When the sixth season of Homeland debuted in January, it initially looked like an embarrassing leftover from a pre-election era. The latest installment of Showtime's spy drama, which was conceived months before Donald Trump's victory last fall, took place in an America where Elizabeth Marvel, a junior senator from New York with a suspicious resemblance to Hillary Clinton, had won the presidency.
But over time, the season took on an odd resonance to reality, offering a sort of negative image of current events if the election had gone the other way.
The main storyline forces President-elect Marvel to deal with a plot inside the intelligence community to manipulate her foreign policy, and eventually to assassinate her. Along the way, she faces political resistance led by an ornery talk show host named Brett O'Keefe, whose conspiracy-tinged rants appear to be inspired by the paranoid radio host Alex Jones.
Eventually it turns out that O'Keefe is working with American intelligence officials to run a secret propaganda campaign from a shadowy locale in northern Virginia—a campaign that features armies of paid internet trolls spreading lies and false accusations. In the end, Marvel uses an attack on her life to justify an expansion of the security state and a crackdown on her political enemies.
Fake news. Conflicts between the executive branch and the intelligence community. The power of the deep state. A controversial president with authoritarian tendencies. The show has long blended ripped-from-the-headlines plots with implausible thriller contrivance, but even still, its suggestion of a through-the-looking-glass America where Clinton won was unusually evocative. With its terror plots and assassinations, it wasn't exactly realistic—yet somehow the show seemed to limn the surface of American politics circa 2017, refracting our strangeness even if it did not precisely reflect it.