Tagged: Homeland

Mindy Newell: This Is My Country

“This is my country, Land of my birth, This is my country, Grandest on Earth

This is my country, Land of my choice, This is my country, Hear my proud voice.

“I pledge thee my allegiance, America the bold, For this is my country, To have and to hold”

This Is My Country (1940), Dan Raye – Lyrics, Al Jacobs – Music


The sixth season of Homeland ended last night with an absolutely bang-up twisting cliffhanger and a final shot of Carrie staring at the Capitol building, mirroring the opening montage of earlier seasons that ended with Nicholas Brody staring at the White House.

Showtime did not give Homeland much publicity this year; the network instead focused on Billions – which stars Damien Lewis, who played the conflicted, and ultimately very lost, Sgt. Nicholas Brody. But after six years Homeland continues to stay relevant; this season it delivered hard punches to topical issues, with brilliant extrapolation of real world news stories and events by the producers and writers. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I won’t go into details except to say that this year’s story arc revolved around a President-Elect whose distrust of the nation’s intelligence services leads her to distrust the entire American political system – as Dar Adal tells Saul Berenson, “There’s something distinctly un-American about her” – and the manipulation of not just the public but the government itself through fake news, deep state conspiracy theorists, and paranoia.

There has been much ado about “diversity in comics” lately. Almost at the same time the Marvel Retailer Summit and Senior Vice-President David Gabriel made waves – tsunamis – over “female superheroes” (please read Mike Gold’s ComicMix column here), Rich Johnston over at Bleeding Cool posted this . I think the former is basically a tempest in a teapot and is really about Marvel sales – Saturday’s New York Times (April 7) had an article by George Gene Gustins in its business section – “Marvel Comics May Have Slumping Sales, But Don’t Blame Its Diverse Heroes” which takes a closer look at what’s going on in the Bullpen:

While ‘Marvel Blames Diversity’ makes for a juicy headline, the issue is more nuanced.

“As Brian Hibbs, the owner of the two Comix Experience stores in San Francisco, said in an interview, Marvel has recently been experiencing a “massive sales slump” because of more basic factors: the frequent restarting of series with new No. 1 issues; fan fatigue over storylines that promise changes but fail to deliver; and the introduction of a deluge of new series. There is also the expense of comic collecting.

“This month, for instance, Marvel began rolling out a revamped lineup of X-Men titles, which will result in seven new series – two of which will publish twice a month, the other five monthly. That’s a lot of comic books, and they run an average of $3.99 each.

“The first issues will undoubtedly sell well thanks to the multiple covers and the collector’s tendency to buy them all. But subsequent issues are expected to follow the industry pattern of lower sales over time.

“’Marvel doesn’t have “more than one or two comics selling 60,000 or 70,000 copies,’ Mr. Hibbs said, adding that this trend has virtually nothing to do with ‘this diversity canard.’”

However, the later article is about anti-Semitism and anti-Christian (and by inference, anti-any religion except Islam) sentiments hidden as “Easter eggs” in the first issue of X-Men Gold by its artist, Ardian Syaf, Author G. Willow Gordon, (Marvel’s Ms. Marvel, Vertigo’s Cairo and Air, and the novel Alif the Unseen, along with other works) addressed Mr. Syaf and the controversy on her blog site (Here is What Quran 5:51 Actually Says).

All I can say is this:

If that’s truly how you feel, Mr. Syaf, then why do you work in an industry whose roots are firmly established in Judeo-Christian beliefs and mythology? Do you know that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were born Stanley Leiber and Jacob Kurtzberg? That Superman was created by two kids named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster? That the very first “comic book” was the brainchild of two men named Max Gaines (nee Max Ginzberg) and Harry L. Wildenberg?

I believe that the upswing in overt and covert bigotry and intolerance in this country is directly related to the man who sits in the Oval Office at present. A man who cries about the women and babies killed in Syria, but won’t lift his ban on Syrian refugees. A man who decries the use of sarin gas – a weapon of mass destruction – but told Chris Matthews during the campaign, “Why do we have nukes if we’re not going to use them?”

Crocodile tears.

Mindy Newell: Homeland, 24: Legacy and Yiannopoulos, Oh My!

Before I get into the meat of today’s column…

Do you watch comedian and political satirist Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO, Friday, 10 PM ET)? What I especially love about Mr. Maher’s show is that he invites people on who are from all shades of the political spectrum and that he’s unafraid of calling out bullshit when he sees it, whether it’s coming from the left, the right, or anywhere in the middle. Yes, he can be crass, profane, and occasionally downright rude, but he’s not sitting on the sidelines.

