Monthly Archives: October 2014


Homeland 4×01: The Drone Queen

N.B. I’m watching Homeland on UK time, so apologies if you’re already streets ahead of this. And by ‘streets’ I mean ‘two episodes’

I spent the first two seasons of Homeland with my eyes glued to the TV and my heart in my mouth. The third season, however, was spent staring slightly incredulously at the screen and uttering ‘Ugh, Carrie, really?’ and ‘Seriously, Brody, seriously?’ at various points throughout. That doesn’t mean that I am one of those people who would rather see the back of Homeland. Nor am I one of the people who for some reason were of the opinion that the entire series was carried by Brody, and couldn’t possibly go on without him. On the contrary, one of the worst episodes of Homeland I have sat through was the one that solely featured Brody, practically dead in a tower block in Venezuela, being administered heroin by a doctor resembling Michael Jackson. That, in my opinion, was Homeland’s low point. So I was actually not sorry at all to see the back of Brody. It has always been the brilliance of Claire Danes’ portrayal of Carrie that has kept me watching. I was never really 100% invested in the Carrie/Brody relationship, and the whole thing was drawn out far too long. When Brody made his exit at the end of last season, I was hopeful. Homeland was now free to reset the clock, wipe the slate clean, leave the Brodys (including, thank heavens, Dana – not to mention poor, inexplicably mute Chris) behind.

And much about Homeland is new as it moves into its fourth season. New locations, new characters, new conflicts – even a new baby. It’s certainly a departure for the show, which until now has taken place largely, as the title might suggest, on US soil. But as Carrie – or, as she is termed by her colleagues early on in the episode, ‘the Drone Queen’ – returns to her sparsely furnished Kabul apartment, pours a large glass of white wine and washes down a pill or two, it’s clear to see that old habits die hard. The same can be said for Saul (Mandy Patinkin), all the way back in New York, stuck in a private sector job and visibly itching to return to a world where his opinions have a larger effect than merely jeopardising a contract.

Homeland will never be as gripping as it was in its first season, when there were so many unknowns surrounding all characters, including our unpredictable protagonist. Three seasons on and we’re now at the stage where we get Carrie and how she operates. Her rash decisions are par for the course, and are more likely to induce an exasperated eye-roll than a tension-filled gasp. What’s interesting is that the writers now seem to be using this to their advantage. Instead of capitalising on our sympathy for Carrie (something we had in spadefuls in season 1 but that has since been wearing dangerously thin) they are instead causing us to question her choices increasingly. Carrie is now Station Chief in Kabul, rather than Istanbul as was originally the plan, and it is strongly hinted that the choice of Afghanistan over Turkey is related to the fact that the former is far too dangerous a place in which to raise a baby. It says much about Carrie that she would choose to become the Drone Queen rather than care for her own child. This repositioning of the audience’s feelings towards the protagonist is an interesting decision by the writers, and I’m curious to see how it pans out. There are many points in which Carrie’s responses to the consequences of her actions – especially the inadvertent killing of forty civilians in a poorly-timed attack that becomes the focus of this episode – cause us to feel as uncomfortable as we do seeing the words ‘The Drone Queen’ iced delicately onto a birthday cake. Luckily, not everyone in Homeland is completely devoid of a moral compass. Peter ‘Cheekbones’ Quinn (Rupert Friend) is still strongly questioning his role in the conflict playing out in the Middle East, and he’s not about to let Carrie off lightly either. Apparently, for now, he is the new Saul – concerned by Carrie’s behaviour, and ready to play devil’s advocate if need be. Not that Saul is oblivious to Carrie’s actions even all those miles away – as a (pointedly ignored) phone call suggests partway through.

This episode, on the whole, was slow to get going and quick to wind up. It felt like the action was only just beginning when the credits began to roll. Showtime chose to air the first two episodes back to back in the US last week, and it’s a shame Channel 4 didn’t follow suit. Having said that, I’m not ready to give up on Homeland just yet. We were left with a lot of questions: who was the mysterious ‘X’ on Islamabad Station Chief Sandy’s phone? Would Sandy (played by an enigmatic Corey Stoll) survive to see another episode? What is the significance of the young medical student who survived the wedding party attack ? And just how long can Carrie keep avoiding a) her baby and b) the emotional consequences of her role – especially when people keep turning up to remind her that she should be feeling guilty? I don’t just mean Quinn – I’m referring also to King Arthur from Merlin (Bradley James), who pops up in uniform halfway through the episode, and actually turns out not to be King Arthur, but First Lieutenant J.G. Edgars, who regretfully – on Carrie’s orders – flew the mission into Pakistan that has everyone in a tizzy.

Instead of showing remorse following Edgars’ confrontation, Carrie merely acts annoyed. But then when has she ever been one to listen to other people?

