Homeland could be called a one-trick pony. The first season’s exquisite plotting gave way to 24-style action and rehashed clichés (see Dana’s teenage angst). Yet I stuck with it, because its premise is compelling.
Warning: Spoilers follow!
While Homeland heralded the arrival of small screen female leads, there were times in seasons two and three when Carrie (Claire Danes) became too much of a caricatured ‘woman on the verge’ rather than a complex character, and after some stellar turns (The Fall, The Honourable Woman), Homeland feels less revolutionary. It is therefore refreshing to move away from the ‘Claire Danes cry face’ and welcome in the new and improved Carrie.
Season four marks Homeland’s reinvention, beginning with this episode, “The Drone Queen”. First thing to notice is the lack of stylised opening titles (no more upside-down Obama), which ushers in a more approachable Homeland. Carrie is now station chief in Kabul and the episode opens with her ordering an air strike on a Pakistani farmhouse. The operation proves less clear-cut than anticipated, killing over forty civilian wedding guests. Season four Carrie is trying “not to get too worked up about it” and “to see the big picture through the mission”. She is shockingly blasé: “worst case scenario it was a wedding, obviously not ideal”.
Yet beneath her ‘Drone Queen’ exterior, we have the Carrie we know so well: washing down her pills with wine and drinking in a bar. I’ve always liked how the series includes shots of her doing everyday things, (brushing her teeth, painting her toenails), and this episode was no different, though watching her putting in a retainer was definitely a new one.
With Carrie’s focus on the “mission”, it is left to Quinn to provide a moral conscience and to Saul to criticise U.S. intervention in Afghanistan as “a one year war waged fourteen times”.
The season looks set to continue questioning the CIA’s morality. I enjoyed the Carrie/Quinn dynamic and I thought the mob’s attack on Sandy had a brutality that even managed to unnerve Carrie. But if the final scene of her applying lipstick is anything to go by, then her newfound armour is not coming off anytime soon.
For the rest of the season I’m hoping to find out if Sandy survived; to see more of Lockhart; if Quinn’s Jason Bournesque plotline will evolve into something interesting; whether Virgil will return to provide some much-needed humour; and will Carrie will become more likeable? What set her apart was her emotional empathy. Is she now morphing into Estes and Lockhart?