In the Season 7 premiere of “Homeland,” we join Carrie as she makes breakfast for her sister Maggie and her family — including Maggie's politically engaged teenage daughter, Josie, and her husband, a treasury employee whom Josie resents for working for a president that she has labeled a fascist.
Carrie agrees with her niece, especially given President Keane's jailing of Saul, and other political enemies. Carrie tells Maggie that she has a job interview later, and that she'll be out of her house soon enough, which should ease some of the domestic tension. As Carrie packs for her interview, she throws a gun, ammunition, and a burner phone in her bag. What kind of job interview is this? Or is Carrie up to more than she's letting on to Maggie?
Keane appears at the sentencing hearing for General McClendon, who masterminded the plot to kill her. But after McClendon stands up to her in the hearing, Keane goes off-script, and asserts her stance as a hardliner, a move that her chief of staff, David Wellington, scolds her for. He reminds her that she is facing the threat of a special prosecutor looking into her actions in the wake of the plot, a fact that befuddles Keane. "How is it that they tried to assassinate me and I'm the one under investigation?" Keane asks. "Because we locked up 200 of their best friends and neighbors," Wellington says.
Elsewhere, Alex Jones-like Brett O'Keefe is back to confuse me with his bizarre voice inflections and accent. We see O'Keefe hiding in the back seat of a car that is stuck in a small town traffic accident, threatening to cancel his daily broadcast. O'Keefe doesn't want that to happen, and tells us that he has been on the run for two months, hiding out as an enemy of the state. "We've got the president of the United States on the ropes. God help us all if we don't finish her off now," he tells his travel companions.
Carrie's interview turns out to be a clandestine meeting with the senator leading the investigation into Keane's actions. After months of leaking evidence to the senator from a colleague of hers, Carrie says that her source is willing to go on the record, if he's provided identity protection and a closed-door testimony session. Carrie promises that her source will implicate Wellington in illegal activity. The senator reluctantly agrees to Carrie's demands, and to a face-to-face meeting later that day with Carrie and the source.
Wellington meets with an angry Keane in the Oval Office, as she seethes over the sentence that McClendon received. He will face life in prison, but Keane wanted him to face the death penalty. Wellington tries to placate her, but Keane isn't having any of it. "I didn't bring you back from political exile to be my girlfriend," Keane quips. "Now, fix it," she tells him. Wellington says that he can't. "Then I'll find somebody who can," she says. Keane is clearly drunk with power.
O'Keefe makes his daily broadcast, and hides out in a mattress shop in a small Pennsylvania town. After his show airs, his partner, Sharon, tells O'Keefe that she wants out, that she's tired of running from the law. As they talk, the police arrive. Rather than arrest O'Keefe, the officers tell him that they believe in his resistance, and escort him out of town before federal marshals can show up to arrest him. Sharon reluctantly agrees to go with O'Keefe, but only for a couple of more days.
Wellington goes to prison to meet with Saul, hoping to arrange an unlikely alliance. Keane is friendless at the moment, and she needs a trusted ally who can lend her administration some credibility. Wellington thinks that Saul can provide all of those things, and offers him the job of national security adviser — provided Keane signs off on it. "Surprised?" he asks. "I'm in a [expletive] federal prison. What do you think?" Saul fires back. Wellington plays on Saul's love of country, and asks him to put it first, even though Keane threw him in jail. Saul agrees to take the post, but only if Keane releases everyone that was arrested for purely political purposes along with him. Wellington says that Keane will not make that deal, so Saul says that neither can he. "I will not carry water or make excuses for a woman who can't rise above her own vindictiveness," Saul says.
Carrie has problems of her own to deal with. She arranges a hotel meeting with her source, Dante, but he was tailed to the place. Carrie creates a temporary diversion to lose the guy tailing him, throws him in her trunk, and sets off to meet with the senator. She enlists Josie to bring her the keys to Maggie's medical office, so that she has a secure meeting place. Despite her assurances to the senator that her source will go on the record, Carrie doesn't have that certainty, and she needs to talk Dante into it. Carrie tries, but fails to secure Dante's testimony. She attempts to force the issue as the senator arrives, but the whole thing blows up in her face. Dante pushes her to the ground and storms out of the meeting, and the senator tells her not to call him again.
The storm isn't over for Carrie, either. She returns home to a confrontation, with Maggie and her husband questioning why they allowed Josie's boyfriend to remain home watching Frannie alone, while they were at a play, and why Josie won't tell them what was so important that she had to drive somewhere to meet Carrie late at night. The husband storms out, leaving Maggie to deal with Carrie.
Maggie tells Carrie that she went through her things and found that she has tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt in a variety of aliases, and seems to think that Carrie is having an episode of hypomania. Carrie tries to explain that she's trying to correct a presidency gone off the rails, but Maggie cuts her off. "There's a vast government conspiracy and you're the only one who can bring everything to light? I know, Carrie," she says. "Something is going on, because normal people don't act like this." She suggests that Carrie visit a psychiatrist, and warns her not to put their children in danger again.
But this is Carrie Mathison. Of course she isn't going to drop this.
So, Carrie enlists Max to plant video and audio surveillance in Wellington's home, allowing her to spy on her enemy's chief of staff.
We watch as McClendon arrives at federal prison to serve his life sentence, and is strip-searched. After being examined by prison staff, McClendon is left to dress alone, and we see him collapse to the floor and die, as a guard watches the whole thing unfold on camera, not intervening. It seems that Keane found someone who could kill McClendon after all.
Carrie has her work cut out for her this season, both in trying to bring down a fascist president who will stop at nothing, and in doing so while managing her tricky domestic situation. Whether this will make for compelling television remains to be seen. In recent years, the show has started slowly and picked up around the midway point of the season. To keep us engaged as viewers, I would hope that the action picks up much earlier than that this season.