Week 12: Season 4 Episodes 9-12: How Effective of a Female Protagonist is Carrie Mathison?

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Watching Homeland is not for the faint of heart.  Trust me, I know.  So much action and violence and little in the way of romance.  Week after week as I watch my four episodes, I am riveted to what is playing out in front of me.  Thankfully the final four episodes of Season 4 do not disappoint. There are many plot twists and turns,  relationship nuances that are brought to the forefront, and arguably the most intense action-packed scene of Homeland so far, despite how unrealistic it is.  While these episodes contain a multitude of story arcs and themes to pursue for this weeks blog, I am interested in discerning how effective Carrie Mathison is as a female protagonist.

Carrie, the ever complex protagonist of this show, started out this season callous and self involved.  Some of my peers agreed with my assessment and others viewed her apathy toward her daughter Frannie differently, to which I accede to.  As Season Four continued on, we saw Carrie draw on her emotions more.  Nearly getting blown up to smithereens twice,  losing most of your crew in the embassy massacre, learning that there were people in her professional sphere who betrayed her and the United States, losing your father then coming face-to-face with your mother whom you haven’t seen in 15 years (and learning you have a half brother) will do that to you.

Although it’s not all of the crazy and death defying situations Carrie finds herself in that provide moments of unclarity of her character for the viewer, rather its how her emotions change capriciously.  According to Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic, Carrie embodies the ugliest stereotypes about women in the workplace: that they’re hysterical, brittle, rude, entitled, inefficient, and governed by emotions rather than logic. Instead of earning her promotions, Carrie either fails her way up the CIA ladder (after practically everyone else is killed by the Langley car bomb) or threatens people into giving her what she wants.

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While I am pleased to see Carrie embrace motherhood in episode 12, I am perplexed as to why the change of heart?  She was bonding with Frannie before her mother returned so any revelations from Carrie about not being like her absentee mom were not there. Could it be that the writers of Homeland decided to portray Carrie as a more effective feminine hero rather then have her display unmaternal coldness that’s intended to make her more like one of the boys?  Personally I bristle at the notion of being an “effective feminine hero” as someone who has to show her maternal instinct.  True I got angry at Carrie for seemingly not to care about Frannie (she’s just so cute with that red hair and adorable smile, how could she not care), but would Carrie make such a bad female hero had she either never gotten pregnant in the first place, decided to either terminate the pregnancy, or gave Frannie up for adoption?

We have seen Carrie’s sensibilities all over the map this season. She was willing to kill both Aayan and Saul in her obsessive pursuit of Haggani, but then was doggedly talking Saul down from committing suicide and displayed anger for Aayan’s murder (when she was willing to take Haggani down despite Saul being in the vicinity).  I am not sure if this is the stuff of a strong female protagonist.  And this does not take into account her sexual exploits, aiding a domestic terrorist, and bullying people into doing what she wants!

In stark contrast to Carrie Mathison is Fara Sherazi.  Brilliant in her own right, she was caring, kind, and did not succumb into using her sexuality and beauty to lure assets or obtain critical and classified information.  This was apparent in her failed mission in acquiring Aayan as an asset.  Although Fara was a minor character initially, its clear she isn’t sociopathically detached or obsessively emotionally involved. tumblr_ng9kb4lBCY1qaqpx9o1_1280

As an aside, Fara was also a positive portrayal of a Muslim character in a show that has been criticized as the most Islamophobic show on television.  Any good Homeland did to promote an anti-Islamophobic agenda by showcasing such a favorable Muslim portrayal is erased when they decided to have the repugnant villain Haggani murder Fara in cold blood.  Not only is Haggani of the Islamic faith but is also the Taliban’s leader. No doubt many writers capitalized on Homeland’s faux pas of killing off Fara and showcasing Haggani and other Taliban soldiers viciously gunning down embassy personnel as more examples of  how Homeland is perpetuating negative stereotypes of Muslims.  The Haggani character alone, is worthy of such criticism.  Not only did he murder over 40 people in the span of one season, but he forced Lockhart into handing over a master list of all American assets in Pakistan, foreshadowing their demise.  So I will miss Fara and I feel cheated out of seeing her sweet romance she was sharing with Max develop more in future episodes.

