Cast: Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Elizabeth Marvel, F. Murray Abraham
Homeland has always aimed for political relevancy. In its earliest seasons, the main character was haunted by the events of September 11th and our nation’s inability to prevent that terrorist attack. Now, in season 7, the show continues to offer timely and important stories about the consequences of fake news and how political divisions can lead to catastrophic consequences.
As season 6 ended, president-elect Elizabeth Keane (a superbly-cast Elizabeth Marvel) was nearly killed after military officials attempted a coup against the newly-elected and naive leader. Her frustrations with the intelligence community led to outright disdain and at the end of the season, her new government wrongly imprisoned hundreds of intelligence officers.
At the beginning of season 7, President Keane has been in office for two months and those officials are still being held by the government they once served.
Most of the captive officials are innocent but Keane’s zealous sense of righteousness has prevented her from seeing beyond her own biases. That has only made the reality on the ground worse as people have decided to rise up against her tyrannical methods.
Despite its age, Homeland still has the ability to tackle politically-tricky subjects while maintaining its dramatic momentum.
In this season’s first five episodes, the program has featured several distinct storylines. Carrie (Claire Danes), the show’s main character and a former CIA official, has spent much of that time pursuing a way to undercut the president. She’s found a link between the strange death of a prisoner charged with conspiring to attack the president-elect and the presidential administration.
This story has reminded viewers of Carrie’s bipolar disorder which, when left untreated, can cause dire consequences.
Over the course of the series, this storyline has become a bit repetitive (since the beginning, many have questioned Carrie’s ability to evaluate situations clearly when she’s not giving the proper meds) so it’s a little frustrating to see the program rehash this concept. Fortunately, the plot thread has something more interesting and reminded viewers that this show can still offer some exciting twists and surprises.
The storyline featuring intelligence expert Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin, who continues to do incredible and subtle work here) has a greater power to it and keeps the program’s momentum going. Berenson, who was being held as a suspect in the Keane assassination attempt (despite little evidence he was involved) is sprung from jail by a repentant President Keane. Keane recruits Berenson as her new national security advisor. Keane has her eyes on different targets now and asks Berenson to capture the conspiracy-spewing government-hating host of an online show.
As that plot unfolds, the possible existence of fake news comes to the forefront after the airing of an erroneous report about a hostage situation. While others see a simple mistake, Berenson questions whether the Russians could’ve planted bad information to sow discord in our country. As Berenson says, they “exploit existing divisions wherever they find them.”
As of yet, we don’t know if Berenson is right here — inevitably, answers will be revealed as the season continues — but the show is so willing to take on heavy subjects that its episodes carry a dramatic urgency. This is a show that understands the hectic times we live in and instead of veering away from tricky subjects, it embraces them. Few of the characters are either good or bad. They are motivated by their own backgrounds and there’s a gray area that this show dwells in so meticulously.
Many shows in their seventh season have settled into a routine but Homeland is a different animal. In its first season (still its best), the show focused on a returning Marine who may or may not have been turned by his terrorist captors.
Six seasons later, the program has adapted to a new reality and it continues to change, adapt and surprise as it follows the characters wherever they go and it mirrors real-life news events wherever they may lead us.
Looking for more reviews? Check out my video review of A Wrinkle in Time here.
Review by: John Hanlon