No Quinn, No Problem: Why Homeland Is Having Its Best Season in Years

Homeland Season 7 Episode 6 Carrie Claire Danes

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the current season of Homeland.

When Homeland‘s sixth season ended last year with the death of Rupert Friend’s damn-near-invincible Peter Quinn — he went out in a heroic hail of gunfire, of course — many fans were ready to give up on the show. Which is understandable: Quinn was a longtime fan favorite, and it was fair to wonder where Showtime’s aging spy drama would go from here. But it’d be a shame if those fans actually did walk away, because even without Quinn, Homeland is currently hitting on all cylinders in Season 7… and quietly putting together its best season in years.

Season 7 has found Carrie slowly unraveling a vast international conspiracy to undermine President Keane — a woman Carrie hated at the start of the season, by the way — while dealing with serious issues on the homefront as well. It’s been a consistently thrilling ride, packed with the kinds of sharp twists and turns Homeland pulled off so well in its prime early years. (I’d personally rank Season 7 as the show’s best since Season 4, aka the “Drone Queen” season, with Carrie dodging RPGs in Pakistan.) Let’s take a closer look at three key factors that are making this season of Homeland stand out.

Homeland Season 7 Episode 4 Saul1. It’s so timely, it’s scary
A paranoid President closing ranks while facing a Congressional investigation. A loudmouth media personality spreading wild conspiracy theories. Russian meddling. Homeland‘s brand of politically charged drama has always felt ripped from the headlines, but this season has been so bleeding-edge current, it almost stings. Saul’s tense standoff with fiercely anti-Keane talk show host Brett O’Keefe — which ended in a deadly shootout — was a chilling cautionary tale of how heated political rhetoric can too easily lead to real-life bloodshed, just months after the tragedy in Charlottesville. And as for the Russians peddling fake news, well… let’s just hope our own government can get to the bottom of it as efficiently as Saul Berenson is.

Homeland Season 7 Episode 8 Dante2. It’s given Carrie her strongest love interest since Brody (R.I.P.)
With apologies to all you Carrie/Quinn ‘shippers out there — that was really more unrequited love/ships passing in the night than a real romance — Carrie hasn’t had a decent man in her life since Brody was executed at the end of Season 3. (And we can debate how “decent” he was, really.) But Season 7 has introduced Dante Allen (Person of Interest‘s Morgan Spector), an FBI agent who’s known Carrie for years… and has maybe harbored some feelings for her, too. Dante has a lot in common with Brody, it turns out, as Carrie has once again discovered she can’t trust the man she’s involved with. (Last week’s episode was a clear echo of Season 2’s “Q&A,” with Carrie interrogating Dante just like she did with Brody.) The writers have kept us guessing all season long with this relationship — is Dante just using Carrie? Is she just using him back? — so we’re still not sure whether Carrie’s going to end up arresting Dante or marrying him. But just like the Carrie/Brody years, it’s a fascinatingly complicated mess.

Homeland Season 7 Episode 8 Carrie Franny3. It’s taking a hard look at Carrie’s mental state — and maternal issues
Carrie’s well-documented struggles with bipolar disorder have taken a backseat in recent seasons, but they’ve come roaring back with a vengeance in Season 7. Carrie’s manic pursuit of justice has led to her badly neglecting her young daughter Franny, with her sister Maggie ready to take custody of the poor kid. Rather than using Carrie’s mental illness as a convenient plot point, though, Homeland seems to be looking deeper this season, examining the very real toll her espionage adventures take on the people around her. (Is her life as a spy ultimately incompatible with a stable home life?) It is heart-wrenching to watch at times, but it adds a poignant layer of emotional complexity to Carrie’s journey.

Really, it’s remarkable how Homeland has managed to completely reinvent itself from the ground up several times over during its seven-season run. For the first three seasons, Damian Lewis earned top billing alongside Claire Danes in his role as Marine-turned-sleeper agent Nicholas Brody — but now, incredibly, Homeland has aired more episodes without Brody than it did with him. Presidents enter and leave office, international incidents flare up and die down, and through it all, Carrie and Saul are still here, fighting the good fight. Season 8 is already being eyed as Homeland‘s last, and that does feel right… but considering how improbably stellar this season has been, that might actually leave us wanting more.

Now it’s your turn: Is Homeland hitting its stride in Season 7? Or has this season been a snooze? Hit the comments and share your take.