On Sunday, Homeland returns to Carrie Mathison’s homeland. The first two episodes made available for review find Claire Danes’s Carrie working out of Brooklyn, still for billionaire philanthropist and too-many-shirt-buttons-unfastened pretty-boy Otto During (Sebastian Koch). The sixth season is set during a postelection period that may have sent the show’s writers scrambling into rewrite mode when Donald Trump won the presidency in our universe. In Homeland-world, the new president-elect is a woman — played by House of Cards’ Elizabeth Marvel. She talks tough and comes on like a maverick. One character says, “Her ideas are naive and dangerous.” In other words, a little Trump dog-whistling is being done for the Homeland faithful.
Our attention is drawn most prominently to a Muslim youth, Sekou Bah (J. Mallory McCree), who may or may not be a homegrown terrorist threat. Clearly, Homeland wants to test its audience’s potential stereotypes regarding American Muslims, using those feelings to create doubt, confusion, guilt, and suspense — in its viewers and in the minds of its protagonists.
The other area of exploration is the continued survival of Rupert Friend’s Quinn, who has come close to death roughly a half-dozen times over the course of this series, and defied the odds from the final moments of last season in a manner that now beggars belief. Yet here he is, shaken but in a rehabilitation center, and I’ll say no more about that, lest I spoil Carrie’s most fraught relationship…
…after Saul Berenson, of course. Mandy Patinkin and His Amazing Bristly Beard are back, as is F. Murray Abraham’s devilish Dar Adal. Together, they plot to lure Carrie back into their web of intrigue. The opening episodes do a notably smooth job of bringing Carrie and her mentor Saul together in a couple of scenes that elicit the best in Danes and Patinkin. Some viewers pine for a Carrie-Quinn closeness; I remain most fond of the mentee-mentor relationship shared by Carrie and Saul. Carrie, for her part, comes across in these early scenes as firmly in control. Come to think of it, I could be wrong, but I don’t think Carrie downs any medication to smooth out her jangling nerves, a condition I always suspected was really caused by her unaccountable fondness for Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis anyway.
The first two episodes set up enough surprises and double-crosses to suggest a promising new season. And they’d better be solid, because Homeland has already been renewed for its seventh and eighth seasons. The premiere episode is already available to Showtime subscribers streaming, app, or on demand.
Homeland Season 6 premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime.