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.
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.
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.
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.