One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
Season 6 of Homeland premiers later tonight and its opening episode, “Fair Game,” is a canny mirror of political tensions in America today. The action picks up in New York, where Carrie (Claire Danes) is lending her help to a law firm intent on improving the lot of Muslims unfairly targeted by the system. Several months have passed since season 5, and Carrie is clearly keen to give back.
Claire Danes, as ever, does a terrific job in the role, imbuing the character with a burning intensity that borders on the unhinged. At turns caring, genial and manic, there are layers of complexity here that lesser actors would fail to pull off and without Danes, Homeland would surely sink.
Carrie’s turn in New York coincides with a new President being readied for her inauguration; a president at odds with the intelligence system. Step forth Elizabeth Keane. Yup, whether Alex Gansa was pinning his money on Hilary winning or not, the show’s examination of the tensions between the intelligence agents and the incoming president couldn’t have been better timed.
Saul and Der Adal are troubled by president-elect Keane’s assertion that the government is wasting money on security in the Middle East. Saul, reasonable and wise, can’t fault her for the line of thinking, especially given Keane’s son died on active duty. Der Adal, however, is less inclined to follow orders and assembles a team of operatives to talk behind closed doors. That number includes a shady looking Robert Knepper (Prison Break) and crucially, doesn’t involve Saul. Expect this plot point to be a critical thread upon which season 6 hangs.
Elsewhere, a young African American named Sekou Bah is touring New York with his friend, filming videos for his personal website. The films are educational pieces on the heroic acts of Muslims fighting in the name of Allah. Some would call it terrorism, but Bah asserts that he isn’t radicalized and simply wants to exercise his right to free speech. The government, however, is unconvinced, and they raid the Bah household, bringing the boy in for questioning.
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Enter Carrie and her team, who plead Bah’s case. He’s not an extremist, Carrie says. So why does he have links to live executions and pictures of slain American soldiers, the government replies? Homeland looks set to use this platform to examine the roots of extremism, and the way we confuse anger with radicalism. Being a young man promoting free speech doesn’t make one a safe house for terrorism, and with Carrie holding fort as a defender of justice, there’s the faintest whiff of The Night Of pervading throughout this season.
The final narrative thread for Homeland‘s latest outing involves a plot twist: the reveal of a character you’ll be surprised to see return. I won’t spoil who it is, but the inclusion is unconvincing. It’s almost as if the showrunners were worried that other main plot points (Saul and Der Adal’s relationship with president-elect Keane, and Carrie’s handling of the Sekou Bah case) weren’t enough on their own. That’s probably true, but shoehorning this familiar face into the mix isn’t a suitable resolution, especially given his downturn in fortunes. Cue scenes involving drugs, prostitutes and shady characters. It’s as if Alex Gansa and his team were itching to bust out their best Jesse Pinkman impression.
One questionable character aside, Homeland is off to a strong start and the new setting is a great change of scenery, especially given that Trump is a New Yorker. In fact, the show continues to provide a slick examination of our modern neuroses and is not unexpectedly sympathetic with the other side. That’s not to say season 6 will be as strong as its formative years – there still hasn’t been a set up as great as Brody in season 1 and 2, as we watched a radicalized soldier come to terms with civilian life – but as a mirror of modern life here in 2017, it couldn’t be more relevant.
Homeland may not be as psychologically thrilling as it once was, then, but it’s certainly never been more prescient.
A slick examination of our modern neuroses, season 6 of Homeland gets off to a strong start, but only time will tell whether it can recapture the glory of its formative years.