So far, so relevant. But no TV show can begin to match the reality of real-life politics, and Homeland‘s characters, while not always motivated by the right things, can at least agree on the basic facts. And two episodes into the new season, the fact that the president-elect is a woman is a non-issue. President-Elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) is wily, blunt, and wary of the CIA, which takes precedent over the fact of her gender. She takes a meeting with Dar, the head of the CIA, and Saul, who leads the organization’s European division, that leaves them both worried about their ability to advise and influence the incoming president on security matters. Meeting privately afterwards, Dar floats his theory to Saul: That Keane intends to hold the intelligence community “accountable” for the death of her son, who died in Iraq at age 28. “I think she despises us, Saul,” Dar says. “I think she blames us for her boy.”
Saul and Dar hear something else in Keane’s promises to shake up America’s foreign policy: Carrie Mathison. The new season taps into Carrie’s growing disenchantment with her work in the CIA, and her commitment to her relatively humble new job — “small potatoes,” in the words of philanthropist Otto Düring (Sebastian Koch) — seems proof of her insistence at the end of Season 5 that she’s not the same person she used to be. Confronting an FBI agent after a press conference about Sekou, she says, “What if he’s just honestly opposed to U.S. foreign policy in Muslim countries, like I am more and more?” And yet Saul, who knows Carrie better than anyone, and who was unable to persuade her to join him back at the CIA last season, has reason to suspect she’s secretly advising the president-elect.
After two episodes, the season’s political and emotional arcs appear not unrelated. In terms of the former, the season turns the discussion about terrorism and U.S. foreign policy inward, focusing less on the threat of a foreign attack on U.S. soil than the question of how best to keep the country safe while protecting citizens’ rights. Does a hawkish approach only breed more disaffection and violence? What happens when the duty to preempt an attack infringes on individual freedoms?
Carrie’s dedication to Quinn poses a similar problem. Carrie feels responsible for Quinn — not just because he has no family, but because she is partly to blame for his condition, since she and Saul went against doctors’ orders to wake him up from a coma in order to get information about a potential attack in the Season 5 finale. And yet Carrie’s very presence sends Quinn into self-destructive spirals, even after she takes him home from the hospital and installs him in her basement apartment.
But the move to Carrie’s home only seems to make him worse, at least in the short term. He refuses to shower, and hoards cans of food in his basement suite. He ignores Carrie’s pleas to take his medication, preferring to listen to a raving radio host ranting about the “mainstream hivemind.” His condition feels like a statement about the growing problem of radicalization not only abroad, but right here at home.
Homeland Season 6 premieres Sunday, Jan. 15 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.