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Major spoilers below for everyone who hasn't yet seen the Season 8 premiere of Showtime's Homeland. You have been warned.
Homeland fans endured a massive hiatus between Season 7 (which wrapped up in April 2018) and Season 8, which marks the Showtime drama's final installments. The last time we saw Claire Danes' Carrie Mathison, she was a fragile husk of her former self, having spent 7 months in medication-free captivity. As Season 8 kicks off, Carrie is unsurprisingly attempting to get reinstated back at the CIA, but an unforeseen hiccup stands in her way: Carrie was possibly compromised while in Yevgeny Gromov's custody.
The ramifications of such a reveal are widespread if proven to be true, not only for all government agencies showcased within Homeland, but also for Carrie herself. She is not a character who takes self-doubt lightly, especially in the face of her occupational pride. Speaking with CinemaBlend at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, Homeland executive producer and premiere director Lesli Linka Glatter talked about taking Claire Danes' beloved character to such a dark place.
You know, [Claire Danes] will go anywhere. She's bold, she is fearless, she will dive off the cliff. Dealing with someone who has a chunk of time that is gone out of their memory and trying to reclaim those memories, [it's a] very different and very interesting way to start that character off. That she wants to be back as an intelligence officer. She has made a commitment to mission again. And you know, her life has been about dedication to mission, but the fact that there are these big gaps is very disconcerting.
Homeland totally turned Carrie's world upside-down and back around in the season premiere. She was finally regaining ground both physically and mentally when David Hunt's Jim Turro clued her in on her questionable polygraph test, doing little to hide his suspicions that Carrie conspired with Yevgeny in some way, wittingly or otherwise. (The fact that he spread those suspicions to others was a low-blow by any stretch.) To be expected, Carrie was thrown, and with derisive anger taking center stage.
To make matters more complicated, Saul immediately found himself in a situation where only someone with Carrie's skills can make magic happen, so she got sent back into the field perhaps before she should have been, where she learned she may have given up the name of a confidant, Roshan, while a prisoner. And in speaking with EP Lesli Linka Glatter, I brought up how the field is everything for the character, because without the government and her career, Carrie is something of a ghost of herself. Here's how Glatter responded:
Exactly. What is Carrie? Nothing. Which is very taboo subject matter, you know? A woman who loves her child but is not a good mother. And she's given up everything to be back in the intelligence service, and the fact that she's not trusted. I mean, it's such a great full-circle to Brody. A Marine who comes home, but has he been turned? And here we are with Carrie, and it's impossible to think she would have been turned, but Russian interrogation techniques are notorious.
Perhaps unexpectedly, Homeland's creative team is calling back to the show's first seasons by drawing distinct parallels between Carrie's situation and the initial arc for Damien Lewis' Nicholas Brody, whose loyalty was questioned (for far too long before the show moved on). You just know that's bouncing around in Carrie's head as all this is going down, too.
During the Homeland panel at the TCA press tour, co-creator Alex Gansa talked about the Carrie and Brody connection being a major force of the final season, saying:
The really big idea of the season...is Carrie Mathison steps into Nicholas Brody's shoes. She's the one who's under suspicion. She's the one whose loyalties are questioned, not only by those in the intelligence community, but by Carrie Mathison herself, because her memory is so just fragmented from her time in captivity. So that's the first big part of the season. The second big part of the season is it the real resolution of the primal story of "Homeland," which is the relationship between a mentor and his protégé between Saul Berenson and Carrie Mathison, and that's really the architecture of the final season, and that's what you will see resolved by the end of the 12 episodes.
Claire Danes herself also talked during the TCA panel about the final season kicking Carrie's story off in such a Brody-centric place.
Yeah. I thought that was very elegant storytelling, right? There's that perfect symmetry. And I think just psychically it fuses Carrie with Brody in a way that felt right. And she is so clear about her patriotism. That is, she can be challenged in every way, but if her patriotism is questioned, I think that is probably the most profound insult she could imagine. So that's also that was also interesting to play and explore. So, yeah. It was a good entry point.
The main political story at the center of Season 8 brings familiar faces back into the Homeland fold – as well as some new ones – and there's a lot to pull apart on that level. But the show's longtime fans can take comfort in knowing the drama's focus will keep things as character-based as ever in closing things out for good.
Speaking to prioritizing Carrie and Saul's story during the final stretch, Lesli Linka Glatter told me this:
You've hit on the most important thing. Because, yes, we're dealing with kind of the big picture of the macro political, but if you don't have these strong characters and the interpersonal – if you don't have Carrie Mathison and Saul Berenson's point of view – you don't have anything. They are the ones that take us through the story; Carrie Mathison, what a layered, complicated character. I feel like working with both Claire and Mandy has made me a more fearless director; they were extraordinary. But yes, their point of view through this world is absolutely essential to the storytelling.
Carrie and Saul may go down as one of TV's most complicated and rewarding relationships, especially for a pair of characters that never exploited any romantic tensions. Let's just hope both of them survive the rest of the season and are able to find a semblance of happiness in doing so, which won't be easy if Carrie get pegged as some kind of traitor.