The presidency is ‘off the rails’ in new season of ‘Homeland’

Updated February 10, 2018 - 8:19 pm

It’s becoming more and more difficult to figure out whether the producers of “Homeland” have some sort of oracle on their writing staff or are simply the beneficiaries of some remarkable coincidences.

In the premiere of Season 7 (9 p.m. Sunday, Showtime), the Justice Department files charges against a journalist while U.S. Marshals pursue a broadcaster. In a TV interview, a U.S. senator calls the president’s leadership style “thuggish and authoritarian.” And Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is on a mission “to course correct a presidency gone off the rails.”

“Homeland’s” plotlines haven’t traditionally been reactionary. They’ve been closer to precursory.

Take last season.

A warehouse full of employees managed an assortment of fake profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, even LinkedIn, to spread the same false messages in order to damage a political rival.

Angry protesters outside Elizabeth Keane’s (Elizabeth Marvel) hotel chanted, “Not my president!” (Which technically was true. At the time, she was still the president-elect.)

“Don’t go to war with your own national security establishment,” Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) warned the president-elect. “I’m telling you, it’s a war you won’t win.”

Once she was sworn in, President Keane was so consumed with leaks coming out of her administration, she sent Carrie to meet with the heads of various intelligence agencies. “Not many people in that room voted for us, I’ll give you that. But nobody in there was responsible for those leaks,” she told the president when she questioned their loyalty. “As corny as it sounds, what they care about most is their country.”

Despite Carrie’s protests, Keane eventually began subpoenaing the personnel files of everyone in the American intelligence community and eventually ordered the arrests of 200 of its members, including Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).

That season began filming in August 2016.

Because “Homeland” laid that groundwork last season, the series can get away with having Carrie’s sister (Amy Hargreaves), with whom an unemployed Carrie is living this year, say things like, “We have a president who’s behaving in ways that are upsetting. Everyone’s confused and disoriented. Everyone feels paranoid.”

Granted, last season’s finale saw Keane survive an assassination attempt led by a rogue general (Robert Knepper) and a black-ops team that turned a parking garage and several blocks of Manhattan into a war zone. But she’s still overreacting just a skosh. Carrie is so appalled at Keane’s behavior, she refers to it as “some of the most expansive civil rights abuses in the history of our nation.” And that’s coming from a woman who knows a thing or seven about civil rights abuses.

The “twist” in Homeland’s depiction of the presidency is that Keane is a liberal, who spent last season being harassed by Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber), a frothing, conspiracy theory-loving, sexist pig of a broadcaster.

“We are not headed for a constitutional crisis,” he bellows. “What we are headed for is civil war!”

Now that Keane has made her heel turn, viewers are being asked to root for O’Keefe, who’s broadcasting from secret locations while ducking a warrant for his arrest, even as he casually mentions that menopause — “I’ve seen her medical records.” — could be to blame for Keane’s behavior.

“Homeland’s” producers saw political upheaval coming. But if O’Keefe is any indication, they missed all the warning signs about Time’s Up.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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