Ben Watches Television : Homeland, Season 6 (2017)
* This review contains heavy spoilers *
It’s been some time since we’ve talked television. Last show I’ve watched an entire season of was Netflix’s Evil Genius in May and before that, it was The End of the F***ing World way back in January of this year. There’s a reason for that. I feel that television was thoroughly exciting from perhaps 2008 to 2014, but that it transformed a market for zombies right after. There are so many of them, it’s almost like a conspiracy meant to keep the people docile and doing nothing but watching the fucking tube. So, I try to do other things with my time.
But I am loyal to shows I started watching during that six years golden stretch, who are still going today. That’s why I finally got around to watch season six of Homeland and, as usual, the show was nerve racking, pertinent and filled with Peter Quinn’ feats of pure, unadulterated badassery.
Homeland, season 6 takes place in an alternate universe where a stand-in for Hilary Clinton named Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) won the U.S presidential election. She’s a gold star mom and somewhat of an outsider to bureaucracy and she takes an immediate dislike to our old buddies Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham). Dar being Dar, he starts mounting a false flag campaign to convince the president-elect that Iran is cheating on the nuclear deal in order to prove his value to her.
Of course, Saul and Carrie (Claire Danes) think it’s fucking stupid, but our protagonist is out of the game now. She’s taking care of her daughter now and working with immigrants being racially profiled. She gets dragged right into it, though when a client allegedly blows himself up in Manhattan. My boy Quinn (Rupert Friend) is just trying to get over his botched YouTube’d sarin gas execution until he gets dragged right into it himself by Carrie, who asked him, a fuckin’ traumatized covert ops vet, to babysit her daughter. Yeah, don’t ask.
Politics & Truth
What’s great about Homeland, season 6 is that is explores the many angles of disinformation, from the aforementioned false flag operations to smear campaigns on the internet. It is therefore about the notion of truth, which is a hot button issue since Donald Trump became president and started calling whoever disagreed with him a liar. A big problem with that debate is Trump himself who’s become a symbol to his voters. A never-ending fuck you to people looking down on them. Well, the great thing with fiction (and Homeland), is that it detrumpifies the issues.
By taking place in a world where the democrats won the election, you have to take disinformation in Homeland, season 6 at face value, no matter what source it comes from. The show’s worldview is notoriously paranoid and believe me, it didn’t get better with time. And in season 6, truth is whatever you can make people believe. If anything that runs contrary to your agenda happens you can just claim it didn’t and that whoever is reporting it is lying. If they have footage of it, say the footage’s been doctored by a political enemy. But you’ll tell me: “Ben, there’s facts. Facts are things that happened and they don’t change whether you agree with them or not.” Well, if Homeland, season 6 teaches us one thing, it’s that facts can (realistically) be tampered with.
Cynical, I know. But peep this.
There’s this character in season 6 named Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber), who’s a stand-in for Alex Jones. Not only he runs his crazy conspiracy show on the internet, but he operates a domestic propaganda machine out of his studio. At some point, he’s brought a film of the president-elect’s son Andrew’s last moment in the Irak war. Andrew is pictured running away from the person filming and towards and injured soldier in the film, but it’s reedited and shown to the world without the “saving a soldier” part. So, people see hard evidence of Andrew Keane’s last moments in Irak and believe they have the whole story. What they see undoubtedly happened, but it’s been tampered with. But the tampered version of the truth has more sway over people than the actual truth.
My ex-boss once told me: “perception is reality. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a good person. If everybody thinks you’re an asshole, then it’s what you are to the world.” It’s pretty much what Homeland, season 6 argues. By the end of the show, pressure has been mounting so ruthlessly on Elizabeth Keane that she becomes the monster her political opponents made her out to be. You’ll finish the finale with the strange, disturbing feeling that nothing will ever be accomplished in this world for as long as we don’t make peace with the idea that truth is not an objective reality.
Carrie & Peter’s last dance
It’s unfortunate that Carrie Mathison is one of the most annoying characters in the history of television. Because she’s a strong female lead and her existence alone could be making a statement, but it doesn’t. In season 6, she loses custody of Frannie after my boy Quinn (who was supposed to babysit her for 10 minutes, remember?) enters a standoff with the police and an angry mob of protesters where he awesomely kidnaps a SWAT member with half of his body working. Instead of being like: “Oh shit, I did put my child in harm’s way” like a normal person would, Carrie refuses to take responsibility for what she did and plays the card of Quinn-wanted-to-protect-her-from-the-angry-mob.
Fuckin’ hell, lady. Do you have any idea how crazy that makes you sound? To be honest, it comes down to bad writing because the showrunners were trying to get Carrie’s child out of the picture for convenience’s sake and milked it into this over-the-top dramatic subplit. Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon are strong writers in general, but they wrote Carrie into such a tight corner that there’s no way for her to make sense anymore. I mean, she’s struggled with bipolar disorder since season one but it’s not a passport for irrational thinking, especially that it hasn’t been a factor since like… the end of season two. She’s been taking her medication regularly for two, maybe three seasons without an incident.
Another part of her character I always thought was annoying was her instrumentation of Peter Quinn’s deadly assassin skills. The dude was quietly one of the most subtle and nuanced badasses ever written on television and Gansa & Gordon never really took advantage of that. He just waltzed in whenever death and destruction needed to be dealt. It’s been so bad in the past that I invented a drinking game about it that would’ve killed me before episode 10 of this year, had I adhered to it. It’s too late for that now, but would anybody be up for a Quinn spinoff series? I’m not a spinoff kind of guy myself, but it worked for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, so I think there is hope for the ethical, kind hearted assassin who hates himself but loves his country.
The world loves you Peter Quinn. Way more than your own creators do.
Anyway, on to season 7 we go….