Homeland Season 6 Premiere Recap: Behold, A (Fictional) Lady President

Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.
Homeland officially returned tonight (January 15), and it seems to have survived 2016 better than most of us. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), the fiercely brave CIA operative who suffers from bipolar disorder, has finally retired from the field. Years removed from the night she once dreamt of drowning her baby girl, Carrie now instinctively puts the well-being of Franny first. With her meds under control, the woman who saved thousands of lives by keeping a train station bomb from detonating at the end of season 5 is now living a quiet life in Brooklyn. Free from the constant stresses of residing in high-threat international cities (and thankfully of that dreadful black wig disguise which fooled nobody), Carrie has since dedicated her intelligence to working as a legal aid defending American Muslims in New York City.

It’s important to note that the entire sixth season will take place during a brief, yet vital, timeframe — described in the premiere as the most difficult changeover of power the White House has ever seen. If this sounds eerily familiar, it’s just the start of the freakishly accurate similarities between the show’s fictional story lines and real life.

“Fair Game” takes place only a few months after season 5 ends, just as Madam Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) begins the transition from president-elect into her official post as commander in chief. Viewers feel all the strained awkwardness stemming from both sides as she sits down with the outgoing government officials to get up to speed. After what will likely be filled with much drama, frustrating misdirection and turmoil, the season is set to conclude on Inauguration Day, when Madame Keane is scheduled to take the oath as president.

More than a few viewers will become wistful at the presence of a strong woman standing in power, but Homeland’s current head of the CIA, Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) remains weary of his new boss. He suspects she’s making rash, emotionally charged decisions from the still lingering feelings of losing her son in the war. However, European Division Chief Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), who’s usually the dour, practical Debbie Downer when it comes to these tense political discussions, for some reason remains uncharacteristically optimistic in regards to Keane.

Unable to weigh in with an opinion at all is Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). After miraculously surviving everything he went through in S\season 5, and Carrie not following through on his dying wish for her to pull the plug, Quinn is now a hot heartbreaking mess of PTSD. And much to his chagrin, Carrie refuses to give up on his recovery. There is not one horrible thing the pitifully wrecked Quinn can say or do to make his fervently stubborn former partner-in-crime leave his side. But their relationship, due in part to Quinn’s heavily impaired mental and physical state, remains platonic.

With Otto During (Sebastian Koch), who was interested in pursuing much more than a working
relationship with Carrie, officially out of the picture, the focal point of the premiere is Sekou Bah
(J. Mallory McCree), a teenage video blogger who posts passionate pleas on the internet to
stop blanket racism against Muslims in America. The sweet-faced boy is aware
his actions could be misconstrued by American authorities as online terrorist propaganda, but
he remains diligent with his intention to re-educate post 9/11 citizens of the United States.

Sekou’s dedication to championing his right to free speech impresses Carrie, and their paths
quickly intersect after his site gains too much steam and he’s scooped by U.S. authorities for
suspicious activity. Is Sekou entirely innocent? We don’t know for sure. But watching Carrie
defend Sekou in his upcoming trial is a much more interesting story line than the will they,
won't they Quinn and Carrie romance. This show excels when it dives headfirst into
tackling the painfully relevant, always complex grey area of human rights issues,
counterterrorism efforts, and their far reaching domino effects.

Those missing the gasp-inducing, nail-biting sequences that Homeland usually fires out from
the gate, do not fret. They will come. Far from an active war zone, Carrie and company are now
living on U.S. soil, so the focus will naturally be more political. And this kind of slow burn will
likely lead to a much better payoff in the end.

Lastly, hallelujah that the ridiculously long opening credit sequence has been cut. This simple,
yet way overdue change provides even more hope that season 6 is off to a promising start.

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