At this point, it seems pretty safe to say that Homeland is back, having returned to form after maybe being the fastest show to jump the shark ever. Season one was a twisting, turning exploration into surveillance, identity, allegiance, and fidelity, but season two disappeared into a weird, dank factory right along with Carrie Matheson. Season three took a mulligan, sort of?, effectively rebooting itself and managing to tell a decently compelling story along the way. It was an improvement upon the second season that had come before it, but still a show—aptly enough—struggling to define itself as its own status quo changed and shifted so very rapidly. The opening credits of Homeland have always been a lot more shrewd than they seem: it’s exactly this jazz-esque, almost free-form story structure that made Homeland as captivating and unpredictable as it was in its very early goings. Story beats on this show rarely arrive when they’re expected, and this was a thematically-relevant choice from the onset: the world of intelligence is an unreliable one, and the game changes constantly. Homeland’s slippery status quo is as apt and true to life as anything the show’s done, and remains one of its very strongest elements, to date.

Even so, the fourth season of Homeland has shed a bit of narrative weight by ditching an integral cast member, and its storytelling reflects this newfound focus. Gone are the teenage love tryst subplots. Back is a focus on spy games, foreign affairs, and tradecraft. It’s a good thing, too; these are the reasons we love Homeland as much as we do.

Season four also brings with it the introduction of an interesting new theme: control. Or maybe we’re meant to be focusing on a distinct lack of control, as the United States Government’s ability to keep a lid on things is repeatedly called into question. The season’s opening episode is both our literal and figurative starting gun: Sandy’s death is ostensibly the catalyst for the events of the entire season, but I don’t think it’ll be too terribly long before something else is revealed to have been the catalyst for Sandy’s death. Either way, the season’s central mystery is exceedingly well-played, with new layers coming to light, revealing a deeper dive than anyone had anticipated.

So we have the first thing that the US Government has failed to keep under control. Sandy was clearly up to no good, and the more we learn about how he was running the show in Islamabad, the more it seems like he was committing at least a bit of light treason.

As a result, Carrie and Quinn run into the mob situation that they’re unable to control.

Back home, the CIA struggles to control Quinn, who beats the shit out of a couple of hee-haws in a diner.

Further, Carrie refuses to be controlled by even her own baby. Fuck that noise, she’s blackmailing a senator and flying her ass back to Pakistan, right now.

And Homeland is a cage of angry animals this season.

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