Reviews

February 12, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Homeland”

 

HOMELAND:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

The endgame has begun for Showtime’s HOMELAND–the reported plan is for next year’s Season 8 to be the last, although the network hasn’t confirmed that–and we’re past the point where it makes sense to bewail the fact that the series has never again equaled the heights of its first run of episodes.  The post-great Homeland is the one we’ve got, and tonight’s Season 7 premiere was the most promising in some time.

Season 6 was more ambitious than it originally intended to be, attempting to track fast-moving changes in American political reality in something like real time, and the result was exciting but also a mess, especially in its treatment of the much-abused Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who was mercifully, and one hopes truly, left KIA at the end of the season.  The upshot of the storyline was that Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel), the seemingly liberal presidential candidate aided by Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), revealed herself to be secretly fascist in the finale, arresting dozens of innocent Americans including Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).

The new season picks up on that reality several months later, with more arrested and with now-President Keane even more paranoid and vengeful.  Carrie has devoted herself to undermining the administration, serving as go-between for old friend FBI agent Dante Allen (Morgan Spector) and US Senator Sam Paley (Dylan Baker) when Allen won’t go on the record with his leaked information about Keane.

With a clear villain, Season 7 has more focus than recent seasons of Homeland.  The premiere, written by showrunner Alex Gansa and Co-Executive Producer Debora Cahn, and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, also returns the show to an old theme:  when Carrie acts impulsively and recklessly, even when she’s in the right, where is the line between admirable commitment and the manic phase of her bipolar disorder?  For now, the show is leaving that ambiguous, with Carrie at least claiming to her sister Maggie (Amy Hargreaves) that she’s on her meds.  There’s little doubt, though, that we’ll return to that question.

Despite a rather extreme murder at the very end of the premiere, the hour is for the most part pleasingly low-key by Homeland standards, with Carrie making efficient use of her spycraft as she tries to set up what turns out to be a disastrous meeting between Dante and the Senator.  There’s also the interesting twist that the hateful right-wing online broadcaster Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber), who we met in Season 6, is now, for better or worse, on the same side as Carrie against Keane.  One downside of the storyline is that Marvel has nothing to play except villainy, but her Chief of Staff David Wellington (Linus Roache) is a more ambiguous character, and the apparent (if unlikely) intention to bring Saul directly from federal prison to the White House should allow for plenty of drama there.

Homeland has always had a tendency to go off the rails, sometimes entertainingly and sometimes ruinously, and that may certainly happen here once again.  For now, though, Danes is doing her usual excellent job, the plot is pursuing a comprehensible path while surrounding it with compelling undercurrents, and the pace is intense.  This Homeland may not be the Homeland of yore, but it’ll do.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on screened.com and the-burg.com. In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."




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