“Homeland” has a new season. Everything has changed since the dramatic Season 3 finale where Brody died and Carrie was left alone to raise their — gasp! — child. It’s all built up to this! And…meh. Episode 1 offered us a rather substantial twist with the quick death of Corey Stoll’s Sandy, but Episode 2 slowed things down even more — and somehow both clocked in at under 50 minutes in length. That would be fine if “Homeland” maintained its twisty shock value of old, but this “New Homeland” is much more deliberately structured and analytical in approach. We’re spending more time with these characters and watching how their decisions develop a lasting impact down the line.
But it’s missing the narrative drive of old, be it brought on by madcap romantic liaisons or meaningful real-world relations. It really is a new direction for the Emmy-winning show now missing its co-lead, and so far the lack of excitement is not being made up for with meaningful drama.
Best Classic “Homeland” Twist:
Is it possible for an actor to have a reputation for being unexpectedly offed even though he’s only died in two series? (I’ll confess I haven’t seen “The Strain,” but I’m pretty sure he’s still alive.) Corey Stoll, a veteran of “Midnight in Paris,” “House of Cards,” and now “Homeland,” met his maker quickly in Episode 1 after his contact betrayed him and Quinn either couldn’t or wouldn’t save him.
What would’ve have passed for an A-level shocker in Seasons 1-3, so long as it was accompanied by B- and C-level twists, is instead being pushed as a through-line plot in the reconfigured new season. We’ll see how that decision plays out, but it was certainly the most exciting part of these first two hours.
Crazy Carrie Level: 5/10
We use this heading with the utmost respect for Carrie Mathison as portrayed by Claire Danes. After all, without her incredible facial contortions, manic behavior, and general disregard for common sense, “Homeland” would be one helluva boring show.
So it should come as no surprise that without the aforementioned insanity, Episode 1 was not that exciting. Despite the surprising death of Sandy (fool me once…), the most dramatic elements of Carrie’s new demeanor were found in her inherent calmness. She’s so self-assured of both her profession and her parenting skills (or lack thereof), she doesn’t seem crazy at all. One could argue that being THAT assured about what are at best questionable decisions shows she’s finally maxed out on the crazy scale, but the lack of physical and emotional evidence makes her seem more rationale than bonkers, even if her reasoning is flawed.
The trend continued in an ever slower (and shorter) Episode 2, though we were given one rather disturbing scene destined to divide the audience of Carrie lovers and haters even further: the baby drowning. For a moment, Carrie apparently thought the best way to get away from her guilt was by murdering her baby in the bathtub. Why she stopped — whether it be because of genuine love for her child or simply realizing she wouldn’t get away with it — is up for debate, but Carrie’s too far removed from her child’s life to be going through postpartum depression — she’s just cold, in every regard, as designated by the show’s writers.
Which leads us to the most concerning element of both episodes: Throughout the Season 4 premiere, there was no mention of Carrie’s bipolar disorder, the source of much (but not all) of her erratic behavior. Please correct me if I’ve forgotten some explanation for her new “no pills” policy, dear readers. Otherwise, I’m worried this old standby for character complexity and development has been irresponsibly retired.
MVP (Most Valuable Performer):
Introducing new characters in an established cast is incredibly tricky. Fans are resistant to newcomers because they like what they already have, and no one likes change. Yet showrunner and writer Alex Gansa astutely realized his show was going through so much change already, fresh blood may fit right in. So in strolls Suraj Sharma, the young actor from “Life of Pi” who’s now playing Ayaan Ibrahim. Ayaan loses his entire family to a military strike ordered by Carrie in the first episode’s opening minutes, but we don’t see his true colors until Episode 2 when he admits to a reporter accosting him about the tragedy he doesn’t see any difference when it comes to murder.
We’ll see if his tone changes as the show progresses, a likely scenario given his minority opinions among intolerant oppressors. I doubt it came as any surprise to him when people broke into his bedroom and violently ordered him to stop giving interviews and making videos. He’s an educated young man, a minority viewpoint on a show in desperate need of a non-white voice, and someone worth tracking more than just part-time.
Secondary honors go to Quinn, who’s slowly evolved from a likable tertiary role to Carrie’s lovable counterpoint.
Quote of the Night:
“I can’t remember why I had you. I loved him so much. When I close my eyes, I still see him there.” – Carrie, to her daughter, while sitting outside Brody’s old house
While it helps explain the soon-to-come baby drowning, Carrie’s brings up more questions than answers. We already understood that she doesn’t love her baby, but we aren’t sure why — is it because she would force Carrie to give up the only life she knows how to live? Is it because little Franny reminds her of her lost love? Is it because she’s been deadened emotionally by her ruthless profession? Is it all of the above?
We may not have gotten an answer in these first two hours, but another question brought on by the quote delivered the night’s most provocative thought: when she closes her eyes, does she see Brody at his house, or hanging from the end of a noose?