One of Friday night’s guests was Milo Yiannopoulos, a public speaker and a senior editor for Breitbart News, the alt-right news site that brought us such lovely individuals as Steve Bannon. This was my first experience with this guy, and it was incredibly unpleasant and I cannot be-lieve that anyone takes this very sad, very mixed-up little boy seriously. Er iz a meyvn vi a bok af a klezmer, which translates to He’s an expert like a goat’s an expert on musicians.

Homeland has been back for a month, and though perhaps the first three chapters were a bit slow and tedious in the set-up, last week’s episode kicked the series into high gear. To bring you up to date, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is back in the States, living in Brooklyn with her daughter by the now-dead Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) and working for a foundation whose goal is to help Muslims living in America, while secretly advising the new President-Elect on foreign policy and the intelligence agencies motives and games. The foundation’s latest client is Sekou Bah, a teenage convert to Islam who had been arrested by the FBI for terrorist-related activities – he had been posting videos critical of American policy towards Islam and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the incoming President’s policy agenda – she wants to cut down on what she terms “America’s interference with foreign countries” – is antithetical to Carrie’s old co-workers at the CIA, Saul Berenson (Mandy Pantikin) and Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham); they believe that Iran is clandestinely working with North Korea on a “parallel nuclear” project – in other words, Iran is helping North Korea build a nuclear bomb and the means to deliver it – and breaking the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a.k.a. the “Iran deal.”

And Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) is one fucked-up ex-spy; no, he didn’t die in that hospital bed last season – as I and just about everyone believed – but he is suffering not only from the lingering physical effects of the Sarin gas, but also one helluva case of PTSD. When we first saw him, he was living in a V.A. rehab center; now he is living in the basement of Carrie’s brownstone. And he has discovered that someone is spying on Carrie from an apartment across the street – only Carrie doesn’t believe him.

Last week’s episode, “A Flash of Light,” saw Saul visiting his sister, who lives in the disputed West Bank of Israel, using her as an excuse to hide his real reason for being there – to meet an Iranian general and ask him to investigate Iran’s [possible] “parallel nuclear program” with North Korea. The general agrees, but as Saul is about to leave for the airport to return to the States, the Israelis pick him. They know that a senior Iranian official was in Palestinian area of the West Bank, and they know that Saul had crossed over the previous night. They detain him.

Meanwhile, Carrie has used her espionage skills to get the FBI to release Sekou and to clear him. There is one warning – that Sekou not post any more videos. But when Sekou arrives home, his friends are suspicious of how he got off, and think he has become an informant. To prove them wrong, Sekou posts a new vid, in which he outs the real FBI informant, a former gang member named Saad Masoud. Carrie is able to eventually convince Sekou to take it down; although she does not tell him she is ex-CIA, she does let him know that not only will the Feds lock up Sekou and throw away the key, she could go to jail if it is discovered that she took what she calls “highly risky measures” to clear him.

That night, Quinn, who is now convinced that the man across the street is spying on Carrie – he broke into the apartment and found a stool placed next to the window; its indentations in the carpet indicate to him that he has been there a long time – takes her car and tracks the man, who has been picked up by a car. He follows him to Medina Medley, a warehouse and distribution center where Sekou works; Quinn takes pictures, until a cop hurries him along for illegal parking.

The next day newspapers feature a story on the President-Elect having information on Iran’s nuclear program and not acting on it. She believes Dar Adal leaked the story. She wants Carrie to give her information on Dar – and by inference, Saul – that the new administration can use against him, but Carrie is reluctant to betray her former colleagues. She leaves to pick up her daughter on the street, where Dar is waiting for her – he makes a nasty crack about the color of her daughter’s hair, a reference to Carrie’s affair with Nicholas Brody – and tells her he knows that Carrie is giving the President-Elect advice. When Carrie denies it, he says, “I’m not Saul.” (Great line!)

He tells her that she has been out of the CIA for three years, and that none of her information is pertinent.

The next morning, Sekou is back at work. He drives his delivery van into midtown Manhattan.  He hears a beeping. The van explodes.

And in Israel, Saul is told he’s being released. “You’re needed back home. There’s been an attack in New York.”

A great cliffhanger. And which today, as you’re reading this, will have been only sorta resolved, because the thing with Homeland is that you still don’t know what’s coming next…even if you think you do.

Which brings me to…

I’ve also been watching 24: Legacy. I don’t know if I’m going to stay with it. For one thing, I’ve been missing Supergirl, which is on the CW the same time Legacy is on Fox, Monday at 8 P.M. ET, and CBS video-on-demand is lagging behind the Girl of Steel’s episodes, and I don’t want to pay for CBS All-Access. But the other thing is that 24: Legacy kinda sucks.

