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'Homeland' review: Faith meets terrorism in Berlin

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in a "Homeland"

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in a "Homeland" scene from Season 5, which just ended. Credit: Showtime / Stephan Rabold

THE SERIES "Homeland"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) has left the CIA, settled in Berlin with her daughter, and has a security job with a German think tank. She has also discovered the Christian faith. Back at Langley, Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) get a field report -- a grim one -- from Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), back from a special ops mission combating ISIS. "Is our strategy working?" he is asked. "Tell me what our strategy is," says Quinn, "and I'll tell you if it's working."

MY SAY After Showtime announced the fifth season would be set in Germany, there was the easy, obvious and all too cynical assumption to be made that the series got production tax credits to go there. After all, New York -- even Toronto -- aren't getting any cheaper...

But so much for the cynic's take: Berlin works here, and works well.

Those gray skies. That language. That history.

Most of all that recent history. This is a country still atoning for past crimes  -- a compelling backdrop for Carrie, who is making atonements of her own. Sunday's open perfectly captures her unexpected spiritual journey, or perhaps the better word here is "detour."

Her drawn, pale face looks up at the cross, with just the slightest affect of puzzlement, as if to say: But can Jesus save me?

The search for Carrie's soul has preoccupied the last four seasons. That's always been contrasted with the more cosmic search for answers that her country -- our country -- continues to undertake in the age of terrorism: What are the ethical quandaries in this battle? Do those breach (or eviscerate) personal liberties? Drone strikes (last season)? Innocent civilians as collateral victims? And now a horrifying refugee crisis -- a central focus this Sunday?

Any easy answers . . . anyone?

At its best, "Homeland" never thought so.

In the fifth, the series shifts its gaze to Europe, deepening the meaning of that vitally important word "homeland." Germany -- once forbiddingly the Fatherland -- is seen here as just another "front" in the war. But privacy laws are so stringent that even Google street view cars are about as welcome as Uber cars are in Paris. 

Meanwhile, the bad guys are out there.

Hiding in plain sight.

Carrie and her conflicted soul have their work cut out for them.

BOTTOM LINE Smart, taut, engaging and propulsive. The fifth looks terrific.


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