Homeland “Separation Anxiety” Review (Season 5 Premiere)

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In the season premiere of “Homeland,” the show essentially did a reboot, picking up several years later after the last episode, with most everyone in drastically different places, some for the better, and some for the worse, in “Separation Anxiety.”

We begin with the better, namely Carrie (Claire Danes), who we see in church (!), and then later on, bonding with her child Franny and at her normally straight-laced job working as the Head of Security at the Düring Foundation. On the surface, it would appear that she has taken her sister’s advice and moved on with her life, turning her back on the stresses of her former job at the CIA for a comparatively more docile existence in Berlin, with new boyfriend Jonas Happich (Alexander Frehling, “Inglourious Basterds”), a co-worker, and focusing on her daughter and giving her a better life.

Naturally, this being “Homeland,” that happiness is short-lived before the madness begins to seep back into her life in what seems, at first, a completely unrelated incident. We see a bearded man (Atheer Adel, “Karbala”) enter a strip club, and go to the back, where cam girls are all about, then into yet another room, this one a control room where all the videos are monitored and sent out over the internet.

There, he presents to a co-worker a joke video he’s put together to post online, poking fun at various Middle Eastern leaders, showing comic-strip style thought bubbles proclaiming the sorts of things they would never say, comments of a sexual nature and the like. The plan is to post the video online anonymously and sit back and watch the sh*t-storm that will no doubt result from afar, without incriminating themselves, by using a fake account with a faux password and the like. It’s kind of a more comedic variation on the infamous “Innocence of Muslims” video, with a dash of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.

However, while doing so, they notice a hacker up to something at roughly the same time, and eventually realize that the hacker is attempting to download files illegally from the CIA. Needless to say, so do the CIA, who shut down immediately, but not before the hacker is able to secure copies of over 1,000 files, some of which incriminate the CIA as helping the Germans spy on people illegally in a secret op, which would be extremely controversial if word got out publically.

To that end, the hacker anonymously sends a copy of the incriminating files to Laura Sutton (Sarah Sokolovic, “Cold Comes the Night”), who wants to publish them immediately. She approaches Carrie, wanting to know if she knows anything about it, but Carrie wants nothing to do with it, having left that life behind. This only makes Sutton want to go ahead and publish, which a conversation later on with Jonas does nothing to diminish. When we last see her, it would appear she has done just that.

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Meanwhile, while all this is happening, the CIA is in full-on damage control mode, with Saul (Mandy Patinkin) working overtime to reassure the Germans that the matter can be contained and that the program can continue. However, a meeting with the Germans results in their announcing that the program is effectively over. This worries Saul immensely, as they were close to identifying potential jihadist threats in Germany.

Saul being Saul, he continues with the program anyway on the down low, assigning Quinn (Rupert Friend) to check out a potential threat, who he later breaks into the apartment of, and sure enough, finds bomb-making equipment stashed away there. The man in question comes home while Quinn is there, and he knocks him out, rigs up an ad-hoc bomb on the fly, then sets it and leaves, as the bomb goes off behind him, blowing out a window and startling passers-by. Then he meets with Saul on the sly and gets info on his next target.

We also discover that Carrie’s employer, Otto Düring (Sebastian Koch, “A Good Day to Die Hard”), has met with an ambassador to Lebanon, and wants to go there personally in three days to contribute money to help some refugees there. Carrie advises against it, but agrees to see what she can do to ensure safe passage to Düring and his team. She meets with the CIA Chief Alison Carr (Miranda Otto, “The Lord of the Rings” movies) to gather some intel, but is refused, even though Carr has some questions of her own about Düring, which Carrie also refuses to discuss in turn.

Carrie then goes to a mosque to meet with Sheik Hafiz (Samir Fuchs, also of “Karbala”), seeking a meeting with a Hezbollah leader, in hopes of securing safe passage for her team in Lebanon. Hafiz is upset by her request, but reaches out anyway, and Carrie is later abducted by his people and brought to meet with the man in question, Al Amin (George Georgiou, “The Honorable Woman”). He knows exactly who Carrie is, and blames her for losing some of his men during the whole Abu Nazir situation, including his son.

Carrie explains that she’s no longer CIA and simply wants to aid refugees in Lebanon and do good there, but Amin is not convinced. He eventually has his men grab her up and dump her roughly outside her place in the street, which her boyfriend sees and is horrified by. Despite this treatment, Carrie later receives a call announcing that Düring and his team will be welcomed as a guest after all. And so it begins.

As to be expected, this was practically all set-up for the season to come, so it’s way too soon to say how effective this season will be. Of course, the final season involving Brody was pretty hit-or-miss, but last season, with the Brody affair behind them, the show managed to successfully reinvent itself and get back on track with an exciting season all around. Will this new storyline continue the trend, or is this going to be one of those shows where every other season is just okay? Hard to say.

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On the one hand, the whole political satire video thing is kind of old hat for a show that typically seems on the ball with where we are politically in the world in any given season, but on the other, that was seemingly only a minor plot point that served as an entry into a much bigger plotline that will serve as the driving force moving forward into the season, the whole US-working-with-the-Germans-to-spy-on-people thing, so there’s that.

While it was nice seeing Carrie in a good place for once, however briefly, it’s clear that things are going to get worse before they get better. In the preview for the upcoming season, we see that problems arise from both the US-and-German thing and the trip to Lebanon alike, though it’s hard to say where all this is headed overall. As loyal viewers know by now, there’s almost always a twist lurking somewhere at some point, and its way too early to say just what that might be. However, what is clear is that Carrie is going to be dragged into it, like it or not. Of course, if she wasn’t, we wouldn’t have a show, so there you go.

That said, I am a firm believer in a show quitting while it’s ahead, so we’ll see how this season goes before I declare they should or shouldn’t do so. After all, I would have said that about Season 3, but then Season 4 proved to be one of the best they’ve ever done, so I don’t want to jump the gun again. While the main plotlines as they exist are a bit on the “meh” side for me personally, it’s only the first episode, so things could definitely improve. Here’s hoping, at least.

What did you think of the “Homeland” premiere? Did you find the main plotlines more interesting than I did? Which piqued your interest more, the one about the CIA being in bed with the Germans on the sly or the one with Carrie and the Lebanon op? Yes, there’s obviously a connection, but which did you find more compelling?

Did you enjoy seeing Carrie living a normal life for once, even if you knew it wasn’t going to last? Or do you prefer Carrie being more unhinged? Were you sad to see that things were bad between her and Saul? What direction do you see things going in this season? Any predictions? Sound off down below and I’ll be back with more later in the season!