You know those shows that have a season-ending cliffhanger that makes you scream to yourself, “HOW IN THE WORLD AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT FOUR MONTHS TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS?” Well, it’s been years since the season seven finale of “Homeland” and somewhere along the way, I stopped caring.
To refresh your memory, when we last saw Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes, “A Kid Like Jake”), she had spent six months undergoing intense interrogation in Russia without her meds to treat her bipolar disorder. When Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin, “Criminal Minds”) negotiated her release, she was unable to recognize her longtime boss. When the new season opens, we have already skipped through most of Carrie’s recovery process, yet the repercussions of her imprisonment will be felt for weeks to come.
Saul, who now serves as the National Security Advisor to the President, is in Qatar trying to negotiate a peace agreement with the Taliban that would get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. Once negotiations break down due to resentment from Abdul Qadir G’ulom, Afghanistan’s vice president, Saul rushes to grab Carrie from Germany, where she’s recovering, because she’s an “old friend” of G’ulom’s and, more importantly, Saul’s most accomplished agent. No one — except for Saul and Carrie — thinks it’s a good idea to put her back in the field. With this, the status quo of “Homeland” is forcefully reinstated.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the nerdy Max Piotrowski’s (Maury Sterling, “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce”) mission to replace a listening device by the Pakistan border presents nothing more than a convoluted storyline meant to add some gunfire to an episode relatively devoid of violence. A more optimistic outlook on the season opener’s B-plot is that it highlights the instability and danger taking place in the region. Regardless, the arc that is being set up for the season to come is whether or not the United States can see if real peace in the region is still on the table.
Unlike other long-running shows that fail to utilize the worlds they spent seasons building, “Homeland” brings us back to where we started: Nearly a decade after fans spent a season wrestling with whether or not al-Qaeda prisoner of war Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis, “Billions”) could be trusted, the same tactic is being used to create intrigue with Carrie. After spending seven months held in a Russian prison without her medicine, it’s very possible that Carrie could have given up vital information. Carrie herself isn’t even sure what she’s done — she can’t remember 180 out of the near-210 days spent in imprisonment. As Carrie waits for her meeting with G’ulom, she spots her Russian captor Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin, “The Americans”). Haunted with memories of her clinging to Yevgeny and begging him not to leave, we’re left wondering if a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome caused Carrie to betray her country.
Something feels very right about “Homeland” ending with a storyline about Carrie’s bipolar disorder possibly being used as an asset by foreign enemies. The series truly comes full circle — Carrie, who was uncertain if she could trust the man she fell for, ends up being unsure if she can even trust herself.