If I could sum up the last episodes of Homeland season 5, I would have to argue that the overarching theme is that of “redemption.” This theme manifests in ways that are relevant not only to the narrative but also to the show in general.
First, let’s get some of the character specific redemptions out of the way. At the beginning of the season, there was clearly a lot of animosity between Saul and Carrie. Saul feels betrayed because Carrie ruined his chance at the director position and seems to also be generally unaccepting of her choice to leave the agency to work in the private sector. By virtue of Carrie being sucked back into the world of the company and its dealings, she is able to figure out that Allison, Saul’s lover, is a Russian spy. Carrie’s assistance in finding this information seems to have redeemed her in Saul’s eyes. Perhaps it is the fact that she still puts country above all else or perhaps the fact that Saul was able to play a role in taking down a Russian spy (let’s be honest, his hand in this will probably be a pretty big career win), but Saul and Carrie seem to have mended fences.
Another character who seems to have redeemed himself by the end of the season is Qasim. From the beginning of the season, he was presented as a hesitant jihadist. Although he believed in the work of ISIS in securing legitimacy, it was clear that he was not a fan of the violent tactics that his cousin and his group were willing to employ to get it. Quinn seemed to recognize Qasim’s hesitancy and pushed him to see the detriment that would be caused if his cousin’s plan were to play out. In these final episodes, Qasim attempts to save Quinn (or at least mitigate the damage his cousin and cronies can inflict upon him) and even assists in stopping the terrorist attack from taking place at the train station. Even before Carrie gets to him, it is clear that he is not comfortable with what is about to take place. He fails to secure the gate which would have trapped people within the station. Qasim let’s through a Muslim woman and a child and then seems to understand the equivalent value of life when a white German man approaches with his daughter. As a result, he leaves the Gate open, allowing for the chance for several people to escape the potential fate that exposure to sarin would inflict upon them. Even Carrie, by the end of the episode, confirms with Saul that Qasim ended up being instrumental in stopping the attack from being realized.
This is a great place to move to the redemption of the show itself. There has been a lot of criticism over the years related to the way in which Muslims have been portrayed on the show. In class, my peers and I have discussed the way in which this depiction has evolved over the course of the years that the show has been on the air. I think that season five certainly should be a part of that discussion.
When Fara was introduced in season three, this narrative/casting choice seemed to be the beginning of the show being redeemed for its portrayal of Muslims. From that time, there has certainly been a concerted effort to make Muslim characters more multi-dimensional and give voice to their positions. Homeland has been working to show that the concerns of Muslims (or people from Muslim majority countries) and their issues with the West are both complex and not necessarily unwarranted. Saul’s conversations with Haqqani in season four are a good example of this.
Season five takes this even further by introducing the professor and his back story into episode eleven. The professor who has been assisting Qasim’s group is NOT a practicing Muslim. In fact, he tells Qasim that he is an atheist and that the reason he has become involved in this plot it has to do with Germany’s unwavering support of Israel, rather than any religious concern. This is an important addition to the plot as it further complicates the reasons why one might become entangled within terror plots, showing that there are more reasons beyond the religious and some of the motivations are purely political in nature. This point is made even more pertinent by way of the Russians insisting that Allison help to ensure that the impending plot actually takes place, rather than help to stop it.
Clearly Homeland has come quite far for a show that was once criticized as being the “most bigoted show on television.” I will be excited to explore this topic in more depth when I write about season six, which I think complicates some of these issues even further.