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Homeland Isn't Just Bad TV, It Peddles The Worst Lies About US Foreign Policy

Suspension of disbelief is standard in Hollywood. But Homeland Season 3 makes unrealistic international relations an art form.
 
 
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• Editor's note: there are Season 3 finale spoilers in this piece.

In one of the more famous moments in the Showtime thriller,  Homeland, Saul Berenson – a man who looks like he should be teaching ethnomusicology to doe-eyed liberal arts undergrads, but instead is the acting director of the  CIA – tells his impetuous, deeply unstable and yet oddly prized analyst Carrie Mathison that she is "the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I've ever known".

Smart and dumb are excellent descriptions for  Homeland, which in its scintillating first season conflated absorbing character studies with plot points so utterly implausible that it left viewers not sure whether to hate the show or love it.

The initial impulse of many, at least initially, was the latter. Here was a taut, well-acted story with a deeper thematic message about the blowback effect of America's post-9/11 obsession with terrorism. Carrie, along with the show's other tent-pole character, Marine Captain (turned al-Qaida terrorist) Nicholas Brody, offered a sobering tale of how the dogged pursuit of a global war on terrorism can do great harm to both those targeted by it, and those tasked with fighting it.

So what if portraying the CIA as a paramilitary organization, operating practically at will in the  United States, was absurd and so clearly illegal that it was laughable; so what if the lead analyst in the show not only regularly broke the law but had a mental illness so severe she wouldn't have made it through five minutes of a CIA-mandated polygraph; so what if many of the show's characters, from the cartoonishly malevolent vice president to Brody's children appeared to have emerged fully-formed out of Hollywood's "Big Book of Sullen and One Dimensional Stock Characters"? The show was a true Sunday night guilty pleasure.

But after two seasons of some of the "dumbest fucking" plot twists in recent television history, it's hard to imagine that many are still capable of watching this show with a straight face.

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but Homeland has gone far beyond that. This season alone, the producers of Homeland offered four episodes of Carrie's further descent into madness and betrayal by the CIA … and then basically said: "Psych! We were just kidding; ignore everything you've seen." But this bit of subterfuge was all in pursuit of a larger goal: Saul's plan to bring the No 2 official in  Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Majid Javadi, to the United States (mind you, this is the guy who is the alleged mastermind of a car bomb attack against the CIA that ended season two) and turn him into a double agent working against the Iranian government.

Meanwhile, when Javadi savagely kills two people (including his ex-wife) Saul stops a police investigation into the murder … and does all this, by the way, without telling anyone else, including the White House. And of course no one finds out because, after all, if there is one thing we know about the US government – especially here at the Guardian – they do a bang-up job of keeping a secret.

Meanwhile, Saul brings Brody (who is, by the way, the most wanted man in the world for that bombing) back from the daze of heroin addiction in Caracas (don't ask) to sneak across the border into Iran and kill Javadi's boss, so that Javadi gets the top job … and then peace breaks out, or something.

In between all this,  Carrie gets shot by her fellow CIA agent for disobeying an order and trying to prevent the murder of a suspect in the Langley bombing who gets murdered anyway – and yet no one seems to care. Yet not only is she in perfect health a week later, but Saul decides she is the best possible person to go undercover to Tehran and assist in getting Brody out of the country. Oh, did I mention that she's pregnant with Brody's baby?

 
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