Sunday, October 4, 2015

REVIEW: 'Homeland' - Carrie Enjoys a Relatively Peaceful Life in Berlin But That's All About to Change in 'Separation Anxiety'

Showtime's Homeland - Episode 5.01 "Separation Anxiety"

Almost two years after the Embassy attack in Islamabad, Carrie is building a new life in Berlin. But her peace is threatened when a request from her boss forces her towards the dangerous world she left behind.

Homeland starts its fifth season with a two year time jump. The emotional fallout of the last season is still very much apparent in the various character dynamics. But the time jump allows for all of these characters to get comfortable with their new lives. Carrie has actually left the CIA. That would seem like a radical idea to the Carrie of the first few seasons. But now, she has ample reasons to leave that life behind. She has obtained relative happiness in her two years in Berlin. She has a stable job as the head of security at a philanthropist's foundation, a new boyfriend and a healthy relationship with her daughter. This happiness isn't going to last long though. That's simply not what this show is about. But it is nice to know that she was able to make this clean break and be a better person for a little while. All of that is about to change. Her old life is starting to bleed into her new one. She is a different person now. But will she continue to make the same choices as before?

"Separation Anxiety" has a lot of new story to introduce as well as show where the various characters are right now emotionally and physically. Carrie, Quinn and Saul are really the only stable characters on the show at this point. They are the only ones that matter. That doesn't immediately feel like it will change this season. A handful of new people are introduced in this episode. None of them especially stand out but that's only because they are largely defined by their relationships with Carrie, Quinn and Saul. That's simply how the show does things at this point in its life. It struggles introducing new characters who are just as engaging and memorable as that core trio. Because of that, I don't inherently want the show to do an entire subplot focusing on new characters this season. That didn't really work last year even though that story had purpose to the main action. This episode only hints at the big stories that are to come this year. That is to be expected. The more compelling part is in seeing how things have changed for Carrie, Quinn and Saul.

Quinn has been carrying out special black ops missions in Syria for the past two years while Saul has become the head of European operations for the CIA. Dar Adal still feels like an important figure - and F. Murray Abraham has been promoted to series regular once again - but he's not seen that much in this first episode. Carrie was able to successfully get out of the CIA because of Saul's support. He respected that decision. And yet, there is still animosity between the two of them because he does not like the organization Carrie is now working for. He thinks she has become more stupid and naive in this civilian life. They only briefly engage but the sparks flew instantly. She may have fooled herself into thinking she's happy and stable in Berlin with this makeshift family and job. She may be trying to atone for her past actions. Saul believes she is making counterproductive decisions that go against who she truly is. Carrie is trying to be better but there's always this part of her that is calling her to go out into the action.

This premiere introduces a number of plot threads. Hopefully, they will start intersecting a bit more in future episodes. Carrie's boss, Otto Düring, wants to travel to Lebanon in order to bring resources to the major refugee camps there. It's a dangerous and precarious situation. The kind of thing Carrie was hoping to avoid at all costs in this new job. She is forced to make contact with her old CIA friends in order to better understand the situation on the ground. That doesn't work though. However, she is still very in tune with the reality of the world. She understands how this area must be managed and gets herself in a situation where she can argue for safe passage in the region. She still has that reckless quality to get the job done at all costs. It's just now she's working for one man instead of an organization and country. She's trying to do some good. She only takes this risk once she learns about the immense good Otto and his fellow organization of philanthropists can do for the region. She puts all of this together. But now, she has embraced her former life a little bit. Going home to Frannie isn't going to be the same. That has the potential to rock her world in a way that she didn't imagine when she first made contact with that terrorist.

Additionally, the US Embassy has been hacked by a couple of guys working out of a Berlin porn studio. That sequence is a bit ridiculous. And yet, it doesn't really matter. The documents have been obtained and the CIA has to deal with it. They don't know who was on the other side of that hack or what they will do with these documents that reveal Germany has been using the United States to spy on its citizens. It's a program Saul believes with a passion. Even after his German counterparts shuts it down, Saul keeps it alive by setting up an arrangement with Quinn. Every once in awhile, a picture with details will show up in a PO box and Quinn will take them out for the CIA. It's an unofficial operation. So things can only go horribly for them in the future. But both belief they are doing the right thing for the right reasons. This hack has the potential to hurt both countries in profound ways. That's something they will have to deal with. And yet, they also still have to fight terrorism and the extremists who haven't had to change their ways for centuries. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Separation Anxiety" was written by Chip Johannessen & Ted Mann and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter.
  • It appears Carrie most definitely has a type when it comes to men. Her new boyfriend is a ginger just like Brody. Let's just hope he doesn't have any terrorist aspirations.
  • The journalist working for the Düring Foundation already seems incredibly annoying. She publishes the story about surveillance even though everyone insists that maybe she should wait until she gets more of the story.
  • How long before Carrie and Quinn bump into each other in Berlin? And will any of their lingering sexual tension come into play? Or will that be completely done with?
  • Carrie still has a security clearance but neither Saul nor Berlin Station Chief Allison Carr can give her any classified information. Allison happens to be an old friend of Carrie's. That relationship will most certainly be exploited sometime this season.
  • Just like last season, Homeland gets a lot of value by actually shooting on location in Berlin.