When people used to ask me if I think they should start watching Homeland, I would say “yes… but only the first season”. Back when it first hit our TV screens in 2011, Homeland felt like a breath of fresh air, a pulse-pounding thriller that hooked you in and refused to let you go. It was one that approached a topical subject from a new angle, toying with its audience’s preconceptions of protagonists and antagonists, gradually building to a finale that audaciously refused to bow to convention and tie up all of its loose ends.
The problem, as many realised no more than 4 episodes in to the second season, is that the writers clearly didn’t know where to take the story next. Despite the odd moment of brilliance, much of Homeland’s second and third season felt decidedly lacklustre in comparison to the first. The story quickly started to stagnate, Claire Danes cried so often her wobbly chin began to feel like a caricature, and Damien Lewis was soon consigned to nothing more then a bit-part in his own show. Before long, we began to realise we didn’t care about Homeland anymore. When the story did finally reach its conclusion at the end of the third season, the writers clearly hoped we’d be shocked by the twists. But we weren’t, we were just relieved it was over.
Normally that would be the end of the story, but if Dexter and Californication have taught us anything, it’s that US network Showtime are never willing to let a lack of creative integrity cause a decent ratings puller to be wasted. So now Homeland is back, with a new season and (mercifully) a new story. And do you know what, despite everything I’ve just said, I’m actually rather excited about it.
Of course repercussions are still being felt following the close of the Brody storyline, namely his child whom Carrie has now given birth to, but the rest has been dispensed with (goodbye flaky Brody wife, frustrating Brody daughter, and virtually non-existent Brody son), allowing Homeland to finally move forward.
This time around, it is the controversial use of fighter drones that’s the hot topic (although lets hope that’s where the similarities with 24’s latest revival end), as Carrie finds herself in hot water after an attack she initiated yields unwanted results. To add to the misery, Carrie’s partner Quinn (Rupert Friend) appears to be psychologically unravelling, and her mentor Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is now struggling to adapt to his new job in the private sector.
What’s immediately clear from the new promo is the shift in tone, with the faux melodrama that plagued much of the last two seasons replaced with a gnawing tension. Political conspiracies are once more being compounded with topical ideas, causing the lines between good and bad to blur once more.
The latest trailer released by Channel 4 hints at a brave new world for Homeland, one with possibilities and hopefully a bright future. Just like the show itself, it looks as if my recommendation of only watching the first season is finally about to change
Homeland Season 4 begins on Oct. 12th on Channel 4.