUV. Give us something different. Political shows follow the same script over and over again. It’s a winning formula, but it’s too familiar. There are too many other options for our entertainment minute (read: dollar).
Finally, we have the wacky world of Peter Quinn, and here, Homeland almost completely lost me. He was basically the crash test dummy down the stretch in Season 5, which was almost laughably funny at times, because it was so absurd. Now he’s going to drug dens with crack and methamphetamine whores, fighting off robbery attempts from douchebags, attempting to escape an overcrowded VA hospital, and finally he’s locked in Carrie’s basement for his own safety. I saw Disturbia. I don’t really need to see it again, especially with hallucinations included in the package.
I guess I like to see Quinn on offense and in control, unless he’s working an angle and there’s a payoff. This version of Peter is obnoxious as a storyline, though I will say it does get a LITTLE better next week. That’s my one semi-spoiler. I would be more than surprised if his character doesn’t become a much larger focus, tying back in to the entire CIA Saul-Carrie-During triumvirate. Somehow, Carrie and Saul have to end up fighting the same battle again before the series takes its last bow, but we’ll see how long they play frictional antagonists before that point.
Nice to see Hill Harper in this type of role, where his intensity of dialogue can shine through. He’s been better than his material at many times in the past, but here he’s well-placed as Keane’s Chief of Staff. He’s no stranger to espionage and terrorism on television, as he did good work in the waning days of Covert Affairs. He can sell “serious” effectively with his expressions and voice, and inevitably when he’s in a room with F. Murray Abraham and Mandy Patinkin, those will be can’t miss exchanges.
Dominic Fumusa’s scenes with Claire Danes are ones to watch this season. Fumusa is coming off one of his two largest roles, as he played Tig in 13 Hours, but even with that performance and Nurse Jackie on the resume, he’s still looking for that real breakout. This may not be THAT, but he’s in a promising spot as Special Agent Ray Conlin.
I wasn’t blown away, by any means, with the start of this season. I expect the story to get better as it moves along, but tonight’s premiere accomplished little, if the goal was to reignite the fires of Homeland. It’s been a long hiatus, and since we last visited with Saul and the crew, we’ve seen a ton of fantastic television. Our expectations continue to rise, so standing pat might not get it done anymore. This felt like the most uninspired of Homeland’s creativity, and showed a tinge of age to the series.
It’s still Homeland, but I’m hoping it hops up a few steps rather quickly. I’m smelling Werther’s right now. I’ll be reviewing the show weekly here at Outkick. Next week, we’ll talk far more about the story than the structure, but tonight’s flat start required this discussion.
I’m @JMartOutkick on the Tweets, and you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. No Saul? Probably for the best.