“Shakespearean Frustration”: Thoughts on Homeland PaleyFest and S05 Spoilers

Finally I get to watch PaleyFest LA: Homeland and I guess I’m writing this as a way to process all that was said during and before the panel (a.k.a. the interviews). Homeland headlining PaleyFest LA’s in its opening night makes me prouder of this show. I can only imagine what the brilliant team had gone through in developing this intelligent series and I’m glad the writers were present to tell them first-hand (at least for the scope of S04). Only two actors (Claire Danes and Maury Sterling) attended the panel (from the original five – Mandy Patinkin, Tracy Letts and Mark Moses) but that didn’t diminish the quality of the discussion which turned out to be a well-rounded and more in-depth in terms of dissecting the components on what makes this show so spectacular. It was also my first time to watch Claire Danes be herself and I was so amazed (and amused) by her vocabulary (not that I need a dictionary to understand her) and how animated she was as an interviewee. I’m also saddened that executive producers (EP) and writers Alexander Cary and Chip Johannessen are leaving the show; they wrote many of my favorite episodes and it makes me wary of how S05 will play out. Speaking of, showrunner Alex Gansa’s so-called teaser rocked fans (I could say for the Tumblr fandom) and I have to scramble back to my seat to rationalize my reaction a.k.a. this post.

 

Inside the writer’s room

The Season 4 writers were all present to provide insights on their respective episodes, varying from the intense (“There’s Something Else Going On”), controversial (“About A Boy”), bewildering (“Redux”) and the debatable (“Long Time Coming”). That hour glimpsed the dynamic of the brains behind the show and enlightens how each plotline was developed (like Brody’s return and the Aayan affair). Personally, listening to them was an enriching experience because I really admire the show’s ambitious concept and to see it unravel onscreen born out of their crazy ideas is just mind-blowing. Apart from the writing and directing, Homeland doesn’t get much credit on the other elements such as the production design (e.g. transforming and improvising parts of South Africa to become Pakistan) and sound design (the eerie score during Carrie’s hallucinatory trip) so it’s value-adding to hear how the crew pull them off to produce ‘reality’ in terms of the location and Carrie’s perception. But I single-out EP and writer Meredith Steihm for being a fierce advocate and defender of her written episodes and proposed plot developments (particularly the Carrie-Quinn romance). Her answers were very precise and she seems to exact the strongest conviction in terms of justifying those narrative progress (aside from Gansa). She acknowledges the gender divide among her co-writers and I appreciate how she treats Carrie and Quinn not as characters (vs. the male writers’ disagreement in their romance) but as real people. So it’s her and Gansa that I (we?) should be grateful for despite being outnumbered in the consensus.

 

Little teaser, big reactions

You can hear the audience’s gasps when Gansa announced Season 5’s magic words in a top-down approach: 2.5 years. Europe. Germany. Carrie not anymore an intelligence officer. I was only expecting a time jump of less than a year but 2.5 years is a lot in a way that many events within that time frame had transpired that would probably not be shown in Season 5. Also (though not described officially) the new season somehow serves as a reboot because the show has to start all over again with a new story and reshuffled dynamics among the principal cast, along with the new supporting characters. Cary and Johannessen’s departure makes the future bleaker since they were more involved with the development of the characters for four seasons than those who’ll fill their shoes. But I reconcile with the fact that Season 5 can bring a new spin to the series along with new ideas from the new writers. The thing is, Homeland is an ever developing, evolving and in Claire’s words “peripatetic” show which I want it to be in the first place. I guess my reasoning is that the first three seasons focused on deconstructing Carrie’s psychology in a more familiar and close environment (where Brody plays a huge part) and that the succeeding seasons will see her still coping with her sickness but is more empowered, enlightened and exposed to the challenges overseas (if Season 4’s Pakistan is any indication). Canon states that Carrie is no stranger on being assigned abroad but that was Carrie before who she is now. Her character development is in sync to where each season is set (for instance, her ‘calcified’ and ‘fossilized’ state in Islamabad as station chief that was resolved by her catharsis). I’m really curious on how the writers will connect Season 5’s location to Carrie’s personal journey (why does she choose Berlin to atone for her sins?) and it’s just one of the many reasons why I’m excited for the new season.

Will Season 5 begin with Saul as the returning CIA director? Is Quinn still in Syria because of his unfinished mission? Or does he finish it, doesn’t contact Carrie and stays in the CIA? There are so many questions on what will be the characters’ state of mind in Season 5. One that really rattled me was the likelihood of Carrie and Quinn not seeing each other in 2.5 years that was aggravated by the plan of introducing Carrie’s new boyfriend as part of the normalcy she would be treated in Season 5. Initially I was given the impression that the romance between Carrie and Quinn has dissolved and she opted to carry on with her life for her sake and Franny’s. If I were her, I would do the same but that doesn’t mean that her feelings for Quinn were extinguished. Whether they’ll be finally an item or not, all I long for Carrie is to have a normal, peaceful and happy life regardless if there’s a romantic interest involved or be content with her daughter. I found myself invested in C/Q more than I intended to be which dragged on my ill-conceived disappointment. It’s futile to speculate but at the end of the day, I’ll keep my faith on the writers who have beautifully constructed their relationship. The new arrangement could possibly open ways to make the Carrie-Quinn dynamic more compelling, be it in a professional or personal nature. Quinn and Saul are Carrie’s more pronounced connections and to state an example, just look at how the Carrie-Saul dynamic was excellently handled in Season 4. I’m still aboard with the ship and it’ll all depend if there’s an iceberg to threaten it in Season 5.

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That’s what I had to say, for now. At least there’s no discussion of a season finale (yet). Hopefully in the coming weeks, casting news and other production developments will keep Season 5 on the radar until its first promo is released. Part of my excitement is my optimism that the show will be able to replicate the success of Season 4 and I’m pretty sure the writers have many tricks under their sleeves in terms of plotting new conflicts and Carrie’s new personal journey. As for C/Q, 2.5 years is a long wait but just imagining their first meeting would make their bottled frustrations explode. Mine too.

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