There are upsides to indefinite unemployment, especially when you find yourself in this particular predicament in the Autumn, the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, and an abundance of glorious television drama. As I tread the vast waters of joblessness, not only is there ample time for me to avail of the delights of the Autumn drama output, there is also room to acquaint myself with classics that have previously escaped my attention. Thus I am currently ploughing through season 1 of The West Wing (a programme I cannot believe I have thus far neglected, and that makes me dearly want to swan around in a suit being eloquent and witty but also staggeringly intelligent and astoundingly efficient) whilst simultaneously enjoying new series of Peaky Blinders, The Good Wife and, of course, everybody’s favourite Sunday evening staple, Downton Abbey, the drama that drama forgot.

I would just like to mention here, as a disclaimer of sorts, that I have actually been taking productive steps to finding a job alongside all of this sustained consideration and critiquing of screen-based popular culture. My parents – with whom I am currently living – will probably read this, and I’d hate them to think that all of the hours I spend holed up in my bedroom are dedicated to lovingly binge-watching fifteen-year-old US TV dramas rather than the reality: carefully crafting cover letter after cover letter, and watching my practice psychometric test scores creep painfully slowly towards the desired percentile. Last year, when I was still basking in the luxury of student life, I wrote a column containing recommendations for television programmes that were appropriate as revision. Now that I find myself essay-less and exam-less, I feel an update may be necessary. And the truth is, there are countless lessons to be learned from the stars of the small screen. So without further ado, here it is – Productive Television Consumption: The Graduate Edition.

Core competencies: lessons from the Bake Off.

Independence. Drive. Initiative. Determination. Risk-taking. Tenacity. Multitasking skills. Ability to produce the perfect choux pastry.

Until that last one, this could easily have been yet another list of core competencies reeled off by yet another ‘Requirements’ section on yet another graduate scheme website. In fact, it’s a list of all the qualities possessed by our beloved Great British Bake Off contestants. With that in mind, the only motivation I have for watching this week’s final is because I’m looking to gain inspiration for any application forms, interviews or assessment days that may miraculously come my way. It’s obviously not just because I quite like gazing at baked goods for extended periods of time. Nothing to do with that.

'Can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative under the icy glare of Paul Hollywood?'

‘Can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative under the icy glare of Paul Hollywood?’

Surviving numerical reasoning: Daisy in Downton Abbey

Times they are a-changing (as they are wont to do alarmingly often in the land of Downton), and Daisy is worried that her maths skills aren’t quite up to the standards that a future career may demand of her. I FEEL YA DAISY. Numerical reasoning tests are the Thomas to my Miss Baxter, the bus (read: Bates) to my Mr Green. Every time this poor kitchen maid bemoans her non-existent affinity with numbers, I find myself nodding along to her proclamations of woe. I, too, have been the victim of much numerical trauma. I, too, have spent hard-earned cash on books that might help, only to cast them aside in despair. But Daisy is not going to give up. She’ll keep going, even if it means hiring Miss Bunting to teach her alongside the demands of her never-ending culinary to-do-list. An inspiration to all those who feel defeated by data interpretation.

Looking the part: literally everyone on The Good Wife

I am currently in the market for a Corporate Fairy Godmother, and I would like, if possible, for Alicia Florrick to fill this vacancy. Or Diane Lockhart. Either will do. This is partly to do with the fact that I want them to share with me all of their wisdom and insights relating to being Kick-Ass Women In High-Powered Jobs, and partly because I think that if anyone could wave a wand and majestically transform my H&M jumper and jeans into a classy Hugo Boss suit and blouse combo/devastatingly sophisticated Etro dress, it would be Alicia or Diane. In fact, everyone on The Good Wife looks so fabulous that it may as well be renamed The Good Wardrobe, and from this we can deduce the following: 1) It is important to look the part, so dress well for interviews, and 2) Maybe if I get a good job, my hair will miraculously become more voluminous.



'That's why her hair is so big. It's full of corporate insights.'

‘That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of corporate insights.’















Commercial awareness: the Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders returned last week, and in Episode One we learned that our favourite razor-capped, dubiously-moralled brummie gang were looking to expand to London. We were flies on the wall as Tommy et al discussed the implications of the move on the family business. These people had clearly done their research. Tommy new all about the current political and economic landscape in the capital (apparently the Jews and Italians aren’t too keen on each other), and Esme exhibited remarkable insight when she proclaimed that London meant ‘smoke and trouble’. We can learn two things from this: 1) Commercial awareness is key to a successful business application, and 2) Maybe we aren’t that keen to move to London after all.

CV points: Cilla

By the end of the first episode of ITV’s cosy biopic Cilla, we’d already seen our Scouse heroine excel in typing, experiment as a hair stylist and belt her heart out in the Cavern Club, accompanied by the Beatles. This is a girl who clearly understands the value of work experience – and the importance of networking.

'Did someone say transferable skills?'

‘Did someone say transferable skills?’

Conclusion: TV is a valuable resource when it comes to the graduate job hunt. Now back to the application forms. (And maybe some more West Wing…)