While last season of Homeland seemed to try and push all mention of home life and children to the side so Carrie could live her exciting life as a station chief in the middle of a war zone, season five is pushing the exact opposite agenda. Now that Carrie has flipped her switch from an emotionally turned off, hesitant mother to a figure of devout maternity, every fiber of the Homeland narrative in the first episodes of season five seems to be driving home just how much Carrie’s role as a mother is raising the stakes.
From the first scene of the fifth season, children are prominently featured. Three young boys stand at the forefront of a church alter, singing in rough unison with their priest as he prepares the day’s communion, a ritual in which Carrie partakes. The next time we see Carrie, a few scenes later, she is spotted in a very idyllic scene, riding her toddler to school on the back of her bicycle, safety precautions aptly observed and all. These first two scenes with Carrie act to solidify her new life in which she is no longer the absolute center. She is no longer the self centered Carrie of the previous seasons. After all, she has a child to care for now.
These first two scenes with Carrie are all the more important when we consider the scenes that fall between them. First we see our new favorite hacktivist traveling through a chaotic train depot and through the back rooms of a sleazy bar where a pornographic web site is being operated. But lest we think too low of anyone who would operate such an establishment, at least our tech dudes redeem themselves just a bit by using their tech skill to troll terrorists while the women flash the cameras for money. We also get a back and forth between these hackers activity and the CIA, from whom the hackers eventually make off with a large number of classified documents. These two places, one being a not-so-child-friendly porn den and the other a CIA control room, both of which might be places that Carrie might be in the line of duty in her old life, are places that she is glaringly absent from now. We’ve learned that she has traded in the spook life for something a bit more low key and arguably safe for both her and her daughter. Of course, the security of this life for both Carrie and Frannie is short-lived when her boss asks her to return to a war zone and she ends up on a kill list. Carrie’s past is officially no longer a danger just to herself, but also her young daughter.
Threats to children continue to permeate in these beginning episodes. Quinn, who has reverted to his hit-man ways receives a kill request to take out a woman who has been recruiting kids to blow themselves up in martyrdom operations in Syria. However, the threat to children is not always so violent. Children are often used as pawns in these spy-games in the beginning episodes as well and the U.S. is certainly not entirely innocent. Quinn kidnap’s Jonas’s son as a way to initiate contact between Jonas and his ex-wife so he can find where Carrie has been staying. He does not hurt the boy, but this act clearly puts Jonas’s son in the middle of a dangerous game. Carrie instantly recognizes the play when Jonas finds that the “arrest” story that Quinn initiated does not hold up. Clearly this is a tactic that is not new.
Additionally, Saul and Allison use a somewhat similar tactic to initiate their plans for a regime change in Syria. After helping to facilitate a surgical procedure for the daughter of one of Assad’s highest ranking generals, the pair leverage his violation of sanctions (in traveling for his daughter’s operation), which would allow them to send him to stand trial for his war crimes, in effort to give him the opportunity to agree to participate in the coup the CIA is hoping to initiate within Syria. It seems probable, considering the scope of the operation, that the CIA was integral in initiating the promise of a procedure for Youssef’s daughter to get him to travel where any kind of political asylum would not be granted. Youssef’s willingness to do whatever it takes to save his daughter (even though it put him in a knowingly precarious position) demonstrates the “humanness” of trying to do whatever one can to protect their children. This is precisely the reason that children are so vulnerable when they are caught up in the middle of political games.
Although flaunting the the threat to innocents – children in particular – is not new to Homeland, Carrie’s newly found protective instincts toward her child seem to have created a narrative necessity to continually remind the audience just how much the game has changed for Carrie now that Frannie is a permanent fixture in her life. Although I do not wish to produce any spoilers in this post, this tension created by these narrative arcs that demonstrate the vulnerability of children will only become more intense as Carrie continues to embrace her motherhood.