Season 7 of Showtime's Homeland: The president must be stopped
The seventh season of Showtime's Homeland series had to reinvent itself after Donald Trump was elected president, which makes the escapist CIA world they created even more bizarre.
The series has always had a problem reconciling the decidedly liberal political beliefs of its main characters with the very unliberal machinations of the CIA. This tension has always been one of the selling points of the show – especially in the early years when the series's hero, Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), held by al-Qaeda as a prisoner for years, turned out to be a sleeper agents sent by the terrorists, until he wasn't. The complex relationship between bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Brody – and Brody's subsequent heroism in Iran – was fascinating to watch.
Since then, the series has had a lot less success in remaining coherent. Nevertheless, as escapist entertainment, it is extremely well done, with fine acting, good writing, and interesting plots.
Last season, the show featured a very liberal female president who was reluctant to believe the CIA assessment of the Iranian nuclear program. As it turns out, her suspicions were well founded. A rogue faction of the CIA working with a rogue faction of Mossad tried to cook the books on Iranian intelligence in order to get the Hillary stand-in to attack Iran. The plan failed because Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), who supported the idea of bombing Iran, kept digging to unmask the conspiracy.
But the election of Trump presented a dilemma for the show. To solve the problem of turning a liberal president into a tyrant, the writers ended the season last year with an assassination attempt that drove her semi-mad.
The upcoming season of the espionage thriller has a rogue Mathison trying to take down criminals in the government under the tyrannical administration of President Keene (Elizabeth Marvel), who has arrested 200 members of the intelligence community after barely surviving an assassination plot in the season 6 finale.
Also targeting Keene: The show's Alex Jones-like conspiracy character Brett O'Keefe (Jake Weber) who was first introduced last season. "The founding fathers foresaw the dark day when we would face a president like her," warns O'Keefe as he aims a pistol at a poster of the president's face. "Anyone who takes a stand for what they believe, people are gonna say they're crazy. They've been calling me that for years."
Meanwhile, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) is getting close to Keene as a new member of her administration, while Keene herself is apparently under investigation for her actions ("How is that they tried to assassinate me and I'm the one under investigation?" she asks).
If you're looking to figure out what Homeland might be trying to say about our current administration … well, it's trickier than it looks. The show banked on Hillary Clinton winning in 2016 while making season 6, then recalibrated a bit midway through after Donald Trump won. Keene was originally presented as a liberal and sympathetic figure until the season's climactic assassination attempt, after which she went on an authoritarian warpath, which is where this alternate D.C. universe finds itself now.
As I said – incoherent. The show just can't get there from here, and the confusion of the audience many finally do the show in.
The season 7 premiere is on February 11.