Homeland returns to our screens at an intriguing time for America in real life. Its government remains in shutdown, while its special forces have conducted raids in North Africa.
The country is still reeling from the Boston bombings – the worst terrorist attack it has experienced on home soil since 9/11.
All of this adds an unforeseen authenticity to the third series of the award-winning drama, which has told the story of CIA agent Carrie Mathison’s (Claire Danes) attempts to prove that returning war hero Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was “turned” while imprisoned in Iraq and is planning a terrorist atrocity.
That reached a thrilling conclusion at the end of the last series after a car bomb devastated CIA headquarters, killing more than 200 people. Now, two months on, Senator Andrew Lockhart, chairman of the Senate committee investigating the incident, is furious. “It is now plain that the Central Intelligence Agency is crippled, its managerial ranks are decimated and its reputation in tatters,” he says, in a terrifying performance by Tracy Letts. “The plain question is, how can the CIA be expected to protect this country if it can’t even protect itself?”
The answer, of course, comes in the form of our heroine, Mathison, who remains stuck in a quagmire of paranoia, off meds and wringing her hands over yet another attack on American soil she should have prevented. This scenario could easily be a complete déjà vu of the very first episode of series one, except this time Carrie is the lone agent who thinks Nicholas Brody didn’t do it.
Her quest to clear Brody’s name has to be put on hold, however, so she could attend the Congressional hearing which asks some very important questions: how inept is the CIA not to foresee a bombing of its own headquarters? Can Carrie account for the 14 hours she was “passed out in a toilet” after the bomb went off? Do you really, honestly enjoy listening to free jazz or are you just pretending to look cool? They didn’t ask that last question, but they should have.
Meanwhile, with Estes killed at the end of season two (ending David Harewood’s starring role in the first two series), Saul has been made acting director of the CIA and it is gratifying to see that success hasn’t gone to his head: he’s still dressing like a market trader with a hangover. At least Saul is bang on trend when it comes to the baddies du jour. The Iraqi Abu Nazir has been replaced by Iranian Majid Javadi as the CIA’s most wanted – because Iranian villains are so hot right now – and a co-ordinated strike on six of Javadi’s associates could be exactly what the disgraced Agency needs to back on its feet.
I’m more interested in what this series needs to get back on its feet. With all Brody’s secrets revealed and any sexual tension between Brody and Carrie long since dissipated, Operation Jump the Shark is clearly a go. It also doesn’t bode well that the writers missed their opportunity to quietly write out Brody’s family by “forgetting” them in witness protection somewhere.
Instead, anxious Mum Brody, entitled Daughter Brody and cipher Son Brody were all present and correct, while the only Brody family member anyone actually cares about was Awol for the entire episode. Congressman Nicholas Brody, where have you got to? We won’t find out until at least episode three, apparently.