I don’t know whether it’s because I’m missing Jack and Chloe and Tony and everyone else at the “old” CTU, or whether it’s because the plotting on 24: Legacy is “eh.” I’m not going to go into an extensive rundown of it, because I’ve already immersed you into my recap of Homeland; but one thing that really bothers me is the “jealous girlfriend,” a trope so old that its gray hair is showing. The other thing that’s really bothersome is that I can see the “twists-and-turns” coming from a mile away. For instance, last week, when the new Jack Bauer – see, I can’t even remember his name – was stuck in a police precinct with every cop and SWAT team member about to blow him away, I knew that CTU was going to ring up in the nick of time and call off the dogs. (And that was the cliffhanger the previous week. That’s a long time to see what’s coming.) I only rarely guessed what was about to happen on Jack’s 24. More important, I didn’t want to. I just wanted to lose myself in the story – and I was.

That ain’t happening with what one of our readers, ReneeCat, calls 24: Light. Nope. I’ll give it one more episode, which is being more than fair. But I’ll watch it later, either on VOD or via streaming.

Because tonight I’m watching Supergirl.


Mindy Newell Is Writing This During The Giants / Packers Game

The Crown Season 1

This is going to be a relatively unusual column today as I am frequently stopping to watch the New York Giants/Green Bay Packers wild card game. Right now there are 20 seconds left in the 1st quarter, the G’ints just punted, and Green Bay’s drive will start on the 45 yard line. The Giants should be up by at least one touchdown, but Beckham has dropped two perfect passes in the end zone – commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are speculating that it’s because of the cold weather and although that’s possible, that’s not what I expect from a player of Beckham’s caliber. He made the All-Pro team this year. Anyway, the G’ints are up by a field goal (that’s three points for you non-football fans out there) and Green Bay has yet to put anything on the board.

I will say that New York’s defense in the 1st quarter has been terrific, but it’s a loooong game. Also, as I pointed to out to my daughter, son-in-law, and brother, the Packers have lost two previous play-off games to the Giants and they are as hungry as I would be. Eye of the Tiger, y’know?

Man, it’s hard not to write a running commentary on the game, but this is ComicMix, not NFL SuperPro (to mention the magazine I edited at Marvel in conjunction with NFL Properties), so I will digress from the pigskin.

To be honest, I haven’t ready any new comics that have impressed me enough to talk about – although I do love Adam Hughes’ Betty & Veronica – but I sure have been on the web a lot lately checking out “ComicMix-y” series, along with previews and trailers for what’s “coming soon.”

Constant readers will know that I have watched The Crown on Netflix (the geek connection is Matt Smith as Prince Phillip) and just finished the second season of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. I’m currently looking forward to The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the 1985 speculative fiction, dystopian novel by the noted Canadian author Margaret Atwood, which will be premiering on Hulu in April. Set in a bleak future in which the United States has been become the theocratic Republic of Gilead, in which women have two functions: Madonna (wife and mother) and whore (the “Handmaids” of the title). While the novel primarily explores the themes of the roles of women in society, it also raises questions about the relationships between men and women, the purpose of class and caste, freedom of speech and thought, and the power of religion to subvert individualism.

The novel won the 1987 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and was nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award and Booker Prize; it was also nominated in 1987 for the Prometheus Award. It has already been adapted as a movie (which starred the late Natasha Richardson, and which, im-not-so-ho, did not do the book justice) and has also been translated to radio, opera, and stage. I’m really looking forward to it’s adaptation as a series so that the book has the chance to “stretch its legs.”

It’s the 2nd quarter, 3:60 left, and the G’ints are up by 6 – two field goals. Green Bay hasn’t yet scored…fuck! Green Bay just scored…and I must admit it was a daring pass by Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the successful and talented wide receiver Davante Adams. With the extra point, the Packers are now up by 1 – the score is now 7 – 6.

Much closer – next Saturday (January 15) is the television premiere of the sixth season of Homeland, although Showtime is already streaming the first episode and has made it available on Showtime On Demand. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is in New York City, specifically Brooklyn, disengaged from the CIA, and has started a foundation to help falsely accused Muslims. Saul Berenson (Mandy Pantikin) and Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) are back, as is…


…Rupert Friend as CIA “black ops” agent Peter Quinn. (To paraphrase Captain Kirk to Spock in The Wrath of Khan: “Isn’t he dead?”)

