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Corona Diaries: Homeland Time bites the dust

May 5, 2020

Since lockdown took over our lives we’ve taken to using a new measurement of time: how long it takes to get from one episode of Homeland to the next. Nominally it’s a week, yet despite the acres of unstructured time stretching in front of us, the next episode has always seemed imminent.

Homeland Time is faster than a normal week not because we’re desperate to see what disasters befall Carrie Mathison next Sunday, but because so much seems to be happening in between that we forget about her until she’s ready to go manic on us again. Time is really flying, in this household at least.

Now we have to find a new unit. Homeland is no more. Carrie’s chin has wobbled its last. At this point, on the advice of a friend who is planning to binge watch the entire series, I should issue a Spoiler Alert, although I’m revealing no details of the final episode.

In the final series, peace with the Taliban, brokered by Saul Berenson, Carrie’s grizzled CIA mentor, is about to break out. Carrie returns from the fray after a few months in the nuthouse recovering from her Russian imprisonment. Saul sends her to Kabul, where the local CIA boss gives her a less than enthusiastic reception because he thinks she’s now a Russian agent. Her Russian tormenter, GRU officer Yevgeny Gromov, turns up and sends her wobbly again.

The US president arrives in Afghanistan to sign the Taliban deal. His helicopter goes down, killing him and the Afghan president. All hell breaks loose, with Carrie, naturellement, in the middle of the chaos. Before you know it, the US is ready to go to war with Pakistan, which brandishes its nukes in response. Only Carrie can ward off World War Three by finding the flight recorder and proving that the president’s helicopter wasn’t shot down. She finds it, but Gromov steals it, and uses it to prise out the identity of a long-time US spy in the heart of the Kremlin.

I only joined Homeland in the series that ended with Damian Lewis swinging on a rope in Tehran. Since then I’ve been hooked. I know it’s not cool. I doubt if the Queen watches it, and probably not David Hockney. Some of the plot lines are a tad tenuous, and Carrie’s bipolar episodes take centre stage in every series except, interestingly, the last, which is better for the lack of them. You know a wobbly chin moment is coming way before it arrives.

And yet there’s a nobility in some of the characters, Carrie included, that keeps you watching for fear that they might fall off their perches. Which mostly they do. And there’s that magical moral ambiguity you so often find in the best spy stories. The goodies are flawed. The baddies are capable of redemption. Even Haqqani, the Taliban leader responsible for so many American deaths, with whom Saul negotiates the peace deal, acquires an almost Mandela-like aura before he too meets his maker.

Homeland also has the magical ability to build a parallel universe that reflects stuff going on in the real world at or around the time of transmission. In the final example, the Taliban deal came together just as Trump’s negotiators were wrapping up an agreement with the real McCoy.

Where Claire Danes and her fellow-producers fell down in the latter series was in not imagining that a jackass like Trump could be elected president. They do go some way down the road as the dead president’s weak successor falls under the influence of a jackass adviser. But they can be forgiven for not casting the main man as a raving nutcase. Scenes featuring a fictional president musing in public over the injection of disinfectants to treat a deadly virus would have been a scenario too far for the Homeland team.

Never mind. If you can cast the real world aside (would Carrie really be allowed out on bail after being accused of assassinating the president?) and if you can ride with the patriotic overtones that flow through the lifeblood of the show, Homeland has been compelling drama. It’s created a new market for domestic defibrillators and plucks the heartstrings every time a protagonist hits the dirt.

Has the show really come to an end? The the final episode left plenty of opportunities to build on for a new series. Perhaps China should come into the reckoning. Although it’s a bit late for her to save America from a pathogen cooked up in a lab, it shouldn’t be difficult to craft a juicy crisis in the South China Sea for Carrie to be pitched into.

Who knows? Since the pandemic has probably left Hollywood short of a dollar or two, perhaps it’ll be considering hoiking one of its most successful products out of retirement.

Whether or not we’ve seen the last of the redoubtable Ms Mathison, the end of the current series means that we’ll have to select a new unit of time. Nothing springs to mind, so I guess we’ll have to revert to boring old weeks and months.

PS: Incidentally, if you’re interested in autistic or bipolar characters in TV drama, you might want to look at a piece I wrote a while ago comparing Carrie with Saga Noren of The Bridge and Sherlock Holmes in Elementary. Also seek out the excellent Professor T, the eponymous hero in the current Walter Presents series.

  1. Andrew Robinson permalink

    That reminds me….there’s an episode of Killing Eve to watch on BBC IPlayer…didn’t read the article as the next series to be binge-watched alone is Homeland – no spoiler alert at the beginning but I couldn’t take the risk !

    Now towards the end of series 2 of the 4 series of Bank Heist on Netflix (Spanish epic).

    • Thanks Andrew. Yes, we’re on to Killing Eve. No spoiler alert because I was expecting that most people would be like us, hanging on for each new weekly episode. I’d better put one in. No spoiler for the ending though. Will check out Bank Heist, though at this time I’d rather see something about banks robbing people rather than the other way around… S

  2. deborah a moggio permalink

    ” I’d rather see something about banks robbing people rather than the other way around… ”
    Might I suggest any reasonably reliable newspaper?

    • Good point, though I wonder how many of them owe the banks a fortune…

      • deborah a moggio permalink

        well, if not the actual entity, at least the owners… but there has been some squawk aroused as a result of the banks “administering” the government bail-outs here and the billions of dollars they take off the top as they re-fund their buddies in BIG business, finding new and creative ways to call them “small”.

      • You’re right. Very strange, but in the context of DJT, not strange.

      • deborah a moggio permalink

        Referred to as “business as usual”, I think. In the olden days, it was just the same, just hidden better.
        Now, no shame, no guilt, no honor.

      • On both counts I think you’re right. Hence the fascination with the morally ambiguous CIA, MI6 etc.

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