This contains spoilers from season seven episode one of Homeland.
Homeland has never been subtle in its depiction of the intelligence community and America’s political system, but there was always an element of suspension of disbelief involved. While the critically acclaimed drama has always contained parallels to real life, it hasn't really featured storylines directly based on news headlines.
Thanks to Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 US election win and his subsequent scandal-filled run as president so far, Homeland’s writers decided to shelve their original season seven plans in favour of a season set in Washington DC. Not only are a number of plot points directly inspired by the Trump Administration, but the line between fiction and reality has begun to blur thanks to the heavy influence of real-life politics on this season of the series.
The US president goes after the intelligence community
Season seven picks up shortly after the conclusion of season six, which saw an assassination attempt on President Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) foiled by Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). The attack, however, prompted a paranoia-infused knee-jerk reaction from Keane that resulted in Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) being barred from the White House, and 200 federal employees and intelligence members, including Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), being arrested for their alleged involvement in the failed assassination.
While Trump hasn’t arrested hundreds of intelligence employees for allegedly being involved in a conspiracy against him, his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and his repeated attacks on the FBI, CIA and the Department of Justice make it difficult not to compare the current real-life president to Homeland’s fictional one.
And on the topic of an increasingly unhinged US president…
The president gets people to “fix” things they don’t like
Trump has demonstrated a pattern of behaviour when it comes to “fixing” things detrimental to him, such as imploring James Comey to stop the FBI's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn before ultimately firing him and telling White House counsel Don McGahn to fire the man currently investigating him, Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
And it appears this habit has rubbed off on Homeland’s President Keane.
In the season seven premiere, Keane pushes for General McClendon (Robert Knepper) to be executed for his role in the assassination attempt, only for the general to be sentenced to life in prison instead. Unhappy at the outcome, Keane decides to ignore the result and orders her chief of staff, Wellington (Linus Roache), to “fix” this little problem of hers, which ultimately results in the death of McClendon at the hands of an assassin.
With one man dead at the behest of President Keane and potentially more to come, this definitely doesn’t bode well for Carrie and her friends.
The character directly inspired by renowned right-wing shock jock Alex Jones returns
Season seven sees the return of Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber), a right-wing shock jock who is almost an exact depiction of real-life right-wing shock jock and renowned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Both are known for their loud-mouth personalities and for sprouting ridiculous conspiracy theories aimed at a right-wing audience.
Of course, this is where the similarities end. Jones remains on air with his never-ending stream of conspiracy theories, most recently claiming the Florida Parkland high school shooting victims were actors. O’Keefe, meanwhile, is on the run due to a warrant for his arrest being issued after he published a story claiming President Keane’s assassination attempt was a hoax.
But if Homeland’s season seven premiere is any indication, O’Keefe may be sprouting his conspiracy theories for a little while longer yet.
More “FAKE NEWS!”
The return of Brett O’Keefe also means the return of one major theme that’s taken hold of Homeland and real life: fake news.
The “fake news” rhetoric pushed by Trump for the past two years has sowed seeds of discord among the American public, and Homeland decided to reflect this real-world idea through the character of O’Keefe in season six. Since then, the “fake news” rhetoric has remained prevalent and Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa has said that not only will the “fake news” theme continue in season seven, but the show will also do a deeper dive into just how “fake news” affects an increasingly divided country.
So basically there’s a chance we may see President Keane scream “fake news” to a camera at some point in season seven?
Watch Homeland on Fridays at 8:30pm on SBS.
Start season 7 from the beginning. Watch the first episode at SBS On Demand: