Ever since Damien Lewis's Nicholas Brody was killed off last season, I had predicted that Homeland was going to morph into another iteration of 24, and so I guess I feel some validation in having turned out to be 100% correct in that assumption. Obviously the best case scenario would have been for the show to find another emotional hook or be able to develop its characters in some more profound ways without Brody around, but it turned out not to be capable of that at all, and so the best way to enjoy Homeland now is to think of it as a low rent 24 without the ticking clock commercial breaks (although this season had moments when they could have easily inserted those breaks without missing a beat).
Carrie, still played by Claire Danes of course, started out this season wary of her new baby and distant from her home, wanting to be somewhat permanently stationed as far away as possible (in this case, Pakistan). While there she recruits her old fellow agents, including Max, Fara and Quinn, to track a major target they need to take out, who goes by the name of Hakani (this season's Big Bad). The episodes in Pakistan are well done and include some very exciting, pulse-pounding, action setpieces (the show still excels at that), as Carrie is poisoned and goes into a variation of "off her meds" Carrie, and Saul is kidnapped and held prisoner by Hakani and his guys for a good chunk of the season while Carrie and Quinn plot to get him back. There was also an interesting storyline where Carrie seduces a 19 year old Pakistani medical student in order to get to his uncle (Hakani), which she feels bad about later, but hey- if Carrie is Homeland's Jack Bauer than everyone she comes in contact with has to suffer, right?
But Carrie's not really Jack Bauer- if anyone fits that description it's actually Quinn (Rupert Friend), who's now second-billed and still a badass, when he's not sitting around moping about how much he hates his job and wants to leave the CIA. Whiny Quinn is really not my favorite Quinn, and he's so cool and in control when he's kicking bad guys around like the professional assassin he is, that I'd really prefer to see him like that at all times, if possible. It's not though, because this season confirmed what I'd been dreading last year, that Quinn is indeed in love with Carrie, and by season's end she finally reciprocates his feelings, only to see him go trotting off to Syria for a black ops mission at the order of the treacherous Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham). Lame. I'm not a big fan of the Carrie-Quinn pairing, but based on what happened here this year, it looks like they're pretty much "endgame," as shippers like to say. I don't hate the idea, I just really have no emotional investment in it, not to mention Quinn's coolness factor shoots down about 1000% just by being interested in Carrie at all- I mean, what is he, nuts?
Claire Danes still gives a full throated, energetic and dominant performance as the loon that is Carrie Mathison, and in many ways she IS the show, but the idea that a rational, fellow CIA agent would want to get involved with her romantically is beyond ludicrous. Other tidbits this year included Tracy Letts' former antagonist Lockhart becoming a team player and one of the gang (kind of silly, but 24-esque) an entire episode about a raid on the U.S. embassy (anyone remember when President Alison Taylor's White House was taken over?), and of course, a mole in the inner circle, working against us the whole time (do I really need to say it?). None of this is necessarily a bad thing, in fact it's all kind of fun- just deeply familiar. Even by the low key, non-action fueled season finale, Carrie's completely turned the corner on baby Frannie (she's now at least a committed mother, albeit with a harried schedule) and the show moves on to replace the late James Rebhorn with Carrie's own mother, who now suddenly wants to become part of her life after 15 years. Boy, isn't that convenient.
I like Homeland, and I'll certainly keep watching it, but it's no longer a show that requires any deep investment whatsoever. I'm here for the fun action-packed thrills now, because the character stuff is really no more, and frankly they ought to simply embrace the spy thriller as a whole and dump the rest of it, because when they try to delve into that stuff (as in the finale) it's now just a bit boring compared to all the action. I mean, come on, who really cares about Carrie's mom? On the plus side, no Brody means no Brody family anymore, which is an improvement beyond words, if you know how I felt about those people. Yes- no more Dana Brody! That's a good thing. And Homeland's good too, although it'll probably never be great again. Too bad, but hey- what are you gonna do?