Homeland Asks the Really Tough One: What If We've Screwed Up the War on Terror for 15 Years?

The next president of the United States, at least on the Showtime drama Homeland, will be a woman described as "a little Hillary Clinton, a little Donald Trump and a little Bernie Sanders."

Who knew it was that easy to bring America together?

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This being Homeland, however, we won't expect much to come easy when the award-winning espionage thriller returns Jan. 15 for its sixth season.

Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is back in the States, specifically in New York, at the center of a tense drama that swirls around the president-elect as she is being briefed, debriefed and otherwise prepared to take office in January.

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This may sound like a classic setup for Carrie and her former colleagues Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), who remain in the CIA while she remains out, to discover and try to thwart a nefarious plot by terrorists - since, after all, they have spent most of the previous five seasons doing precisely that.

But don't be too sure.

"The show will take some different directions this year," says showrunner Alex Gansa. "We'll be looking at our whole national response to the threat of terrorism since 9/11, including the way we've treated Muslim people."

By "we," says Danes, he largely means Carrie, who has been increasingly shaken by some of the things she has personally done in the name of fighting terrorism, like ordering drone strikes that killed civilians.

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She also saw her good friend Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) nearly killed, and while Gansa says Quinn will return this season, he cautions that viewers should expect "a very different person."

Carrie's reassessment will be underscored, says Danes, by her relationship with her mentor and friend Saul, who is back in power at the CIA and last year pleaded with Carrie to return and join him. She refused.

Saul and Carrie "have diverged," says Danes. "There has been a split that they've been working on repairing over the last couple of seasons with varying degrees of success.

"Saul has really committed himself even more fully to the agency, and Carrie rejects some fundamental principles of it. So that's very difficult to reconcile, and I don't think they've fully done it.

"They are so profoundly bonded that they've never be able to rid themselves of, nor would they ever want to. But I think she's she's maturing into a very different place from where he has matured to."

"She's questioning whether our whole larger approach to fighting terrorism works," says Gansa, which is not to say she's abandoning the fight.

"Carrie has been experimenting with cultivating some happiness in her life and eschewing some of the responsibility that she had assumed previously," says Danes. "And it doesn't work. She realized that she is maybe outsized for that life. It's not that she isn't deserving of it, but she isn't really designed for it.

"I think she learned last season that maybe she does have this calling, which is big and demanding. But she is rejecting the philosophies of the agency and has been disappointed by the effects of those strategies. So she's repositioning herself. I think she's going to try to influence change from a different vantage point."

The show is set in New York rather than Washington despite its political focus, Gansa explains, because in the two and a half months between the election and a new president taking office, he or she sets up a shadow transition office that's almost always in his or her home state.

Since our next real-life president is likely to be from New York, that puts the city at the logical heart of the show's action.

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Gansa admits he's less confident about the larger thrust of this season's show, which will be pretty much have all been shot before the real-world presidential transition takes place.

"I'm terrified every season that we'll be counterfactual by the time we air," says Gansa. "Or irrelevant."

He risks it, he says, because he wants the show to say things about the real world, which this season may mean asking a harsh question: whether we've found the best way to fight the worst guys.