Just when I thought Homeland was becoming great again, it drops the ball in Season Six by failing to provide an interesting storyline that fans of the series can latch onto. The result is a batch of uneven episodes that don't really conclude as much as they do just set up the next season of the show. Still, the A/V specs are equivalent to what we got in previous season sets, and while there aren't a lot of bonus materials, the one-hour PaleyFest Q&A is certainly worth a look. However, this is a season that is strictly For Fans Only.
I had high hopes going into Season Six of Homeland. Although some loyal fans disagree with me, I felt Season 5 was a creative high for the series, with a thrilling cat and mouse game as our hero, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), attempted to stop a bomb from going off in the heart of Berlin, Germany. This season, Homeland returns home, with a season set in New York City. The new location provides an opportunity for a home-based terrorist threat right in the one place Americans fear it the most (and for good reason). Yet, sadly, somehow, the showrunners drop the ball. Season Six isn't bad, but it is very uneven. The series seems to be trying to recreate itself instead of sticking with what has worked – and that makes for some very frustrating TV viewing.
The last season of Homeland ended with Carrie's CIA colleague, Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), on life support after being exposed to a deadly toxin by terrorists, followed by Carrie deciding (against the doctors' pleas) to wake Quinn from a medically induced coma to grill him for some needed information. She didn't get the info she needed, and waking him made his situation worse. The closing scenes of last season's final episode had Carrie pulling the plug on Quinn's life support – seemingly in an act of euthanasia. But surprise, surprise...Quinn survived, although not without some major mental and physical damage. Naturally, Carrie (who is no longer in the CIA and now works at a non-profit that fights against Muslim discrimination) feels responsible for him and allows him to stay in her home – a big mistake with some major repercussions.
Everyone's favorite CIA division chief, Saul (Mandy Patinkin), is still at the agency, although his place of employment is being questioned by the President-Elect, Elizabeth Keene (Elizabeth Marvel). The future female leader of the country (this season was shot before the 2016 election, so everyone involved thought a female president here would mirror real life) had a son who was killed in action in Iraq, and the fear of both Saul and CIA director Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) is that the new leader of the free world will pull back on or end some of the agency's most important ongoing operations.
The focus of Season Six is primarily on Quinn and if he'll ever be the same again (spoiler: he won't) and on Saul, who becomes suspicious of Dar and suspects him of trying to undermine the incoming presidential administration in order to keep things in the CIA status quo. Carrie, of course, is quite involved as well, but not without a lot of bad turns along the way, including an annoying subplot about whether she'll lose custody of her young daughter.
I didn't hate this season, but I was pretty disappointed with it. The biggest letdown is with the Quinn character. His storyline had been written into a corner in the previous season, and the only reason he seems to have been brought back is to keep Rupert Friend around for another year and (sadly) to tear out the hearts of fans one more time. From a character standpoint, there's nowhere for him to go in Season Six, even though it allows Friend to stretch his acting range, as he's playing a very different version of Quinn than we've seen previously.
Before this season was even shot, Showtime renewed Homeland for two additional seasons (Season Seven is currently airing), with Season Eight planned as the final one. Sadly, it seems as if much of the set-up here, particularly with Keene as a new character, is part of a story arc that will carry the show to its conclusion. However, I'm less than excited about the trajectory Alex Gansa and company is taking this series in.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Season Six of Homeland arrives on Blu-ray with three 50GB discs housed inside a standard Elite keepcase with a plastic hub holding Disc 2 of the trio. The reverse side of the keepcase's slick (seen from inside the case) features a picture of star Claire Danes along with a listing of each episode name and the disc it appears on. The bonus features (all on the third Blu-ray) are also listed. Disc 1 of this set is front-loaded with an ad for various TV series from 20th Century Fox and trailer for The People vs. O.J. Simpson. The main menu features a montage of footage from the episodes, with menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen. When selecting an episode to watch, each disc gives viewers the option of just watching that episode or selecting "Season Mode", which will play all the episodes (on that disc) back to back without interruption and will remember where the viewer left off should he or she have to stop at some point.
Although the box cover labels this release for Region A, the Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Each episode of Homeland was shot digitally using Arri Alexa Plus cameras, and each show is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. 20th Century Fox has provided solid transfers with prior seasons of Homeland and this release compares well with those, providing a detailed image, well-defined facial features, and plenty of "pop" in the right lighting. But like most shows (and movies) shot on the Arri Alexa, things get a little less detailed and slightly noisy in some of the darker and nighttime sequences, of which there are more than a few in this season.
That said, this is still a nice-looking release that shouldn't disappoint fans/collectors of this series. I did notice a bit of aliasing here and there in the 12 episodes on these discs, but nothing glaring and nothing that should distract viewers when watching these entries.
The featured track for each episode is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, which was also the featured audio choice of prior seasons. The audio is impressive, although only truly immersive during some of these episodes' more involved sequences, like when Carrie and Quinn are working together to stop an assassination in the final episode. Dialogue, while front and center for the vast majority of these episodes, is clear and intelligible, as well as properly mixed with the rest of the audio. The rears are used frequently for ambient noises (including gunshots where applicable) and also to enhance composer Sean Callery's score. If this track has any obvious glitches or issues, they were not noticed by this reviewer...everything sounds solid, if still short of spectacular.
In addition to the lossless English track, 5.1 DTS tracks are an option in Spanish (Castilian), Italian, German, and French. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), French, Dutch, German, and Italian.
On Location: New York City (HD 2:10) – After spending a big chunk of Season 5 shooting in Germany, Homeland returns home to shoot in the Big Apple. This featurette details the thoughts behind the move and includes comments from Executive Producer Alex Gansa, Location Manager Ryan Smith, and stars Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, and F. Murray Abraham, .
About Season 6 (HD 2:58) – As the title implies, this featurette gives a little synopsis of what's going on in this season, although it's all set-up, without giving away any plot spoilers. Included here are comments from stars Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, and F. Murray Abraham.
The Paley Center for Media Q&A with Cast and Creative Team from PaleyFest NY 2016 (HD 55:36) – This is an October 6, 2016 PaleyFest Q&A that is moderated by journalist Josh Elliot and features Executive Producer Alex Gansa, Director and Executive Producer Lesli Linka Glatter, and stars Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, and F. Murray Abraham.
Our favorite CIA (and ex-CIA) heroes are back for Season Six of Homeland, and while the acting is strong as always, the storyline of this season – set in New York City – does not live up to some of the exciting arcs of prior years. There are good moments to be found in these 12 episodes, but there's a lot of pointless subplots and wrong turns along the way as well. For Fans Only.