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Reverting back to Carrie.  It is clear has much to ponder going into Season Five.  She shared a passionate kiss with Peter Quinn after her father’s funeral.  She also learned from her mother that it was her infidelities that caused her to leave Carrie and Maggie when they were young adults not that the relationship got to be unbearable due to Frank’s bipolar disorder.  Unfortunately by the time Carrie found this out, it was too late as Quinn decided to accept a mission to Aleppo, Syria and is unreachable.  Will Carrie be able to experience love with someone who is a good match for her?  Or are we going to have to watch her emotions ebb and flow like the tide?  How will Carrie deal with Saul selling himself out to remove Haggani from the CIA’s no-kill list just so he can reclaim his previous CIA director position?  Will she be an effective female protagonist and be able separate her personal and professional spheres without resorting to cheap tactics to get what she wants?  We will soon see and I can’t wait.

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7 thoughts on “Week 12: Season 4 Episodes 9-12: How Effective of a Female Protagonist is Carrie Mathison?

  1. I think that the narrative arc of the season was naturally moving Carrie back to acceptable “maternal” action. I think that her psychotic break in the middle of the season helped bring her back to dealing with her emotions in a more healthy fashion. I think that the death of her father (the parent who “stayed”) probably also had a large affect on her.

    In my own blog, I talked about Fara as well. I think that the death of Fara is a bit convoluted. I hated seeing her go but think that, ultimately, it sends a powerful message about murky territory of being a moderate Muslim (hopefully that makes sense…).

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  2. I like Max’s character, and he does sad and depressed really well in these last few episodes after Fara’s death. He also did awkward romantic well too.

    I think you are right-on about Carrie and her transformation here. She definitely moves into the “more acceptable” realm of human action with her renewed interest in her daughter. We also get a better picture of Carrie and her father when we FINALLY get this backstory about the mother. I think it rounds out Carrie’s character a bit, clears up some of her anxiety about relationships, and positions her mental health to be a bit more stable in the coming seasons.

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  3. You’re correct that the return of the mother happen after Carrie starts to finally show some maternal care, but I do think the revelation about her mother makes for a more grounded Carrie going forward. Every time she decides to put on a fake wedding ring from here out she’s going to worry about whether she is reiterating her mother’s pathology, rather than her dad’s bipolarity. The Max/Carrie confrontations this week were uncomfortable, but I notice that Carrie doesn’t do “placate” very well. Frannie is going to have an interesting adolescence. No one mentioned that we finally see Carrie’s brother in law at the funeral–now there’s an undeveloped character!

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  4. I will chime in with everyone else in saying that I agree with your observation about Carrie moving in the direction of a more “acceptable” protagonist by taking her maternal role more seriously. But- like you- I am a bit uneasy about the implication that has about women’s roles. I think you make an interesting point about whether Carrie could be a “good” female protagonist if she had not gotten pregnant, or terminated the pregnancy, etc. To me it almost felt like the writer’s introduced the plotline of Carrie’s unplanned pregnancy for the dramatic effect it would have, but didn’t really know how they would deal with it moving forward. As the fourth season began, it became clear that throwing a baby into the mix created some issues in reconciling Carrie’s role as a single mother with the format of Carrie as the “action hero,” emotionally turbulent, protagonist we saw in the first three seasons.

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  5. Okay here’s a statement hang with me: Fara died at the right now. I didn’t want her to die, BUT, I am thinking of the phrase from (Batman? Or some other superhero movie): “You even die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become to villian”. Would Fara have started to work more like Carrie, using unethical means to get the job done? Our memory now of her will be a loyal and hard-working character that never had to forsake her morals to do the job.

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  6. As I said on another blog post Carrie is the weirdest female protagonist that I have seen in a show in a long time. Most of the time I am not completely sure where the writers are trying to go when they set her up for something. I have no clue what direction she will be headed next. Do they want her to be the complex, crazy protagonist, or do they want her to be the smart, normal, great female protagonist. They follow the stereotype and then switch it up. I’m extremely interested in seeing how they handle her in season 5.

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  7. A very interesting analysis to read. This shift in Carrie- toward the more “acceptable”- is definitely a significant change in her and in the show itself. We’re back in the US again, mainly, toward the end of the season, and starting to focus on more domestic concerns at the same time. I also agree with about Fara and Max’s romance. I did not catch on to it until her death, and would have enjoyed that story line very much if it had been included more. It was very disappointing that they put that in there just to snatch it away as quickly as it appeared. They would have been a very nice couple!

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