Homeland starts strongly - but will no-one ever believe Carrie?

* Contains spoilers for Homeland season seven, episode one *

You'd think people would have started believing Carrie Mathison by now.

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Over the previous six seasons of Homeland she's identified an al-Qaeda agent (even if she did eventually fall for him), thwarted major terrorist attacks, and saved the life of the President of the United States.

And yet no-one ever thinks Carrie might actually be on to something. That is, until the terrible truth emerges, usually around episode 11 or 12.

Instead, they all think she's letting her bipolar disorder get out of control, and condescendingly ask her if she's still taking her meds.

By now, she should really be director of the CIA. Anyone with such sage-like wisdom and Sherlock-level sleuthing skills would be the immediate go-to in any national security situation.

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But this is Homeland, so in 'Enemy of the State', the opener of season seven, Carrie once again finds herself back at square one, a lone wolf out in the cold. Shunned by the increasingly paranoid, increasingly hardline President Keane, Carrie is unemployed, and back in D.C. living with her sister and her family (although at least she has Frannie with her).

Rather than go for a conventional job interview, which is what she promises her sister she's going to do, she embarks on a typically high stakes mission to deliver a key witness to Senator Sam Paley, a maverick politician who's investigating the president's mass detention of 200 government personnel.

Carrie's subterfuge this time involves black wigs, hotel lobby spy games and car-swapping - until eventually it all goes horribly wrong, when her FBI contact Dante Allen refuses to talk to the Senator.

This unfortunate start the series for Carrie is compounded by the fact that she had implicated her teenage niece Josie, who gave her the keys to her brother-in-law's office as a secret meeting place.

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So when Carrie returns home late at night, she's confronted by her sister Maggie and brother-in-law Bill, who are both understandably outraged. Once Bill has said his piece, it falls to Maggie to deliver this season's first interrogation of Carrie's mental health.

Granted, Carrie shouldn't have gotten her already politicised niece involved, and she messed up spectacularly by not briefing Dante before the meeting with the Senator, but you'd think her sister would have at least some faith in her by now.

If there is one thing that's predictable - and blatantly unrealistic - about Homeland, it's the recurring season arc of people not believing Carrie until the very last minute, or until it's too late.

I guess we have to put it down to poetic licence.

Other talking points

• President Keane, still rattled by the assassination attempt, is taking no prisoners - or rather, that's exactly what she's doing. She is incensed when a jury refuses to return a capital verdict on General McClendon, one of the key figures behind the plot against her. So she instructs her right-hand man, David Wellington, to "fix it". Whether he's responsible or not, McClendon is poisoned as soon as he arrives in prison. It's dark stuff.

Linus Roache as David Wellington. Photo: Channel 4

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• Brett O'Keefe, the alt-right, one-man media empire, is on the run from arrest, after suggesting that the assassination attempt was a hoax. He still has his abhorrent qualities (gleefully referencing Keane's menopause), but his criticisms of the government's power grab are undoubtedly fair. An interesting character, played with gusto by Jake Weber.

• Homeland has to cope with a big absence in the form of Peter Quinn, who was a pivotal character last season. But at least they've beefed up the cast with capable support actors like Dylan Baker (as Senator Paley) Morgan Spector (as Dante Allen) and Linus Roache (as David Wellington).

Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland. Photo: Channel 4

• Better call Saul? Sensing that Keane is going too far, David goes to offer Saul Berenson, one of the 200 locked up, a fig leaf: national security advisor, as long as he agrees to side with the White House. But Saul demands that the government release and pardon a tranche of those in custody like himself, which David can't agree to there and then.

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• As for David, Carrie gets Max to install secret cameras in his house, and the episode ends as she watches him looking conflicted in front of the latest news bulletin about Keane. Could he play an important role in Carrie's personal mission/redemption?

Homeland continues on Sunday evenings at 9pm on Channel 4

This article originally appeared on our sister title, iNews

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