Over six seasons, terrorism thriller Homeland has given us a bevy of truly jaw-dropping, armchair-gripping moments. With season seven underway on SBS, we look back at some of the most intense sequences and plot points to date.
Nicholas Brody’s terrorism attempt narrowly averted
Airing a decade after 9/11, a confronting season one plotline came full circle as former prisoner of war Nicholas Brody’s (Damian Lewis) defection to Al-Qaeda was finally realised in the finale. The Marine came within an inch of killing Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan) in a bunker using an explosive vest he was wearing hidden beneath his uniform. As the tension ratcheted up, it was as sweat-inducing for the audience as it was for Brody. But a call from daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) changed his mind.
You’d think the highlight of this scene where then-US congressmen Brody was kidnapped and interrogated by shadowy CIA operative Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) would be Quinn stabbing him through the hand with a knife. But the real tension of the lengthy sequence came as CIA agent Carrie (Claire Danes) broke Brody down with the stealth of a big cat, the congressman gradually sinking in his seat and tearing up as he admitted to turning on his country. It was a bravura performance from both actors, and a master class in executing TV tension.
CIA bomb attack
In one of Homeland’s most chilling scenarios of post-9/11 terrorism, a bomb inside Brody’s car detonated outside the memorial service for Vice President Walden at the CIA Langley headquarters in the season two finale. It was a bold choice by Homeland’s makers, made all the more sobering by the rows and rows of at least 200 shrouded corpses, including many of the intelligence community, shown in the aftermath.
Peter Quinn gassed
Brutal is too kind a word for this season five scene which saw Quinn enclosed in a chamber and subjected to sarin gas by terrorists for a propaganda video. As the bound Quinn began frothing at the mouth, his eyes filled with terror, it looked as if this was the end. He survived – barely – which led to another heart-racing sequence where Carrie intervened in a life-and-death operation on Quinn in hospital with shattering consequences.
This was one of those truly harrowing moments where you actually grieve for a fictional TV character. In the season three finale, after the CIA ultimately sacrificed him, Brody was strung up on a crane in a public square and hanged, the camera unflinchingly fixed on his defiant face as the breath drained out of him and his body twitched. Adding to the intensity was a helpless Carrie, who was carrying his child and watching on in a crowd baying for blood. As she attempted to climb the fence calling his name, Brody finally saw her before taking his last breath. It was a deeply devastating sequence that still packs a punch.
Carrie has a hallucination of Brody
Could Brody somehow have survived his execution? Had Homeland’s producers hoodwinked us all along? Turned out this season four scene was a tragic figment of Carrie’s grief brought about by being slipped hallucinatory drugs. In the anguished scene, a distraught Carrie struggled with Brody before finally believing that he was really alive. When she came to, she realised the devastating reality that it was all a cruel fantasy. It was a clever opportunity for a cameo by Lewis, whose Brody still haunts the show to this day as Carrie raises their daughter, Franny (Claire and McKenna Keane).
Carrie goes off her meds to discover her would-be assassin
Not for the first time in the series, in season five, Carrie recklessly chose to go off the medication that controls her bipolar in order to have maximum lucidity as she investigated who was trying to kill her. She enlisted boyfriend Jonas (Alexander Fehling) to stand watch as she pieced together evidence in their apartment and apply a quick-acting sedative for when the anguished symptoms of her bipolar took hold. The turmoil in Carrie as that played out and she realised all the people who have died because of her actions was one of the show’s most disturbing and intense representations of the condition.
Saul Berenson almost sacrifices the life of a young boy
In one of the most intense moments of the whole series, a prisoner exchange between the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and the CIA almost ended in a horrific tragedy. Carrie’s on/off CIA mentor, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), who had been kidnapped by ISI, refused to take part in the exchange, willing to sacrifice the young Pakistani boy he'd befriended, who was in a suicide vest and being threatened with explosion. In a nerve-racking moment, Carrie convinced Saul it went against everything he had stood for in the war against terror. “14 years of war and this is what it’s come to?” Carrie entreated Saul. “Asking a child to blow you to kingdom come and for what? For f****** what?”
Carrie saves Berlin from a terrorist attack
As it has done throughout its run, Homeland ripped its season five storyline straight from the headlines, setting proceedings in the terrorism hotbed of Berlin (just like SBS thriller Berlin Station). In the nail-biting, frenetic climax, Carrie thwarted an ISIS sarin gas attack on Berlin with the help of remorseful jihadi Qasim (Alireza Bayram). As she frantically ran through the station and on to the train tracks in pursuit of the terrorist Bibi (René Ifrah), a dramatic showdown saw Qasim sacrifice his life and Carrie shoot Bibi before he could release canisters of the gas.
Quinn sacrifices himself to save President-elect Elizabeth Keane from assassination
In the final episode of season six, we farewelled Quinn, who had suffered enormous torment and paranoia as a result of his gassing by terrorists in season five. Leaving a son behind, he went out as a hero in this fast-paced and hair-raising sequence to protect incoming president Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) from an assassination attempt. As assassins’ bullets flew, Quinn drove a car with a cowering Keane and Carrie in the backseat directly into the line of fire and towards the safety of police, sacrificing his life in the process.
Watch Homeland on Fridays at 8:30pm on SBS. Missed the first episode? Watch it at SBS On Demand: