Week 15: Season 5 Episodes 9-12: Popularity of a Hero in Entertainment

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Through Seasons Two through Five, Peter Quinn has been one of the main fixtures on our screen when viewing Homeland.  This character is dark, brooding, and mysterious all while fighting the bad guys quite effectively.  Season Five shifted gears where all the excitement took place in Berlin, Germany.  Quinn fresh from a stint in Syria, found himself there amidst all of the adventures of Saul and Carrie and in similar fashion found himself neck deep into all their craziness. But still we tune in and see Quinn effortlessly pick off one enemy after another while looking like he can take center stage on a cover of a magazine.  Although I am not one to swoon over fictional television characters, I find myself looking forward to seeing Quinn on my screen and root for him in his adventures.  This has me wondering if the writers of Homeland purposely want their viewers to see Quinn through the lens of a hero.

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Heroes are beloved by many readers and/or viewers of entertainment.  The concept of a hero dates back a long time ago and originated in classical literature.  The definition of a hero has changed throughout time, and the Merriam Webster dictionary defines a hero as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities”.

While labeling someone as a hero is somewhat objective, I feel Quinn checks the boxes of these attributes of a hero.  He was first introduced to Homeland’s audience in Season Two as a black ops agent, under the supervision of Dar Adal.  Although we recently learned why Dar Adal recruited him (sex work for the CIA, could have done without that backstory), Quinn has turned out to be quite a good addition to the CIA organization.  We have since seen Quinn scale walls seemingly effortlessly (and only using his bare hands!), profess that he only kills “bad guys” and does so efficiently, survive a gunshot to his abdomen in the tailor shop in Gettysberg, single handily kill dozens of Haqqani’s men in the ambush on the CIA in Islamabad (while managing to not get killed himself), and most recently escaped death narrowly, not once but twice in Season Five.  (Although it remains to be seen if he truly survives the second attempt at his life).  While this seems pretty outlandish and frankly preposterous, it does make for exciting TV and glorifies Quinn as a hero.

While Quinn has his short comings, his actions demonstrate his tendency to fight for the common good.  Although he is not one to wear his feelings on his sleeve, we witnessed Quinn defend his heavyset friend when insensitive bullies were mocking her weight. Although bashing someone’s face on the table is over-the-top, his actions illustrate that he does have the capability to care for another human being.  The end of Season Five really brought forth the feelings he has for Carrie, via a romantic letter he wrote her.  I believe this was the first time in the series that romance was used in the narrative and it was a nice addition to the ongoing “will they or won’t they” storyline between them.

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Another notion of a hero is one who selfless and is willing to risk his or her life to save another.  Quinn has demonstrated this in his fierce protection of Carrie. In Season Five, a severely injured Quinn, determined to protect Carrie by severing his connection to her, slipped away from their safe house and attempted to take his own life.

Part of the troupe of a hero on TV resides with the hero facing insurmountable difficulties and setbacks.  The later half of Season Five, Quinn was not lacking in such instances.  Although Quinn tried to take his own life, he was stopped in the act by Hussein, a doctor who resides with the same group of Syrian jihadists that Quinn fell into, who were allegedly planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Syria. Quinn pretended to go along with the plan while informing Dar Adal about the group’s movements, but he eventually learned that their real target wasn’t Syria, but was right there in Berlin.  Unfortunately he gets knocked out by one of the jihadists when he went to investigate what is being loaded onto their truck during a stop for supplies.

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Quinn’s luck seemed to have ran out at this point as when he woke up, he found himself tied up and near containers of chemical weapons. It was revealed the containers held sarin, a deadly gas used as a chemical weapon. The jihadists decided to test the effectiveness of the sarin gas, by exposing Quinn to it.  Seems at this point, Quinn was facing certain death, but a sympathetic member of the group injected the agent with an antidote beforehand. Although the effects of the gas were lessened, Quinn was still grievously sick — made even worse when Carrie ordered doctors to wake him up in order to extract information from him.

Usually the hero finds a way to not succumb to adversity so it remains to be seen if Quinn’s storyline will follow this format.  As it is, at the end of Season Five, Quinn was still in a coma with no signs of recovery.  The very end of the season featured Carrie in his hospital room, ready to do a mercy killing but a bright light pierced the room.  Is this symbolism that Quinn’s soul is ascending to heaven or is it a sign from God that Quinn will miraculously survive?  I look forward to watching Season Six to find out the answer.

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Over the last fifteen weeks, I eagerly viewed Homeland for my graduate school COMS 650 course at Northern Illinois University.  Although I wasn’t sure what to expect from a class where you watch a TV show and then blog about it, I learned a lot more than what I thought I would.  The articles assigned for the class to read, provided another layer of depth to this show.  Clearly, Homeland is smartly written show, containing some real representations of real life and a whole lot of embellishment.  As I mentioned above, I look forward to watching Season Six and any additional seasons during the course of Homeland’s lifetime.  I hope to interact with my followers from time to time and look forward to more musings on Homeland in the future.

 

 

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Week 13: Season 5 Episodes 1-4: Homeland and Religion

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Season 5 of Homeland started off on a surprising note, Carrie Mathison in a Catholic church, receiving Holy Communion.  Soon after we witness Carrie in church, we see she has settled into a quiet, almost normal life in Berlin Germany with her daughter Frannie and is in a steady relationship with her boyfriend Jonas.  Of course Homeland would not be Homeland if it did not shake this peaceful and serene lifestyle of Carrie’s off its foundation and thrust her into more action and death defying maneuvers.  But instead of analyzing this interesting facet of Carrie, I feel it’s worthwhile to examine how religion is reflected, represented, and posed in the Homeland narrative.

Season 5 follows a two year time jump after the bloodbath at the Embassy in Islamabad. I guess two years is plenty of time for Carrie to leave her prestigious position at the CIA, find a new and impressive gig as head of security for a German billionaire at a foundation, settle into living quarters in a foreign country while getting acclimated to being a mother, and not only find a boyfriend, but settle into a committed and loving relationship with him.  That’s a lot of changes in a span of only two years!  Yet Carrie can do all this and reconnect with her Catholic upbringing.

"It's a quieter, more internal story," says Alex Gansa. "It's a spy story this year."

According to Trishia Cerdena at Christianity Daily, deciding to show Carrie in a religious setting was deliberate. “We were always wrestling with the idea that Carrie had rediscovered her faith. Her father was Catholic and she was essentially raised Catholic, confirmed and then lapsed,” co-creator Alex Gansa explained.  Her return to her Catholic upbringing emphasizes a softer, more material side of Carrie which has her settling in a new environment in which she enjoys a certain degree of stability.  This is evident when we hear Carrie refer to her life as “a more happy one”, while bemoaning having to get dragged back into her CIA life.  “It’s like my old life came back,” Carrie says after conversing with Laura Sutton, who wanted Carrie to confirm the authenticity of emails detailing highly sensitive information as a result of a CIA data breech, “Everything I moved here to get away from.”  The use of religion as a plot device seemingly plays a key role in Carrie’s life at the moment while also offering a good mechanism to articulate her guilt of her former life.  By showcasing Carrie take Communion, it becomes a symbol that she’s having a dialogue with herself about something (possibly atoning for all of the civilian deaths under her leadership).  According to Tim Stanley of the Catholic Herald, the sudden emergence of a Catholic theme is tempting to draw a parallel between some of the representations of Islam and those of Mother Church unveiled in this new series. They both look foreign – even Eastern. They both demand commitment to something beyond the nation state. They both make people do extraordinary things for reasons that sometimes defy logic.

Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin for 'Homeland' Season 5

We have known for quite sometime that Saul Berenson is Jewish.  The tough talking, frequently cursing, Yiddish-using character of Saul has been a milestone for Jews on television.  We learned about his strict Jewish upbringing in a small Indiana town when he was on the road with domestic terrorist Aileen, trying to get her to open up about her co-conspirators.  In the electrifying second season finale, in a highly dramatic scene, we see Saul saying the Kaddish prayer while standing in front of 200 dead bodies after a mass terror attack at the CIA headquarters.  For much of the episodes in Homeland, Saul’s faith is just part of his identity, separate from his professional life, and serves as fodder for his relationships with Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.  However in Season 5, Saul’s Jewishness brought forth Zionism front and center.  This was established at a Passover Seder Saul attended with his secret new girlfriend Allison (huh, what happened to Mira?!) at the home of Etai Luskin, who we learn is the Israeli ambassador and an old intelligence buddy of Saul’s.

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According to Sonia Saraiya at Salon, “Homeland” is based on an Israeli show by Gideon Raff called “Prisoners of War,” and though the two shows have diverged dramatically since “Homeland’s” first season, the notion of a divinely granted homeland is one that both shows have worked to examine, through the eyes of many different characters of many different faiths.  In the fifth season it’s finally coming home, in a way.

Early on in the series, Sargent Nicholas Brody was introduced as Christian (not sure if the denomination was ever stated) American who converted to Islam.  In an earlier reading assignment, scholar Daniel Tutt mentioned how the use of Islam throws even more grey matter into the religious dimension to terrorism. For example, Brody admitted to Carrie that his conversion to Islam was partially a coping mechanism for the hell he was going through. Brody’s reason was articulated when he quipped: “Well, they didn’t have many Bibles over there. Don’t you think you’d turn to religion if you had to face what I faced?”  As subsequent episodes unfolded, it became apparent that although Islam became an important part of Brody’s identity, it did not radicalize him.  In other words, Brody was more of a political radical than a religious zealot.

The use of religion as a plot device is interesting because not only does it add depth to the characterization of the show’s front runners, but it aids in representing certain emotions (such as guilt in Carrie’s case) or foreshadows the future direction of the narrative. Of course much analysis has been done with regards to depictions of Islam (the unessential maneuver of Brody burying the Quran), it will be interesting to see if Catholicism and Judaism will be brought more into prominence as Season 5 continues to unfold.