I check out the premiere of Emerald City (NBC, Fridays at 9 P.M.), which co-stars the indomitable and magnificent Vincent D’Onofrio (Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin, last seen on the whatever screen you use in second season of Netflix’s Daredevil) as the Wizard…

Double fuck!!!!! I missed the play (in fact, I don’t know how the Packers got the ball back because I was writing this), but the Packers have just scored again – and it’s an 8-point Green Bay lead. 14 – 6 going into halftime. What the hell happened to New York’s defense??

Okay. I’m calm. Depressed, but calm. As I was saying, I tried Emerald City, but it just didn’t work for me. It was too slow…or something. Not sure. I didn’t make it to the second half of the two-hour premiere – not actually a pilot, but two episodes run in sequence. But YMMV.

24 will be back, premiering on Fox after the Super Bowl (February 5), but without Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lyn Rajskub). Yep, Fox is doing a sequel, officially called 24: Legacy. Corey Hawkins is the “new Jack,” playing ex-Army Ranger and war hero Eric Carter. However, Carlos Bernard as agent-gone-bad Tony Almeida will be back. I don’t know about this one. Keifer and Chloe put such indelible marks on the show; it remains to be seen if lightning can strike twice.


Mindy Newell: A Psychic and a Bunch Of Spies

Spy Vs Spy

Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette): It’s 9:00. How am I supposed to know you’re OK? How do I know you’re not lying dead somewhere? • Joe Dubois (Jake Weber): If something had happened, somebody would’ve called. If I were dead, who are we kidding, you’d be the first to know. • Medium, NBC and CBS, 2005 – 2011

She sees dead people.

From January 2005 until January 2011, Patricia Arquette played the role of Allison DuBois, wife, mother, would-be lawyer, and Medium to the Phoenix District Attorney Office. Brought to television life by Glenn Gordon Caron, who had also developed and produced Moonlighting, the show that kicked off Bruce Willis’ career – the show was based on the story and exploits of real-life psychic investigator Allison DuBois, a Phoenix native who worked as an intern for the city’s D.A. and who wrote a book called Don’t Kiss Them Good-bye.

I’m not here to argue the truth of (the real) Ms. DuBois’s ability – though I have a very, very dear friend whom I believe definitely has a “gift” – but just to tell you how much I loved the series when it first ran and which I recently discovered available on Amazon Prime.

Patricia Arquette, who won just about every award possible for her 2014 performance as the mother in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, is one of those actress whom I will watch in anything she does – from the first time I saw her in an episode of Thirtysomething to her turn as an aging prostitute in a 2012 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – because she is, im-not-so-ho, a natural actress, inhabiting her roles so thoroughly that I (and you) forget it’s a performance.

The charm of Medium, aside from the series’ science-fiction/fantasy genre elements, is that it also belonged to another popular television genus – the family drama. It wasn’t just about Allison DuBois’ crime-busting extrasensory abilities furrowing out the bad guy of the week, but also about her families, both personal and workplace, their traumas, their joys, and their lives; I think that Medium’s success was based on its “ensemble” approach to telling its stories, so that even those who avoided anything even hinting of “supernatural” or “magical” watched it. Like Buffy, it was a story about life

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” • Michael Corleone, 1990

Tonight, as I write this, is Sunday and so it is the second episode of the fifth season of Homeland. So I can’t talk about that because I haven’t seen it yet. But the premiere:

It’s two years (in Homeland time) since Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) made a mess of being station chief in Pakistan. She has left the CIA, and is working for a German millionaire philanthropist as his security consultant. Yes, we are in Berlin, everybody. On the surface everything seems fine for the bi-polar ex-spy: she is a happy working mom – Frannie, Brody’s daughter, is with her; she is in a stable relationship and living with her lover – uh, oh, first clue the past isn’t really in the past: the guy looks an awfully lot like Nicholas Brody, with reddish hair and a beard; and she’s even a frequent-flyer at church.

Uh-oh, second clue the past isn’t really in the past: Carrie’s boss wants to go to Lebanon to see what he can do to help all the refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq (just to mention a few fucked-up states in crisis mode). Like Lebanon is the most stable country.

And meantime, two “accidental” hackers into the CIA’s server have discovered that the “Company” has been illegally spying on German citizens for Germany, since that country’s strict constitutional privacy laws prevent that kind of “homeland” surveillance.

Uh-oh, third clue the past isn’t really in the past: A free-lance journalist tries to show Carrie these classified printouts, wanting to get her affirmation about them before the journalist publishes them–although Carrie refuses on the grounds that it would break her “exit-interview” agreement with the CIA to not get involved in any way with “Company” matters. (The journalist says she’s going to publish them whether or not Carrie can verify that they really do belong to the CIA.)

There are a lot more clues, the groundwork has been laid; Saul and Dar Adal are in Germany to address the hacking and Germany’s response, and so is Quinn, still doing what he does best – killing and blowing up things, which he’s been doing for the last two years all over the Middle East, with the sanction of the CIA.

