Homeland season 8 first impression: Carrie Mathison steps into the shoes of Nicholas Brody

Manoj Kumar R

Homeland Season 8 is streaming on Hotstar. (Photo: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME)

The very first season of Homeland addressed a very important question – who is a patriot? When Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) returned home after eight years spent as a captive of al-Qaeda, everybody celebrated him as a true hero for enduring an enormous amount of torture both physically and mentally in trying to protect his country. But there was one who refused to blindly lap up the hugely popular and readymade opinion of Brody. Meet Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a top operative of the CIA, who doesn’t have a line that she won’t cross to keep her motherland safe from outside attacks.

Tipped off by her source about an American P.O.W who has succumbed to the methods of al-Qaeda and has changed sides, Carrie begins to pursue Brody relentlessly. Even when she is told to back off multiple times, she won’t stop. How cruel, indifferent, impolite and self-obsessed a person must be to suspect a war hero? To question his love for the country? And to accuse him of plotting with a foreign terrorist organisation against his own? She must be crazy.

The immunity that Brody received from his status as a P.O.W and the politeness with which he was handled surprisingly are not extended to Carrie Mathison in the eighth season of Homeland. Yes, Carrie is now suspected to be a Russian agent.

Patriotism has been a recurring theme of Homeland. We have seen ordinary people making extraordinary sacrifices for humanity. And political leaders colluding with foreign powers to finish their rivals and further their careers (life imitating art?). In the process, we have grown more patient to hear stories from diverse communities before jumping into conclusion. Even as we learn about Brody’s deception, we were also told about the ordeal that pushed him to become a different man. And that tells us that humans come with limitations. And everyone has a breaking point. What is the breaking point for Carrie? Or does she really have one?

The showrunners continue to push Carrie beyond the known limits of human endurance. She is in bad shape after suffering seven months of torture in a Russian prison in her attempt to prevent an espionage operation to overthrow a sitting president of the United States and create chaos in the previous season.

It makes us wonder why Carrie Mathison’s sacrifices and sufferings for her country are not appreciated in the manner it deserves. Maybe, Carrie has changed the ground reality forever after successfully establishing Brody was, indeed, working for al-Qaeda to attack his homeland. She has shown that there are multiple sides to a story: one which is convenient for public discourse, two, the inside story and three, the truth which is always multidimensional.

And to make matters worse, Carrie isn’t sure of herself — whether or not she has been turned into a Russian asset. She has been through a lot during her imprisonment in Russia. She has been broken from the inside. Keeping off her bipolar medication has really done a number on her. Most of her memory about the seven-month ordeal is missing. She remembers it in bits and pieces. A polygraph test that detects deception sounds the alarm bells among the spies. Except for her long-time mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), none of her other colleagues seem to believe that she is incapable of betraying her homeland. In such confusing times, Saul pulls out Carrie from recovery and put her in the thick of the action: Afghanistan.

The United States under the presidency of Ralph Warner (Beau Bridges) is desperately pulling all stops to chalk out an exit plan from Afghanistan. And the mission is riddled with numerous challenges, especially from the closet “allies” of the US. The critical mission needs a seasoned spy such as Carrie Mathison to achieve what is perceived to be an amicable end to a long-drawn conflict that has taken thousands of lives and tens of millions of dollars. Needless to mention, the humanitarian crisis caused by the war.

Off to a rough start, Carrie is a little rusty from being absent from real action. She should negotiate the American exit from Afghanistan while trying to piece together the full story that happened to her in a Russian prison. Show creators Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon have really upped the stakes for the final season.

Homeland season 8 premieres on Hotstar on February 10, and on Star World on February 16.