When spy thriller Homeland started in 2011, it had everything in place to be a hit: Action, drama, suspense, lies and betrayals, backstabbing and cheating death. Claire Danes was frantic as Carrie Mathison, a CIA operative with bipolar mental health struggles, who was 100% convinced that US Marine Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) had betrayed his country while being held captive in the Middle East. However, the show went flat after Brody was killed off at the end of S3, having served his purpose. But sit up, switch on and buck in – Homeland S8 is coming in hot, fast and heavy in its final season, which started Thursday, 11 June on M-Net (DStv 101) at 21:00. And it’s good!

“I loved the idea that Carrie is positioned as this suspected traitor – a Brody,” says Claire. “That’s such a perfect parallel, and fun to play. She’s struggling from PTSD and doesn’t know how to narrate her own story.” That story brings the show full circle, helping it pull back in the fans who loved the cat-and-mouse political thrills and spills in S1-4.

Middle ground

S7 set the scene for the finale, although it took almost 2 years to get there. Carrie was held hostage by the Russian government for six months. She was mistreated, emotionally and psychologically manipulated, and she was a shattered version of herself by the time her CIA mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) rescued her. Worryingly, because she had been off her meds, Carrie was suffering short-term memory loss.

Carrie’s mental state at the start of S8 is almost back to where it was in S1. She’s all over the place, her medication isn’t working, but she thinks she’s rational and thinking clearly, ready to help Saul. “It’s a little like origami. You just refold it and it becomes a slightly different creature,” explains Claire. “My character is so wildly dynamic that there is always a new facet to start to explore.”

The problem is that those 6 months Carrie can’t recall are being used against her. And because of her past, well-documented irrational behaviour, it’s somewhat easy to convince Carrie that she betrayed the United States in the same way Brody did. She can’t remember it, so it is possible…

The Mathison Mission

Don’t expect Carrie to be unhinged for the entire season, warns showrunner Alex Gansa. Getting the former CIA agent back to her conspiracy-busting best was always the plan for the final season.

“Taking her back to Afghanistan, where it started was logical. Carrie Mathison had been there before, so it gave us a chance to tie up a lot of loose ends that we hadn’t done at the end of S4. We spent a number of seasons exploring her bipolar illness. We definitely wanted S8 for her to be on firm mental footing. But to start with, she’s battling with a hugely traumatic event, her captivity and what took place during that time.”

The problem for Carrie is that while Saul is entrusting her with some of the most important work of his (and her life), they’re being played for fools – just like in S1 when Brody, despite all the evidence against him, managed to convince the pair that he was no traitor.

“Carrie is struggling to put the story together. She’s even more of an unreliable narrator than she has been in the past. There is a lot of symmetry (with Brody). I feel that Carrie is most herself with Saul and they trust each other after all they’ve been through,” says Claire.

Carrie’s status as a disgraced CIA agent isn’t what bugs her in S8. She put that to bed seasons ago. Instead, the fact that she is the new Brody has her going into overdrive. “This time she is the one whose allegiance and patriotism are being called into question and she is accused of having been turned in captivity. The show has come full circle from Carrie being the person who suspect to the person who is suspected.

Watch Homeland S8 on Thursdays on M-Net (DStv 101) at 21:00 on watch on Catch Up 

How to catch Homeland online

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