Season four was a chance to start over for Showtime’s Homeland. With Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), one of the leads of the first few seasons, and his family and friends dropped from the cast, the show was allowed to refocus on Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and the activities of the CIA. For a series whose quality was beginning to suffer, being able to hit the reset button reinvigorated the storytelling and the characters. And while this fourth year didn’t quite hit the highs of the first (though I don’t expect Homeland to ever match that outstanding freshman run), it did outshine the past two years and make itself good again. This pivotal batch of installments, The Complete Fourth Season, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Carrie herself, the core of the show, does not change much in season four. She’s still a mess, pursuing her righteous cause while ticking off authority. She really pushes the boundaries of what viewers will be able to overlook and still like her. She still doesn’t follow the rules, and while she does get the job done, the ends don’t always justify the means.
Take, for instance, the new character this year of Ayaan Ibrahim (Suraj Sharma, who played the title character in Life of Pi), a young Middle Eastern man whose family and friends are killed in a drone strike in the season opener. Carrie approaches him and does what she feels she must to win him over, which crosses a line most people would not cross. In her new position as station chief in Pakistan, she can’t be doing that. She must set a good example.
Of course, Carrie is not alone, and Homeland once more builds an interesting tapestry, rather than just putting one person front and center. The aforementioned Ayaan is a complex, layered character, giving a personal face to the ‘other side.’ Because his frame of reference is so far removed from most viewers, he ends up being an unpredictable story, one hitting home in a time when the morality of drone strikes is hotly debated. Quinn (Rupert Friend) has a parallel storyline as Ayaan’s, but from the American perspective. Senator Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts, playwright of August: Osage County) is a new obstacle, the (necessary) stereotype that wants to sweep mistakes under the rug. Carrie’s sister, Maggie (Amy Hargreaves) becomes more vital to the story because she is now raising Carrie and Brody’s baby.
Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is second in importance only to Carrie, and more beloved. His journey through The Complete Fourth Season is even more gripping than hers. On the outside now, trying to settle down with his wife, Mira (Sarita Choudhury), one might think Saul is done with the crazy life of the CIA. That person would be wrong, of course, and it doesn’t take him, always restless, long to get drawn into the same events that Carrie is involved with. This plot contrivance may be a bit of a stretch, but it doesn’t feel like it the way Homeland does it, and fans want to see Carrie and Saul together, anyway.
In short, I do think The Complete Fourth Season is probably the second best year of the show so far, and certainly makes me look forward to the fifth season, premiering in October.
If you’re going to watch Homeland – The Complete Fourth Season, I have to recommend going Blu-ray. The Middle Eastern setting often brings our characters outside, and high definition gives depth to the shadows and allows greater detail in the unforgiving light. During the bloody action scenes, the sound is well mixed, and if you have surround sound (these discs are 5.1) and a big enough television, it can feel like you’re right in the muck with our heroes.
The special features are a little lighter than I’d like this year. We get some deleted scenes and character profiles on Quinn, Khan (Raza Jaffrey), and Sherazi (Nazanin Boniadi), as well as three “Script to Screen” featurettes. And that’s it. I really wish for some discussion about the new direction, comparisons to real life conflict, and a look at how Carrie has developed. Instead, what we get is pretty much fluff filler, and that’s disappointing. The latter does deal a bit with writing and production, but not enough.
Still, the story is good, and Homeland remains an enjoyable program.
Homeland – The Complete Fourth Season is available now.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00O4CTSJ4][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B005LAJ17M]