Homeland: “Separation Anxiety” Season 5 Premiere Review

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Showtime’s CIA thriller started off its fifth season with what could’ve been the pilot for an entirely new show.

Homeland has had to deal with its fair share of plot restructuring before. During the Brody years, the show struggled to maintain his character’s importance while simultaneously moving forward in areas that didn’t concern him at all. This is where the show faltered, but season 4 arrived with a renewed sense of purpose as the story essentially rebooted itself in his absence.

The success of last season made me excited to see what would happen in this new Homeland, but for some reason the series has rebooted itself yet again. Homeland 3.0 is unlike anything we’ve ever seen on the show before—in fact, it could easily exist as an entirely separate entity. It was a lot to take in for a season premiere, and there’s still a lot that needs to be explained, but once again my interest is piqued. I may not know why the show decided to make such a drastic change, but I’m excited to see where things go.

Homeland 3.0 sees Carrie living a completely different life. She’s now working for a private security company in Germany. She has time to drop her daughter off at school and celebrate her birthday with her. She goes to church. Oh, and she has a hot new German beau named Jonas (Inglorious Basterds‘ Alexander Fehling).

Of course, this new life she’s made for herself is only seemingly perfect. Nothing is ever easy in the world of Carrie Mathison, and trouble is lurking right around the corner. Most of “Separation Anxiety” deals with her new task of securing safe passage for her billionaire boss to Lebanon so he can provide relief and financial support for refugees.

Carrie appears sharp as ever. There’s no talk at all of her condition, and she’s never seen downing her medication with a full glass of wine. Still, the show makes a great display of a new conflict that she’s being faced with: whose side is she on? Some of her colleagues at her new job feel she still aligns with the CIA, and the CIA—fronted in Germany by the lovely Miranda Otto—feels that she’s essentially left them for dead. Carrie is trying to maintain a good relationship with her past while still forging on into the future, but it’s proving to be far more difficult than she expected.

This is especially the case with Saul, who acts like he’s seen a ghost when he unexpectedly runs into her in Germany. One thing that the show has retained from its previous season is the rift that was caused when Carrie discovered Saul and Dar Adal had been dealing with Haqqani to benefit themselves. More has happened since we left them—Saul is now the Director of European Affairs at the CIA—and it’s clear that there’s some bad blood.

Still, there’s no way these two will stay apart for very long. The main plot of season 5 appears to deal with a hacker who is able to obtain classified CIA documents, including some which detail illegal spying on behalf of the German government. Something big is brewing, and it will likely tie the agency, Carrie, and this trip to Lebanon all together.

Meanwhile, Quinn is working for Saul covertly as a hired gun. He’s clearly moved on from Carrie, and is possibly unstable from the work he’s doing, but he too is forging ahead. This is the one part of the premiere that gave me pause, as the show has never done well with having an important character relegated to subplots. I’m not exactly sure how they’re going to bring Quinn into the main thread, but I hope the show is able to centralize itself instead of wasting its time on extraneous narratives.

There aren’t many action sequences in “Separation Anxiety,” save for a shocking kidnapping sequence in which Carrie is taken from the street to meet with a Hezbollah operative in order to gain safe passage to Lebanon. Here too, we get a scene in which she’s forced to state her allegiance, or lack thereof, to the CIA. The operative remembers her from the days of Abu Nazir, and is extremely antagonistic, but her message still gets passed along. Point one for Carrie.

In place of explosive set pieces—excluding the bomb that Quinn sets up—we get tense, hushed conversations between CIA executives and German government officials, official meetings at Langley headquarters, and kids birthday parties that lead to a dark path for Carrie to go down.

This might not sound as exciting as last year’s heart-stopping adventure, but veteran Homeland director Lesli Linka Glatter has a way of making even the most buttoned-up of moments sizzle with potential. There’s a whole new playing field now, and there’s no telling what could happen. I like what I’ve seen so far, and I can’t wait to see more. Grade: B+


By Mike Papirmeister

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