Carrie's back, folks! And not the crazy "OMG what's she doing?" Carrie of seasons past, but a more mature, centered, and self-assured Carrie.
As Carrie goes, so does the series. Homeland Season 6 Episode 1 has the bearing of a show that's all grown up, short on thrills and gimmicks, generous with nuanced character moments.
Picking up six months after events in Berlin, season six moves to New York City, where Carrie has established a nonprofit law practice dedicated to defending Muslim-Americans coming under the FBI's over-eager radar.
She is also caring for Peter Quinn, who is alive (surprise!) and stubbornly fighting rehab at a VA hospital. Dar and Saul are in town, briefing President-elect Elizabeth Keane on all things CIA.
Quinn, alas, is a hot mess. Fortunately, the show delivers the bad news with characteristic dark humor. When Carrie nags him to push through even when the going gets tough, Quinn interrupts, "Fucking moto shit! You're being like a dog!"
You get the sense this has been their go-to dance during his recovery. Classic Carrie/Quinn banter, with a tragic twist.
The visit ends when Quinn pins Carrie against a wall, trying to shut her up, and they have the following thick-with-meaning exchange:
Carrie: Let me go.
Quinn: Let ME go.
Now, nobody actually believes Carrie's going to let him go, right? (If you do, I've got a bridge to sell you). But it's our only hint that the old Quinn, the one that loves and tries to protect Carrie, is in there somewhere.
Knowing what we know of Quinn, though, it's easy to imagine how hard it is for him to have Carrie mothering him. He still has his pride, after all.
Later that day, Quinn escapes the hospital and spends his latest government check partying with hookers and drugs at a pretty-darn-shady establishment. These escapades give us the most poignant Peter Quinn scenes of the episode, as we discover just how far gone he really is.
Of course, Quinn has always had a penchant for self-destruction. Remember in Homeland Season 4 when Quinn drowned his guilt over Islamabad Station Chief Sandy Bachman's death with whiskey and sex? Well, it's the same exact story. On crack. Literally.
When he wrote in his goodbye letter to Carrie "I always felt there was something kind of pulling me back to darkness," he was not kidding.
Personally, I'm all for "damaged" Quinn, especially when it gives Carrie a chance to step up to the plate, put Quinn's needs ahead of her own, and finally take care of him like he's taken care of her.
I do enjoy a good role reversal, and a rational Carrie dealing with a crazy Quinn is quite a sight.
Sure, we miss badass-Quinn, but hobo-Quinn is kinda fun (for a while), and in an eight-season long series, even fan-faves can use a little shaking up (hats off to Rupert Friend for the poignant transformation of his character!).
And you know Quinn's going to get better. The show gave itself tons of leeway in this department. Is his current state due to brain damage? Is it the drugs? His avoidance of therapy? Overmedication?
My guess is it's whatever the writers need it to be to get Quinn on the path to recovery pronto. Let's face it, he's the show's action hero and the protagonist's love interest, he can't be hobbling about acting wacky for the remainder of the season.
Yes, the show wants to make a statement about the plight of veterans, but ultimately Quinn's purpose in the story is not as poster boy for traumatic brain injury or PTSD.
It may be his thematic purpose this season, but Homeland is not a theme-driven show, it's a character-driven show, and – thankfully for Quinn fans – the needs of the character arcs will always prevail.
Meanwhile Carrie, when not lording it over incompetent VA hospital staff, works with her partner Reda Hashem on the defense of a young Nigerian-American man, Sekou Bah, who's been posting anti-American videos online.
FBI Special Agent Ray Conlin has arrested Sekou, believing it's only a matter of time before Sekou turns violent.
It's unclear at this point in the season to what degree Sekou is (naively and recklessly, maybe) simply exercising his free speech to criticize American foreign policy or has actually been influenced by jihadi doctrine.
This is the "gray area" in the war on terror the season will deal with: when/how/to what degree is it justified to infringe on civil liberties in order to preempt acts of terror? It's an interesting question without clear-cut answers, just the type of ambivalent territory Homeland likes to explore.
I admit, I'm intrigued.
What if he's just honestly opposed to U.S. foreign policy in Muslim countries like I am more and more?Carrie
Carrie defending terrorist sympathizers? Yup. It's an extension of her redemption arc from last season. Remember, she's still carrying all that guilt from the civilian casualties she inflicted as "Drone Queen." This is her way of making things right... for now.
Ultimately, Carrie must find her way back to the CIA. With the president-elect pushing for a "demilitarized CIA" – one that won't clash with Carrie's (admittedly late-blooming) compunction around collateral damage – it's easy to see a way back to the Agency for her.
Last but not least, we catch up with our favorite duo: Saul and Dar. The look of shock the old-timers exchange when Keane – skeptical of the CIA's paramilitary operations in the Middle East – suggests pulling out of the region altogether is priceless.
After the briefing, Dar goes into full containment-mode, sending up flares to Israeli allies and having backroom meetings with assorted generals and congressmen. Meanwhile, Saul's acting chill and being all like "let's give her a chance."
It seems like the season will be serving up a good deal of conflict between Dar and Saul, promising some delicious grandpa banter.
- Carrie's back in kick-ass mode (she was seriously snooze-worthy in Berlin);
- the main cast is getting plenty of joint screen time (after being kept annoyingly apart last season);
- there's a path back to the CIA for Carrie (with a president-elect who shares her disillusion with U.S. foreign policy);
- and we have a solid bunch of new cast members.
Let's hope my enthusiasm endures!
What did you think? Share your comments below and watch Homeland online at TV Fanatic!