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Sam Ring - 22 Jan 2017
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Another year goes by and another series of Homeland rolls out, to somewhat astonishingly for a series that entered production almost nine months ago, eerily echo the events that are taking major focus in the day to dya lives of ordinary people across the political spectrum. We have seen the cost counting and new strategy of the War on Terror in the post-Bin Laden world in it's earlier seasons, witnessed the drawbacks of Drone warfare and foreign policy failings in the Middle East in season four, and last season's focus switching to Germany showcasing the height of ISIL's influence, Russian espionage, Hacktivism, and the threat of home grown terrorism, proved tragically accurate, and so the big question I found myself asking was what direction would the series take next, and would it struggle to remain as shockingly relevant to modern political events as it has done in the last five excellent years?

The new series see's now former CIA analyst Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), returning home and settling in to her new job at a charitable foundation In New York City, who's main focus seems to be on aiding refugee's and anyone who runs a foul of the government. It's the new setting which provides the context for what the big challenges and events the show is going to be shadowing this season which standout. The return home is not accidental and is befitting of the series title once more, Homeland has indeed returned home to take on the biggest issue currently facing the American government and public in our own time, a President Elect waiting for their inauguration.Ok this is no longer completely accurate in our own current time, as Mr Trump has indeed now been sworn in, and taken up residence inside the Whitehouse. Homeland's timeline however, and this is something which is really very impressive in terms of creating storylines, has had it's election and predicted the outcome, and gone with the depiction of  female President elect. Now before anyone starts politically posturizing this point, wait, and listen, for  as Carrie's former colleague Saul (Mandy Patkin) discovers this is no Hilary Clinton esq caricature, nor a blustering Trump like figure, but instead a very different and interesting beast. The writers must be applauded for either doing their homework and paying very close attention to what has been said throughout the election campaign and it's immediate aftermath when crafting re-writes, or they really need to disclose which courses in clairvoyance they have been taking, because although they may have been wrong about the gender, they were eerily spot on in creating a president-elect with a very public disapproval and desire to re-structure America's intelligence services, in particular, the CIA.

This is where similarities between Homeland's President Elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel of House of Cards fame) and the real world presidency candidates end for now, as Keane appears to be an out and out liberal who believes the agency needs to pay the price for its past mistakes and misdeeds, although some shade is thrown on her motivations when it is revealed her son was killed in action, potentially as a consequence of CIA action or in-action. That being said it provides a very gripping storyline quite early on in the season, and the potential direction it may take is fascinating when coupled with current events that are transpiring in DC. Aside from it's presidency plot points the series is also laying strong ground with the plight of Sekou, a young American Muslim of Nigerian heritage pushing the FBI's sensitivity on free speech a little too far, and being arrested for allegedly intending to help fund, and cultivate terrorism. Whilst the aforementioned Sekou's arrest does smell fishy, you can also find legitimacy with the FBI's logic for now, as our own introduction to Sekou leaves us with some very insightful yet ambiguously ended moments delving into his character. Anyone who goes around making videos talking inspirationally about the actions of would be Jihadist's around a city is bound to start pissing people off after a while, and Sekou's unapologetic nature when coupled with his own strict devotion to his faith, and disapproving attitude towards his mother and sister for not following it to the same extent he does further turns an audience away from feeling too much sympathy towards him.

However,critically it is more then apparent that Sekou is very much out of his depth, and lacks both the proper knowledge and the resources to get himself safely out fo the very dangerous situation he now finds himself in. This I hope will become the image of Sekou that will stick as the season progresses, a frightened kid who has seen his actions be taken as the ultimate extreme, and now too the ultimate extreme by a powerful government agency he has no hope of fighting by himself. Depending on how culpable the FBI prove to be in Sekou's arrest, may dictate how his character will evolve further in the course of the season and beyond, in the positive or negative, but for now we will just have to wait patiently as Carrie does what she does best and hopefully digs him out of the great big hole he is now in. It will be interesting to see if she finds herself having more luck helping her close friend and former colleague Peter Quinn (the ever excellent Rupert Friend). Quinn is not in the best of ways, and for a character who it seemed very unlikely might ever appear again on screen in the series,it is both suprising and not to see him this way. It feels like this will be another majorly relevant storyline of the season, with the badly damaged former Black Ops specialist now more vulnerable and compromised then we have ever seen him before. His depiction cannot help but inspire comparison with the effects battlefield injuries have in the long term on the mental state of Veterans of former conflicts, as we see Quinn looking and acting, disheveled, disillusioned, and disinterested with trying to make anymore progress to clawing back any sense of normality in his life in favour of hitting up crack dens and loosing himself in a different kind of trance to the ones his seizures normally inflict. With so much fanfare always made both across the pond, and here in the UK with regards to how we take care of our soldiers after they are discharged from the military either through injury, or at the end of service, it is impossible to not grasp that there are very big and concerning issues behind why this is a very heavily touched upon subject, and really in Homeland we are just scraping the surface of what those issues might be, and without any clear indication of how long they may take to fix.

In conclusion I cannot reveal much more about this episode without going more into past seasons of Homeland which would be even more spoliery, so for those who have not yet indulged in watching the series, or may have stopped during the rather laborious at times Season Three, I urge you to either start watching, or go back to where you were to continue watching what has been for the last few years and still is, one of the most thought provoking and insightful television series looking at American foreign policy and counter-terrorism to ever air on network television.

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