Homeland (Channel 4, Sundays, 9pm) is back and the new series opens with an intriguing scene. Carrie Mathison goes to Mass. The former CIA agent and the world’s least lucky woman is now living in Germany, working for a philanthropic foundation. She pays a visit to Lebanon and someone tries to kill her. Who? Frankly, it would be quicker to write a list of who doesn’t want to kill her. Carrie goes off her meds and gets drunk, does the maths and concludes that she’s killed so many people she’s got it coming to her.
“I need to see a priest, now!” she cries. We’ve all been there.
Season Five of Homeland is an improvement on Season Four, helped by a reboot and relocation. There’s something innately scary about the German modernist landscape. It inspires memories of the Stasi; strange clicks on the telephone line, etc.
As always, there is a moral question at the heart of the plot: at what point do the good guys do so many bad things that they become the bad guys?
The answer is unclear. We know Carrie is on the side of the righteous because, well, she’s our hero. Given all that we’ve been through with her, we ain’t gonna give up on her now. But with her own sense of self-belief crumbling, the stakes seem raised. No one ever says, “the Islamist terrorists might have a point”, but we are left asking: “Do quite so many people have to die to beat them?”
The sudden emergence of a Catholic theme doesn’t come as a surprise. Aside from being a good way for the character to articulate her guilt, it’s tempting to draw a parallel between some of the representations of Islam and those of Mother Church unveiled in this new series. They both look foreign – even Eastern. They both demand commitment to something beyond the nation state. They both make people do extraordinary things for reasons that sometimes defy logic.
Homeland is a show about the mysterious influence of faith in people’s lives. For better and worse.
This article first appeared in the Catholic Herald magazine (30/10/15)
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