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Homeland: Series 8 Episode 1 (Deception Indicated) - Review

Homeland: Series 8, Episode 1

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE eighth and final season of Homeland has been a long time in coming but now that it’s finally underway the jury is out on just how satisfying a finale it will deliver.

True, we’re only one episode in. And the show continues to deal with hot button issues relating to the world in which we live. But the suspensions of disbelief surrounding the main character that have always been required to a certain degree, now appear gaping.

I remember questioning midway through the show’s seventh season that Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison had potentially become the show’s weak link. But she appeared to have corrected herself as that series took shape, culminating in a finale that saw her sacrificing her freedom and being taken hostage by Russian agents.

As season eight begins, she is free after 213 days with the Russians, who possibly tortured her and withheld her meds, prompting a memory lapse for much of her captivity [180 days]. Now in the midst of physical and psychological recovery at an Army medical centre in Germany, she has set alarm bells ringing because – crucially – she has recently failed a polygraph.

The question, therefore, is whether she has genuinely forgotten or whether she has been turned by the Russians and, as a result, has compromised the safety of assets. It’s a neat subversion of the show’s landmark first series, which saw Damian Lewis’ returning soldier possibly being a counter-spy. And it’s clearly designed to bring the show full circle, to some extent.

But there’s also a problem intrinsic to this scenario and that’s the decision to allow national security advisor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) to ignore expert advice and pluck Carrie from her facility and thrust her into the volatile cauldron that is Kabul, where she must attempt to broker peace in Afghanistan with the Taliban.

Carrie, according to Saul, is the only person capable of doing this because of her connections, no matter that she has long been bipolar and may now be a spy. At the very least, she could suffer a relapse of her mental health difficulties. But Saul isn’t bothered by any of these potential problems. He wants to broker a deal.

It’s a plot device that threatens to undermine Homeland‘s credibility because it feels flimsy and ill considered. And it would be a shame if it derails the show’s home straight.

Outside of Kabul and Carrie, there’s still much to be gripped by. The show’s political relevance remains fascinating, especially in the way that it frequently mirrors real-life scenarios. Hence, the US desire to withdraw from Afghanistan feels highly relevant as their motivations for doing so form the basis for plenty of the suspicion and tensions driving this first episode, as negotiations between the relevant parties become strained.

And then there’s another of the show’s popular supporting players… Maury Sterling’s Max, now given a mysterious subplot in Afghanistan, where he has unwittingly become a good luck charm for a platoon of soldiers. Sterling has long been an enigmatic presence on the Homeland landscape and he is already doing compelling work here. It should be a series highlight finding out where his character ends.

Likewise, Patinkin’s Saul, who remains likeable in spite of his Carrie blind-spot. It says much about Patinkin’s skill in navigating the many, many pitfalls of his character that we can still root for Saul to get out of a tight spot.

Whether the same can be said for the show as a whole remains to be seen as, on the evidence of this first episode, there’s a sense that season eight could go either way in terms of delivering a send-off to be admired or derided.