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Homeland: Season 7 - Has Carrie become the weak link?

Homeland: Season 7

Feature by Rob Carnevale

SEVEN seasons in and Homeland appears to be at a crossroads.

Having reinvented itself successfully once by removing one of its big three main players in Damian Lewis’s Brody, the show became a scarily useful insight into the complexities of fighting the war on terror.

Sure, there was dramatic licence. But season 4 offered a fascinating observation into countries like Pakistan and their role in tackling terror, while Season 5 still sends shivers down the spine for the way it tackled terror attacks in Europe, culminating in references to the real-life attacks in Paris that occurred weeks earlier.

Season 6 may have incorrectly guessed that a female president would be sitting in The White House by the time it aired. But its insights into the danger of fake news and online threats was very much on the money.

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But Season 7, thus far, feels like a different beast and a large part of this seems to be down to the decision to focus more directly on leading character Carrie Mathison and her ongoing battle with her bipolar condition.

By doing so, it could have highlighted Carrie as the show’s weak link.

True, Mandy Patinkin’s Saul Berenson isn’t faring much better. But his attempts to diffuse the latest threat to the US – in the form of Jake Weber’s radio talk show host Brett O’Keefe and his new army of pro-US zealots – is packed with the same kind of gamesmanship and tension we’ve come to expect (no matter how many times Saul’s supposed intelligent approach has been exposed as folly).

With Carrie struggling with bipolar, though, she’s in danger of becoming a laughing stock. Her character has always been polarising for fans, with some continually rooting for her through every bad decision and others exposing her ‘me first’ approach as excruciating.

But Season 7 – thus far – finds her making increasingly credibility straining decisions.

Primary among those was allowing her computer, containing a wealth of sensitive information, to be hacked. The sub-plot concerning her attempts to get it back felt cheap, borderline exploitative (would the thief really have put himself in the same room as her for a cheap grope, let alone be in the same town or country?) and frustratingly dumb for a show that previously took pride in striving for authenticity.

But if that weren’t enough, the very next episode found her arrested for breaking and entering into the home of another potential suspect, and faced with being put into the system for resisting attempts to find out her identity. This all took place moments after Carrie had also attempted to switch her medication, having become immune to the effects of her current drug.

Carrie’s exploits in the field so far this season have more to do with the Keystone Cops than a smart-minded CIA operative. And while her struggles with bipolar will be to blame; her continued proximity to homeland threats feels hugely unlikely.

Worse, her new ‘go to guy’ in the form of Morgan Spector’s career rebuilding FBI agent Dante Allen is unusually tolerant of her erratic behaviour, refusing to cut her off even when the most sane individual would see a red flag when one presented itself.

The worst thing Homeland could do at this stage is make Dante a new love interest, thereby filling the void left by both Lewis’s Brody and – in later seasons – Rupert Friend’s Peter Quinn. It would be indicative of lazy writing, another thing not usually associated with a show of Homeland‘s quality.

Carrie does not have to fall for every action man figure who comes into contact with her. And the writers should be able to do better.

It remains to be seen, at this early stage, whether Carrie’s descent into the least interesting character that Homeland has to offer can be reversed. But where once she was a formidable female lead; she’s now in danger of becoming a caricature of herself, delivering the type of eye-rolling performance (all jitters and angst) that may once have been impressive by virtue of being used sparingly. In Season 7, her facial expressions are in danger of provoking the same kind of guffaws that greeted Jack Bauer’s every “damn it” on 24.

And talking of 24, does the other current sub-plot in Homeland, featuring Linus Roache’s second-in-command to the President (David Wellington), owe more to 24-style twists than Homeland itself? His most recent act, to go behind the President’s back and call an air strike on a Syrian arms convoy, smacks of the sort of contrived under-hand play that was a mainstay of 24.

On the evidence so far, Homeland has its work cut out to rediscover its highest standards, or risk venturing back into so-so Season 3 territory and provoking the obvious question: has it jumped the shark?

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