Homeland Says Goodbye to Carrie Matheson, Television's Dumbest Spy

At long last, Homeland is over. The show lasted eight seasons to baffling acclaim. Reviews and pundits declared it on the cutting edge, its fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist. But it had one big problem: its heroine was the dumbest spy on television. The other characters kept saying how smart she was, but her decisions were frequently dumb and awful. Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) is a flaming idiot. She is a terrible, terrible spy, incapable of lying convincingly, which every spy needs to do. Carrie has no poker face at all. She reacts to every setback and terrible turn of events and bad news like she's about to collapse in a nervous breakdown. She is possibly the least believable spy on television.

One of Carrie and Saul's final missions on Homeland, courtesy of Showtime.
One of Carrie and Saul's final missions on Homeland, courtesy of Showtime.

Right from the beginning, Carrie was not plausible. There is no way in real life that the CIA could possibly miss her bipolar diagnosis during vetting for recruiting. The intelligence services protocols for vetting potential recruits are extremely thorough, including medical records. A possible recruit with mental health issues as serious as bipolar disorder would never be allowed into the Agency, not even as a backroom analyst. Their reports would never have any credibility. From that point on, the show just lacked any real credibility. Yet the show sells itself as an edgy spy drama with its finger on the pulse of our messy reality. The James Bond movies are much more honest in their total escapist fantasy.

Do The Writers Know What They Were Really Telling Us?

Homeland spent eight seasons telling us that spies are essentially incompetent idiots who are utter crap at planning ahead. Carrie is the poster child for terrible planning. She makes it up as she goes along and gets as many friends and allies killed as possible. She's really the biggest villain of the entire show. She might have gotten more people killed than any of the actual villains in the show combined. She got friends, colleagues, allies, lovers, assets and entire squads of soldiers killed. If members of the intelligence services in real life were like Carrie, it's a miracle the world hasn't been reduced to a series of smoking craters by now. She is also the Worst Mother on Television Ever. She neglects her daughter and even contemplates drowning her. Perhaps the writers wanted to make her "complex". Instead, what they did was find another way to make her a truly terrible person. Sometimes I could swear writers for cable television can't tell the difference between "complex" and "despicable".

Carrie is Dumb and Ridiculous Right to the End

The writers of Homeland constantly contrive totally unbelievable situations in order for the plot to happen. Even in the finale, they make Carrie carry out utterly ridiculous and implausible actions. Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is her mentor, handler, and much cleverer than she is. Why doesn't she just come clean to him that the Russians want the name of his asset instead of trying to coerce him for it? She hides everything from everyone for no good reason, which results in endless misunderstandings that get loads of people killed? How can she even jump on a plane to Israel to trick Saul's sister when she's suspected of treason? Wouldn't she be on a No-Fly list or have her passport seized?

And that ending, the writers seem to think Carrie's seeming defection to Russia but really still spying for the US is a happy ending. Wouldn't the Russians figure out immediately that she's Saul's newest deep-cover asset in Russia? Or do they actually know and she's a double agent now? Could she be feeding Saul false intel from the Russians? That would be an even bleaker ending than the show's writers claim. Poor Carrie, a plot puppet to a writer's room that was determined to make her the Worst Spy Ever. What if Homeland had been a comedy all along, a comedy of errors where people get blown up? Maybe the moody, ominous music mislead us for eight seasons. If they played the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme throughout the show, it might make a lot more sense in the end.

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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