The Showtime drama, which kicks off its eighth and final season on Sunday, "is about a lot of things, personal and geopolitical," says James Poniewozik. "But at its most powerful, the new season conjures that simple, sad feeling: My God, it’s been so long. All of this — the war, the fear, the vengeance — has been with us for so many years, it’s hard to remember a time without it. That feeling was built into Homeland. It began, in 2011, a full decade since the Sept. 11 attacks. 24 — the show’s precursor, with which Homeland shares creative talent — had by then aired eight seasons. Where 24 flourished in the fight-or-flight rush of 9/11’s aftermath, spinning out cathartic fantasies of ever-bigger terrorist attacks on the United States, Homeland looked at the psychic cost of all those years of fighting and catastrophizing." Poniewozik adds: "There’s an elegiac feeling to Homeland returning to the site of a war a generation old. The season returns a number of characters from past seasons, but the long war, in a way, is the ultimate enemy — formless, multiheaded and endlessly able to reconstitute itself and survive. There are glimmers of hope that this time might finally be different. But the show’s realpolitik worldview suggests that you not bet on it, as it demonstrates in a scene that captures the mind-set of endless war in miniature. Bunny Latif (Art Malik), a retired Pakistani general who figured into Season 4, is sitting with a revolver in his garden, where to the consternation of his neighbors he’s been shooting the squirrels who steal from his bird feeders. Asked why he doesn’t simply stop filling the feeders rather than spend his free hours turning his backyard into a war zone, he answers as if the question were insane: 'That wouldn’t be fair on the birds, would it?' In big wars and small ones, Homeland tells us, people can always find reasons to stick to their guns."
Homeland has survived so long because it's the most adaptable show on television: "Conceived as the dual portrait of a mentor — Mandy Patinkin’s Saul Berenson — shepherding his protégé — Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison — through the thornbush of the Central Intelligence Agency, the series has since been a cat-and-mouse game, a fraught romance, a stripped-down spy thriller and a domestic political drama; a critics’ darling, a disappointment, a comeback kid," says Matt Brennan. "It embodies, perhaps more than any series to emerge from the medium’s recent 'Golden Age,' the feature that differentiates TV from most other art forms: evolution over time."
Homeland has effectively aged better than most shows that experience such an initial whirlwind of attention and criticism: "There is a familiar pace and confidence in the early episodes, as the show retraces its own storytelling tricks and characters return to places they've been before," says Cory Barker. "It's typical for shows in their final seasons to take some kind of trip down memory lane, but revisiting characters and plotlines from Season 4 suggests an attempt to conclude the second, and post-Brody, era of Homeland. Beyond that reflection, the choice illustrates the cyclical, endless nature of CIA operations around the world."