Critic’s Notebook: ‘Homeland’ Season 7: Once Again, It’s All Up to Carrie

Which brings us to Season 7, which opens in the aftermath of Peter Quinn’s heroic death. (Apologies for the spoiler if you haven’t watched Season 6, or been aware of the #NotOurHomeland fan campaign expressing outrage over his treatment.)

With Quinn gone, where will the show go to find the crazy? (“Crazy” here referring to a dramatic quantity, not to any person or character’s actual mental condition.) Will Carrie’s mania re-emerge as a primary driver of the plot?

Showtime made only the season premiere available for review, so we can only guess. But the early indications are that the show is going to try to have it both ways — to keep Carrie medicated, while putting her in a situation so dire that her behavior still unnerves those around her. (There will, however, be changes in how she obtains her drugs, and which ones she takes, according to this interview with Ms. Danes.)

This echoes her current conflicted situation. Having prevented the assassination of the winning presidential candidate Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) by right-wing radicals in Season 6, only to be blindsided when Keane trampled on civil rights by ordering mass arrests (including that of Saul), Carrie is now secretly working to expose Keane’s lies.

Fans will be happy that this involves the resurfacing of Carrie’s spycraft, and it’s a pleasure in the season premiere to watch her pulling her gear out of hiding, or duck into a hotel room and put on a disguise — it’s like she’s getting back into her own skin.

On the downside, it also means that she’s back to willfully endangering the people in her life, a trait that could be seen as a complexity of character but has always registered as an unpleasant distraction. Once again it’s up to Carrie’s sister, Maggie (Amy Hargreaves, in one of television’s more thankless roles), to angrily lecture her. “There’s a vast government conspiracy and you’re the only one who can bring it to light, I know,” Maggie says.

“I’m on my meds,” Carrie wails in response to her sister’s accusations. She’s doing what she’s doing — including putting her young niece at risk as part of her investigations — because the country is in free-fall, she says. And there’s a poignancy to her plea that accords with the current mood of much of that country, an inchoate sense that events you can’t control call for some sort of radical action.

The implicit promise of “Homeland,” of course, is that over the course of 12 weeks Carrie will indeed bring the vast government conspiracy to light, and restore justice and order to boot. It remains to be seen how crazy a task it will be.

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