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While it wasn’t immediately obvious that Showtime’s Homeland would last very many seasons, Sunday night featured the Season 5 premiere, which is once again almost completely rebooting everything about the acclaimed drama except the characters. The biggest change involves the location, as the bulk of Carrie’s story will take place in Berlin, Germany, where the series actually filmed. Here’s co-creator and showrunner Alex Gansa explaining how this new location changes the show.
In Cape Town we had to manufacture Islamabad wherever we went. The camera could only point in one direction. It has made that part of the process so much easier. And it can't help but influence the tone of and feel of the series this season, which is quite different. With Carrie in Islamabad, every time she stepped out in the street, she was arguably in danger. Stepping out in Berlin is a completely different animal. It's a quieter, more internal story as a result. It's a spy story this year. It's much more about how a station works in a foreign capital that about the pyrotechnics of what we did last season.
Even though we’ve only gotten to see just one episode from Season 5 so far, the show definitely feels like a different monster than what Season 4 was like (which was itself in stark contrast to the Nicholas Brody years). And much of it absolutely has to do with the changes going on in the world immediately surrounding Carrie, and by extension Quinn and Saul.
Last season kicked off with explosions and people being dragged out of cars and killed in the street, and it centered on Carrie being in the middle of a hunt for a terrorist in Islamabad that saw her making all kinds of ethically challenging decisions. In comparison, Season 5 began with the non-explosive threat of a hacker who obtains some ridiculously sensitive government documents, and even though there’s a scene where Carrie gets “kidnapped,” the situation isn’t what it seems and she’s not quite in danger. Plus, she’s got a boyfriend that isn’t married and isn’t a P.O.W.
Because Homeland is a smart show that can get bogged down by its own storytelling, I’m interested in seeing the drama play out in a more subdued way that doesn’t involve people getting bombed all the time. And it sounds like the location is playing a large part in informing the surveillance-filled narrative. Here’s what else Gansa told THR.
Berlin is a real center in the surveillance refusenik community. Germany's privacy laws are among the strictest in the Western hemisphere. People like Laura Poitras, who made the film Citizen Four, Jacob Appelbaum, who's called the most dangerous man in cyberspace, and Sarah Harrison, the woman who ferried [Edward] Snowden through the Moscow airport, they all live in Berlin. And they live there for a reason. All of those elements conspired to make Germany, and specifically Berlin, come to the fore. It was just great to think that, really for the first time, we could shoot in the city where the story was taking place.
Of course, time will tell if Homeland Season 5 will indeed feel truly different from the previous seasons, and if Carrie and Saul can repair their broken friendship on either a professional or personal level. Find out when Homeland airs on Showtime on Sunday nights.