Attacks on civilian locations. Concerned CIA agents. Moody jazz. It’s clear within minutes of Season 4 starting that Homeland has gone back to basics. But things have changed.
Carrie (Claire Danes) is now station chief in Kabul, while Quinn (Rupert Friend) is in Islamabad. They both speak over video link regularly – but not as often as Carrie talks to Sandy (Corey Stoll – who seems to be appearing in almost every TV show going post-House of Cards), station chief in Pakistan. So when he tells her he has intel that one of their most-wanted targets, Haissan Haqqani, is in a warehouse, she takes action.
After three seasons of nervous deliberating and emotional dilemmas, this is a new, decisive Carrie; a woman who has earned the nickname “The Drone Queen”, who doesn’t need to call Saul every five minutes for reassurance or help. It’s telling that it’s a whole 27 minutes until our first Carrie Cry Face – perhaps a record.
Saul (Mandy Patinkin), meanwhile, is struggling to cope in the private sector. He still has his beard, but his work’s lost its balls.
It’s what the series needs after years of up-and-down quality: a fresh start that allows its best characters to grow beyond the first season’s original premise. Brody? Who needs Brody?
But, of course, things inevitably go wrong: this is Homeland, not Jackanory. It turns out that the warehouse Carrie bombed was home to a family wedding. Was the intel wrong? Can Sandy be trusted? What will the relatives and local citizens do? And, equally worrying, what will the media say?
“We’re bullet-proof on this one,” Carrie tells Quinn. But as Sandy goes off radar, it becomes obvious that isn’t the case. And so Homeland reveals its biggest change of all: now, the Americans are the bad guys. Gone are threats of external terrorist attacks or romantic liaisons. In their place? Murder, guilt and covering up.
“The kill list post-9/11 was seven,” remarks Quinn. “Now, it’s 2,000. You don’t even have to be a terrorist. You just have to look like one.” Show creator Alex Gansa’s scripts have always been good at examining the modern ethics and politics of homeland security – but veteran director Lesli Linka Glatter (who has also worked on The Walking Dead) shows it hasn’t lost of the programme’s other prize asset: nail-biting tension. As events descend into a grim chase through the streets, Episode 1’s message is clear: Homeland is back. And it’s hitting the ground running. Another 12 episodes? Yes please.
You can watch Homeland Season 4 online on 4oD – or download Homeland Season 4 with an iTunes Series Pass or on blinkbox.