So I actually managed to watch season 5. Hurrah for 2016!!
Homeland, my guilty pleasure is as Islamophobic, pro-American as ever, sigh.
And still the most thrilling series I have seen in a while.
So quick points full of spoilers:
1. It is still the intricate, beautifully written thriller which manages to hook you no matter what is the ideology ( fucked up I know). The twists, turns, the way it is edited, shot, the conflicting interests, the compulsive characters all make this into a heady cocktail which is impossible not to like. The way plot thickens is unexpected even for a homeland hardened cynic. The pace is very Homeland- shockingly fast only to be followed by mellowness. Works for me. Episode 11 when Carrie discovers the real plot, while the villain soothes CIA into thinking otherwise, Carrie doing Carrie thing by following her gut and half dozen terrorists nonetheless, the drama in the terrorist group, Villain escaping with mindblowingly clever trick.. and some 5 other massively tense things happening – chop chop edited, pace heightening, beautiful action choreography, characters whirling in intense showdown- aaaaaahhhhh… Homeland does this on the edge of the chair like nobody can.
2. Strong female characters of all shades ( arr… all white of course). From chest thumping human rights activists to shadowy vamps to smart spies. And of course Carrie Mathison, who in this season has sobered down- literally and metaphorically- without losing her mojo. Watching strong female characters moving the narrative plot is a rare pleasure in a show of this scale. When Carrie learns that she has achieved safe passage to Lebanon and looks around to see her daughter/ boyfriend sleeping peacefully- I was pleased with the re-gendering of a classic scene. 99% of the times it is the male characters wistfully looking at the peace and stability- symbolised by his family. Women hardly get to choose dark, unstable decisions over the mature, wise ones expected of them, because duh. But Carrie literally gets to make tough decisions, be imperfect even in the context of motherhood and family, be a supportive lover, save her kickass assassin friend Quinn ( Eye candy numero uno), negotiate with the Hizbullah about values of respect and what not. I am constantly amazed at how her character transcends the boundaries of gender which I haven’t seen in any other spy show. I did find Allison’s character problematic in its fame fatale hints. Although she is not someone who gets to be a villain because she is a woman exploiting her femininity as such- it is rather strange that from the director of CIA to an Iraqi mole to a Russian super spy – all these wickedly twisted spooks are somewhat in love with her. It takes away some of her evilness. There was no particular need for that and it shows a bit of lazy stereotyping. Astrid is another find- she is cooler than Carrie, empathetic, kickass bright and could shoulder more narrative on her shoulders. The token leftie bleeding heart character Laura is a great character utterly ruined by a smirking actress who makes me want to slap her every time she spouts something sarcastically.
3. Islamophobia without shame. All muslims are either angelically good – reminding you of token Muslim chachas of 1970s Bollywood, or mad about ruining west. Be it Imams, scientists, young techies, poor people, rich people, men, women, kids, Hizbullah, army generals, Isis wannabes- all are reduced to their religion. There are hardly any human complexities written for Muslim characters. If they are good- it is because they follow their religion like good people. If they are bad, it is because they are following the wrong version. Hello, don’t people have life other than religion? Like white people do in the show? White people get to have all cool psychological traumas, affairs, lusts, ambitions, grey zones..and Muslims are there only because they are Muslims. Considering the fact that the show spends so much time on conflict with Muslim world- couldn’t they come up with one memorable character with interesting shades? ( And no, Abu Nazir wasn’t that- he was just played by an excellent actor, that’s all). The death of token angelic Muslim character is given 30 secs in this season- 20 of which are spent worrying about his ( white) Human rights activist. Isn’t his death supposed to say something about the man himself? Nope. He has served his function of good Muslim and now his death can only serve as the next cliff-hanger. This is not just racist and morally wrong the way Homeland ploughs through its ideological errors. But it is absolutely lazy. And it just goes on to show that smart people who create brilliant characters and write some of the best thrilling narratives are just not bothered about the major elephant in the room because they don’t care.
4. There are no super charming Middle eastern villains in this season- the honour goes to a blonde American woman this time ( she is lured by Russians you see. So you can rest easy lest America is dishonoured). There are no massively overarching characters driving the central plot as well. Quin is lame here, although he manages to look good even after being in a Sarin gas chamber. Otto – played by the ever brilliant Koch is ineffectively positioned as ‘ could he be behind all this sinister plot?’ suspicion since he is cute and rich and eminently suitable to play the modern James Mason. Saul Berenson has slimmed down and other than that there is no change in his character.
Well there it is. My belated analysis of Homeland- a show I love with shame!