But now he has been “officially” cut loose. And like Jim Phelps in Mission Impossible, if he is “killed or captured, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

But I think that Peter Quinn still wants out. And that Carrie wants back in.

I think it’s going to be like the old strip in Mad Magazine:

Spy vs. Spy

Mindy Newell: One So Right, One So Wrong

“You are a traitor and I am the fucking CIA.” – Carrie Mathison

Have you been watching Homeland this season?

Homeland suffered not a sophomore slump but a jumpy junior year, which im-not-so-ho, admirably redeemed itself with the emotionally tortured final story arc of CIA agent Carrie Mathison (the magnificent Claire Danes) and her lover, the “almost” terrorist Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (the brilliant Damien Lewis), which left Carrie pregnant, Brody dead, and viewers wondering, “Where do they go from here?”

Well, where they went has been one brilliant roller-coaster ride.

The season four premiere was a two-hour feast of Carrie Mathison six months after the death of Brody, with the geography shifting from Kabul to Istanbul to Washington, D.C., as Carrie coped with a failed drone strike and the death of the CIA station chief in Istanbul at the hands of an angry mob.

Oh, and the reality of her (detached) motherhood, which included Carrie deciding to drown Brody’s child in the bathtub. But was that real? Or only the tortured dreamscape of a woman in torment over sending her lover on a mission that led to his death?

And that was only the beginning.

The show this season has been leaner, meaner and more complicated than ever. It revolves around the ramifications of that drone strike gone wrong in the first episode, by which, instead of killing a terrorist leader as it was meant to, the Americans rained death down upon a wedding celebration. There are no easy questions and there are no easy answers, as Carrie, Quinn (Rupert Friend), new CIA Director Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts) and Saul (the glorious Mandy Patankin – and if he doesn’t win an Emmy for his work this season I’m never watching the Emmys again) deal with the twisting truths, lies, and complicated relationships that define United States foreign policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East.

Homeland has reached season episode nine, titled “There’s Something Else Going On,” which aired two weeks ago and left viewers and critics alike with their jaws on the ground and in agony over the fortnight break. I have been avoiding spoilers – not my usual policy, as I am a spoiler whore – over what happened last night (in Mindy-time, tonight as I’m writing this) in episode 10, which is significant.

Reading what is to happen usually only whets my appetite to see the spoiler played out on screen with the nuances of the actors adding more depth to the written word – but this time I have luxuriated in the suspense and the “What the fuck!? What the fucking fuck!! – to quote Lockhart in episode 9 – aggravation of having to wait two weeks for answers. And I wasn’t alone. Yep, Homeland was the topic of conversation around the OR table for the last two weeks. Those who hadn’t seen it yet were all “Shut up! Shut the hell up!” and those of us caught up were all “Two weeks! How could they do that to us!”

I don’t want to give you any actual spoilers as to what created all this exasperation, but I will give you two hints. Think RPGs and Benghazi. Of course by the time you read this, episode 10 will have aired, releasing all the pent-up frustration, so it’s all rather a moot point. I’m only hoping that after the two-week bye (to borrow a sports term), the producers and their team don’t come on the field lazy and fat, but sleek and muscled and ready to win.

•    •    •    •    •

I have a place where dreams are born / And time is never planned. / It’s not on any chart, / You must find it with your heart, / Never-never land.” – Neverland, Mark Charlap, Julie Styne, Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green

Of course, there was Peter Pan Live! to look forward to and to help bide me over.

I have loved the musical, based on J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, ever since I saw Mary Martin as the boy who refused to grow up back in the dark ages of television. And I also have had a special relationship to the show ever since I played Peter at Camp Monroe the summer I was eight years old. I remember as clearly as if it was yesterday all the words of every song and much of the dialogue; none of the joy has left, despite the 52 years laying between the then and the now. “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning” will always be the direction of my life.

I so wanted it to be good.

Allison Williams was… fine. Yes, she can sing, but there was something wanting in her portrayal, some impish mischievousness missing, some boyish callousness and selfishness lacking.

Christopher Walken was an embarrassment. Was he actually reading his lines from cue cards? Sure seemed that way to me. With memories of Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook haunting me, I just could not believe what I was watching. Honestly, I was cringing for him.

And why were the Lost Boys so grown up? They seemed more like the Lost Gen-Xers. And what was with those German schoolboy costumes? Left over from last year’s “The Sound of Music Live?”

Ecch, there was so much wrong with it. Not even the clapping of every single child in the world could bring this “Tinker(ed with)” Peter Pan to life.