Farewell Homeland, a series that frustrated and delighted in equal measure – but was never predictable

As Claire Danes puts Carrie Mathison to pasture, Jacob Stolworthy looks back at the series that justified its existence to the bitter end

Monday 04 May 2020 06:00 BST
Claire Danes has encompassed Carrie Mathison so richly since 'Homeland' began in 2011
Claire Danes has encompassed Carrie Mathison so richly since 'Homeland' began in 2011 (Showtime)

Plenty of people believe that Homeland should have ended after one season. Its ingenious premise – has Damian Lewis’s US Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody been turned by the al-Qaeda? – was matched by its daring performances and slick execution. The series was all the rage in 2011, a water-cooler thriller that had more twists than an alpine road. If Homeland had ended then, it would have gone down as one of the finest dramas of all time. But only now, nine years later, is Claire Danes putting Carrie Mathison (and her wobbly lip) out to pasture. And while many have long discarded Homeland as yet another show to have outstayed its welcome, nothing could be further from the truth.

Homeland’s trajectory is an uncomplicated one: two tortuous (and torturous) seasons followed its debut, squeezing life from a Brody storyline long past its sell-by date. Then Homeland broke free. A fourth season, based in Islamabad, saw the show reassure viewers it still had stories left to tell. The critics agreed. “Homeland has recaptured its early magic,” wrote Esquire, while US publication Newsday praised the show for feeling “as fresh and important” as ever. The fifth season placed Carrie and bearded mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) in the middle of their own Berlin-set espionage adventure. Freed from the shackles of Lewis’s would-be terrorist, Homeland found an exhilarating second wind.

The show brought Carrie back to US soil for seasons six and seven in a storyline that was a little too prescient for its own good: a newly elected president wages war on the Intelligence community in the days leading up to her inauguration. Sounds familiar, eh. It’s just one of numerous instances in which the show’s team have gone hell for leather in the writers room only to find they eerily foreshadowed events at the time of broadcast. Yet showrunner Alex Gansa’s decision to directly tap into America’s current political situation in the penultimate season saw the show stall momentarily. ”It was just hard not to do it,” Gansa would admit. “It was hard to say, ‘OK, let’s go tell a story in Paris. Let’s go tell a story in South America.’” In hindsight, they should have done precisely that.

To the relief of fans, the scope widened with its eighth and final run. The result has been a nail-biting ride that’s brought things full circle for Carrie, albeit with a devastating twist: she has to betray her country to save it. In a brutally tense denouement, she’s left reeling following Russian agent Yevgeny Gromov’s order to “kill Saul”; their final confrontation is one for the ages.

The main focus in recent episodes has been on Carrie dealing with loss – the kind she so shockingly caused (she passes through the town where, years before, she ordered an airstrike and killed a wedding party of innocent civilians) and the kind she risked it all to prevent (“I took him for granted,” she confesses while mourning the execution of old buddy Max). She does this all while staking her legacy for the one thing she has been fighting for since her very first scene – America’s safety. It’s been a swansong befitting of a character who’ll be missed – a character who, until her final hour, has been one of television’s all-time greats. While it’ll be great to see the playing field open up for Danes once again, it’s hard to see her encompassing someone so richly as this. No, your lip is wobbling.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in