Crazy Carrie Mathison returns this season on Homeland. Claire Danes again provides an excellent performance as the bipolar, ex-CIA intelligence officer, who now works for German billionaire Otto Düring (Sebastian Koch) in Berlin, where the CIA covertly assists German intelligence circumvent their country's strict privacy laws. Now at odds with former mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), Mathison suspects Berlin station chief Allison Carr (Miranda Otto) is poisoning the well. Homeland got a little ridiculous during the extended tenure of Nicholas Brody, but has nicely returned to the rails in the last two seasons. During this fifth season, Mathison discovers she has a bounty on her head, possibly over classified documents, and old ally Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) must help her disappear to avoid capture and execution.
If you recall last season (Damn, that show Previously on Homeland is good!), Mathison discovered Berenson and her personal adversary, Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), were on good terms, gutting her. Two years later, Berenson believes Mathison sabotaged his bid to become CIA director, a post Adal now holds. Berenson also chastises Mathison for working with Düring, a man whose family profited off the atrocities of World War II in Germany. The season begins with a timely documents leak, recalling the woes of Edward Snowden, and Mathison seeks to discover why classified material landed in the hands of foreign computer hackers. Berenson stonewalls her, telling Mathison in no uncertain terms that she is no longer part of the team. She also attempts to arrange safe passage for Düring to a Lebanese refugee camp, where she thwarts an assassination attempt. Only later does she discover the bomb was meant for her.
This fifth season of Homeland is brisk, suspenseful and entertaining. The favorite major players return, and their homecoming feels mostly natural. An early point of contention for Mathison is that her mentor is the one who usually delivers kill orders, and she argues with Quinn about whether or not Berenson would actually try to have her killed over information that might damage the reputation of the CIA. After the supporting cast is introduced, it is pretty obvious what is going on here, but this season focuses on the aftermath of this assassination attempt and the reasons behind it. There are double agents, saboteurs and surprisingly loyal radicals, but that is all par for the course in Homeland. This season proves the series can work in new international environments with more contained storylines, which is promising for future outings.
When I mentioned that crazy Carrie Mathison returns, I was not kidding. She decides to go off her mood-stabilizing medications in order to solve the season's mysteries, much to the chagrin of current boyfriend, Jonas Hollander (Alexander Fehling). Mathison sends her young daughter away to keep her safe, and goes fully off the grid. Remember the manic, wildly gesticulating Mathison of previous seasons? She's back, folks. Although the season reins Mathison in quickly, it is somewhat comforting to see Danes playing the wildly inappropriate sleuth of yesteryear. I enjoyed this season of Homeland, which takes the narrative and characters in different directions. Danes and company show a willingness to evolve, which is laudable.
Each of the twelve episodes receives an excellent 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image courtesy of Fox. With its cinematic photography and excellent production values, Homeland: The Complete Fifth Season looks excellent in HD. Fine-object detail is abundant, and wide shots are appropriately deep. Skin tones are accurate, colors are bold and appropriately saturated, and shadow detail is impressive. I noticed no issues with edge enhancement or softness. Minor aliasing and digital noise never become a distracting problem.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks are generally strong. Although this show is largely dialogue driven, there are plenty of ambient effects and a few action sequences to awaken the LFE and surrounds. Music, dialogue and effects are appropriately layered, and I noticed no hiss or distortion. Japanese, Italian and Spanish 5.1 DTS mixes are included, as are English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese and Italian subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
The episodes are split over three discs that are packed in a hinged Blu-ray case that is wrapped in a slightly heavier slipcover. The extras are not impressive. You get The Evolution of Carrie Mathison (10:56/HD) and Homeland in Berlin: Beyond the Wall (9:30/HD).
Showtime's Homeland: The Complete Fifth Season is an impressive outing for the Claire Danes-led thriller. The narrative and characters evolve in satisfying ways, and Homeland proves able to leave the Middle East for other environments without losing steam. Highly Recommended.