When Homeland first arrived back in the fall of 2011, it did so on a tidal wave of hype that it rode all the way to the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. It was the new “it” show, the electrically charged drama of our time that everyone was watching, and everyone was talking about.
Then came the falling off. As with shows like Twin Peaks or Prison Break, Homeland arrived with a simple conceit that audiences immediately fell for. However, once that conceit wore off, the audience soon followed.
While Homeland didn’t suffer in the same ways as the shows mentioned above once its cat and mouse game between an unstable CIA agent (Claire Danes) and a former POW turned terrorist (Damian Lewis) came to an end in its second season, neither was it able to regain the attention of the public in quite the same way that it had upon its arrival, which is really too bad.
After disregarding Brody and his entire subplot during an uneven third season, Homeland returned with a renewed punch in season 4. With a good chunk of the cast jettisoned, Homeland dropped the melodrama that surrounded the Brody clan and got back to what it did best: echoing the fears and anxieties of our time while weaving a captivating yarn that straddles the threshold between political thriller and espionage drama.
Since then it has had major plot points centered around the morality of drone strikes, the dangers of private interest groups infiltrating politics, and the election of a divisive president who has split the country along party lines. It has seen the rise of an increasingly dangerous Alex Jones-esque figure, and the rise of fake headlines and phony news stories rallying certain elements of the population to violence and bloodshed.
In essence, despite its lower profile, Homeland remains the most prescient show on television when it comes to analyzing the state of the world’s greatest superpower in these increasingly troubled and polarizing times. We live in a society that feels incredibly unstable, often vibrating on the very edges of rebellion and civil war. Homeland capitalizes on the anxiety of such a fearful time and translates it into riveting drama which saddles itself upon the brittle cusp of the problems that face not just America but the world at large.
When news was coming out last year of the troll farms sowing discord and division in the realms of social media, Homeland was on it. When online moguls were pumping up their viewers with tales of the deep state and the erosion of American values, Homeland covered it. And as the world grows increasingly troubled with a president it simply doesn’t trust, Homeland is still covering it.
In fact the finger of Homeland‘s showrunner, Alex Gansa, remains ever on the pulse of the fears and anxieties that trouble our times. In the post Parkland shooting era, Homeland aired an episode in which the FBI raided a family farm in the rural south only to be met with a barrage of armed resistance. The brutal scenes that followed echoed some of America’s biggest black eyes over the last few decades, including the tragedy at Ruby Ridge and the siege on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.
History is never really history. This pertains especially to recent history, and this is a concept that Gansa and co. understand all too well. From the Cold War rises the Persian Gulf. From the Persian Gulf rises 9/11. From 9/11 rises the War on Terror, and on and on it goes. It’s never really over, the conflicts simply change and the thick bog of increasingly difficult to parse morality grows murkier still.
The so-called “good fight” finds that moniker harder and harder to hold up to these days, and with the rise in global tensions and the increasing use of technology to wage warfare, both on battlefields and in the hearts and minds of citizens, the days of clear cut good guys and bad guys on the stage of world politics are fading fast into the rear view mirror.
Homeland continues to echo these sentiments in its politically charged seventh season, and as it heads into its final season next year, it remains one of the most prescient and relevant dramas on television. While it has never held the eyes and ears of the viewing public the way it did back in its early days, Homeland is still appointment viewing.