Three episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
“You can take the girl out of the CIA, but, you know,” quips one of Carrie Mathison’s new confidants in the season five premiere of Homeland. It’s a remark regarding the fact that our favorite bipolar CIA analyst has quit Langley cold turkey, and is in fact living in Berlin, dating a cute lawyer, and walking her daughter to school each morning. Most befuddling, she’s not doing all of this as a front for Saul and her government buddies back home in an attempt to infiltrate the Düring Foundation, a private security firm she’s become involved with. She’s actually, gulp… happy.
I, like all Homeland fans, can not in good confidence argue for the infallible sanctity of Showtime’s award-winning series. Co-creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa have put to film some of the most stomach-churningly tense moments of television I have ever seen. But they sometimes don’t seem to entirely know what their fans want from the series (remember when Dana cut school and went on a road trip with a boy in the middle of the show about terrorism? No? For the best!) Ironically, once the show ditched its central conceit – the Brody vs. Carrie arc – in season three, it got into the pattern of tackling a new topical world issue each season, and it’s never felt more solid.
Set two years after the attack on the U.S. Embassy in the fourth season, season five continues that trend, trading out last year’s drone warfare with an Edward Snowden-level data leak perpetrated by two guys working in an underground Berlin porn website who stumble upon some classified documents within the CIA’s Germany branch. The CIA thinks a massive terrorist organization is suddenly on the prowl, and the two clueless hackers only have a fleeting grasp on the trouble those 1,361 files will get them into.
Unfortunate for Carrie (Claire Danes) as well, when her new boss Otto Düring (Sebastian Koch) requests her to use her former contacts and expertise to visit a refugee camp in Lebanon that’s under particularly harsh scrutiny from dozens of local militant groups. Carrie worries the job – which has so far let her lead a happy, normal life in Berlin – is pulling her back into the world she left behind. Since this is Homeland, she’s essentially right on the money, and runs into some explosive trouble in Beirut when she discovers the true intent of an assassination plot on the Düring Foundation may not be all it seems.
If that’s a lot of information to take in, it’s because, well, it is. The first three episodes of the season spin and spin like hyperactive puppies getting the season’s arc into motion, but it never feels scatterbrained; there’s a quiet, assured serenity under all of the espionage that lends the two warring A-plots some exciting tension, especially when the biggest secret of the leaked documents causes the Germanic government to resort to some particularly nasty methods of self-preservation.