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Sophie Johnson writes:

I have a little confession to make: these past few days, when I’ve been out and about, I’ve been imagining I’m Carrie Mathison. If you’re not a fan, she’s the character played by Clare Danes (who is also one of the series’ Producers) in Homeland, which – in the UK – is now in its 5th series.

She has trademark long, straight, blonde hair, and when she’s working she’s almost always in a dark trouser suit.

She’s hyper-intelligent, extremely observant, incredibly brave and she’s bipolar. In recent episodes, she’s generally had her condition under control through medication, but it seems that she’s still prone to taking big risks and making difficult decisions that most of the population would struggle with, dealing as she does, as a CIA agent, in matters of life and death on a minute by minute basis.

Her character is so complex that you can go from loving her and rooting for her to thinking she’s some sort of an abomination in the space of one episode. That’s one of the brilliant things about Homeland: no one is purely good or purely evil. Nobody ever enjoys a clear victory or suffers a definite defeat. There’s always a twist.

I don’t really want to be a CIA agent who has to extract information from people by any means necessary, carry a gun or make decisions about the lives of my colleagues. But you can’t deny that Carrie’s life is never dull. People are drawn to her as much as they are repulsed by her drive and focus, which can mean that one minute she’s telling them she loves them and the next she’s turning on them and accusing them of failure.

The other main character who has survived all four series to date is Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), who is the on-off head of the CIA and Carrie’s mentor and friend. He is possibly the only person outside of her family who she truly trusts and their relationship is as deep as though they were father and daughter.

Unlike Carrie, he seems to stay more on the side of ‘good’ and lacks a ruthless streak, which means that whilst he is universally respected he can also be a victim of more calculating, less genuine people such as those who have been determined to take his job.

The third significant character, who has become more of a central character in recent series, is Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). He is, to a certain extent, the male equivalent of Carrie, in his self-destructive tendencies, but more loyal and more likely to protect his colleagues than make the tough, ruthless, big picture decisions that Carrie is capable of.

He is in love with Carrie, which makes it easy for her to get him to do her bidding, and in the last episode of the fourth series, they did discuss being in a relationship together and leaving the CIA, but her attention was drawn to re-establishing a relationship with her mother after the death of her father and meanwhile, Quinn was recruited to a secret CIA mission, leaving us with a bit of a cliffhanger.

Homeland is one of the best things that has been on TV for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it’s the best series – in my opinion – since Twin Peaks. It’s not surreal like David Lynch’s masterpiece, but the writing, acting, direction and music are so compelling that I’m hooked in the same way. Perhaps it’s equally dark, which is something I’m always drawn to.

Roll on this evening, cue the music, and the voice of Many Patinkin announcing ‘Previously, on Homeland…’

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