After eight highly successful and glorious seasons, Homeland recently ended with the 96th episode titled Prisoners of War. The title was a hat-tip to the show’s original inspiration, the Israeli show ‘Hatufim’, which translates to Prisoners of War. The series finale began with the United States and Pakistan preparing their armies for a full-scale nuclear war. To make matters worse, Saul Berenson is out of his depths with the Oval Office as the warmongering foreign policy advisor John Zabel now influences the words spoken by a gullible and inexperienced US President Benjamin Hayes. And Russia is also in the play.
Carrie Mathison has a chance to stop the war, but she has to pay a heavy personal and emotional price for it. The conflict was unnerving, to say the least. We know that Carrie would stop the war at any cost because there is no line that she won’t cross to prevent death of innocent people. We have examples from the past that have demonstrated Carrie’s commitment to her cause. In season 3, she talked Nicholas Brody into Saul’s mission in Iran, knowing that he may not come back again. In season 5, she tried to revive Peter Quinn to extract information, only to cause his brain and body some irreparable damage. In season 7, she risked being locked up in Russian prison to spoil the plot to destabilise the US government.
And there’s no reason for us not to believe that Carrie won’t pull the trigger on Saul to avoid war. She has already gone way past beyond redemption. Carrie can even justify sacrificing a few men to save millions. She understands that it is “the cost of doing business.”
And that is what made Prisoners of War so compelling and a fitting finale to a series that sort of helped people understand that there was always more to the global events than meets the eyes. But, remember, every ending is nothing but a new beginning.
A well-informed spy show
Homeland began in 2011 following the familiar tropes of the genre that makes for good television. US Marine Brody returns home a hero after being held captive by terrorist Abu Nazir. And Carrie gets tipped off about a US soldier who has been turned and now working with the enemies. She pursues Brody against all odds and popular opinion. There is always something innately attractive and compelling about the romance between mortal enemies. And Carrie and Brody tick all the right boxes. The show, however, evolved and became more than good television after the showrunners decided to reinvent the series post-Brody’s demise. Sometimes ending things is the best way to begin anew.
Thanks to the showrunners’ collaboration with those who have first-hand knowledge of what it means to be a ‘spy’, Homeland was able to reflect the real-world challenges of intelligence agencies around the world. Depictions of foreign powers tampering with democratic institutions of the US, troll farms and fake news master sowing discord in the country with endless lies even made the series prophetic.
And the eighth season was a satisfying culmination to a series that was the closest that we could get to the conversations that unfolded in the corridors of powerful buildings of the world. It widened our perception of global developments by repeatedly telling us there are always two sides to a story: one, which the government wants us to believe and two, the truth.
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