If you’re still experiencing bad Brody flashbacks, you may feel tentative about dipping your toe back into Homeland territory, but with last night’s “Separation Anxiety,” the series proves it’s well worth your time. In fact, following up the Fear the Walking Dead finale with Homeland’s fifth season opener only emphasized the huge divide between Fear, and Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon’s well-written and acted spy drama. Fast-forwarding two years, we find a much more stable Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) living, and working as a security advisor to a private firm in Berlin, Germany, and raising her young daughter on her own. Having cut ties with the CIA — at least outwardly — doesn’t mean things have gotten any less hazardous though, and when her boss insists on making a trip to Lebanon, Carrie is plunged back into rather terrifying waters, but she remains calm and makes it through her first ordeal. And just because she’s got a new job doesn’t mean Carrie won’t cross paths with Saul or Quinn; in the first hour, she’s already rubbing the new Berlin Chief of Station (and Carrie’s former peer) Allison Carr, the wrong way. With timely connections to the Syrian refugee crisis, Edward Snowden, and Germany’s “spy scandal,” the season kickoff is already intriguing and, as it turns out, fairly accurate.
Here are five compelling reasons you should dive back into Homeland’s spy games.
The Black Ops Soldier Who Commands His Every Onscreen Second: Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn
In the opening of “Separation Anxiety,” Quinn quietly addresses a roomful of CIA superiors, taking questions about what he’s observed during his time on the ground in Syria. Those few moments, Friend’s command both of the room and the audience is masterful; it’s impossible to take their eyes off character or actor, and the scene is immediately immersive. It set the tone for the entire episode. Silently running missions for Saul, the two are passing ships in an explosive night. You’ll also be glad to hear that (for now, at least) Quinn and Carrie have both moved on from that strange attraction thing; Carrie has a new boyfriend, and Quinn has gone full dark.
The Realist (and Keeper of Hope): Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson:
After having been kidnapped and returned to U.S. custody, Saul is a changed man. He’s also not — as many had presumed — Director of the CIA, something Carrie may or may not have had something to do with, and for which he certainly seems to hold her responsible. Saul’s relationship with Carrie is now entirely adversarial, and this is uncomfortable territory for them, and viewers alike. That said, the Bear is unwavering in his commitment to the CIA, and Patinkin’s performance will keep you glued to the screen.
The Devil in a Newsboy Cap: F. Murray Abraham as Dar Adal
Saul and Dar may have discussed Quinn being unhinged, but the real loose cannon here is Dar Adal. It’s difficult to ever really feel certain about whose side the retired Black-Ops director is on at any given moment; right now he’s working as Saul’s apparent right-hand, but Adal is also always working on his own agenda — and pretty much no one ever knows what that is. F. Murray Abraham is intense, and delightfully wicked; watching him play spy games is a damned treat.
Newly Competent Mother: Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison
See that look on Carrie’s face? It’s something we’ve rarely seen from Claire Danes’ Homeland character, and it’s a welcome change of pace. Away from the CIA and through church she seems to have a newfound peace; with boyfriend (and co-worker) Jonas Happich (Alexander Fehling), stability. Of course, it’s not long until Carrie’s caught up in a mess that intersects with her past life (“You can take the girl out of the CIA…”), but Carrie handles the situation like a champ. Perhaps the realization she’s emotionally connected to, and responsible for someone has grounded her in a way she’s never been before. For once, you won’t be left with a feeling of dread over how someone so unstable can be put in such high-stress situations; Carrie is back to thinking on her feet, even when things get out of control. Now, the bigger question is whether Mathison is really out of the CIA, or if we’re in for one of those infamous Homeland twists…and that it’s even a possibility in the back of your mind is another part of what makes this show great.
Also of note: Miranda Otto as Allison Carr
Otto’s a welcome addition to Danes as the Berlin Station Chief, trying to track down a hacked leak of high level, classified CIA documents, following a trail that will undoubtedly lead to darker corners of the world.
Homeland airs on Showtime Sunday nights.