Civilian casualties front-and-center on ‘Homeland’ premiere

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The poster for season 4 of "Homeland." (Showtime)

The poster for season 4 of “Homeland.” (Showtime)

Showtime’s controversial CIA drama “Homeland” returned with a two-part episode Sunday night. And in the premiere, the Air Force plays a central role in a fatal airstrike that will clearly drive this season’s plot.

Major spoilers for the premiere follow, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

The episode begins with brilliant-but-unstable CIA analyst Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) — now the station chief in Kabul — ordering a strike on a terrorist leader named Haqqani in the Pakistani tribal region. However, the CIA’s intel didn’t include the fact that Haqqani was at a wedding, and multiple women and children are killed alongside him.

The American ambassador to Pakistan soon vents to the Islamabad chief of station over the increasing outrage from the Pakistani crowds over the civilian casualties, and refers to it as a drone strike. He points out that it technically wasn’t a drone strike, but a bombing run from two manned F-15Es. The ambassador is incredulous, and says she won’t mention that distinction to the Pakistani foreign minister.

But the tensest confrontation comes, when Matheson is attempting to unwind by drinking beer in what appears to be an embassy bar. An angry Air Force first lieutenant walks in and asks if she’s the CIA station chief. Matheson denies it, and claims to be a State Department foreign service officer. When the lieutenant identifies himself by his call sign and says he was the one who dropped the bomb on the wedding, Matheson drops her cover. He asks if the rumors that it was a wedding are true, and Matheson lies and says she doesn’t know.

The lieutenant grows furious, tells her that he also once dropped a 200-pound bomb on some Canadian soldiers based on bad intel, and calls spies like her “F—ing monsters, all of you.” Flabbergasted, Matheson tells the lieutenant to “Get the f— out of my face;” he says, “Yes ma’am,” and departs.

Aside from the fact that it’s pretty lousy tradecraft for a CIA station chief to take all of five seconds to drop her cover in public while drinking heavily, what’s your take on this weekend’s episode? Is the idea of an Air Force lieutenant publicly dressing down a CIA station chief over a strike complete Hollywood baloney? Is it good for pop culture to take on some of the more controversial aspects of tactics in the War on Terror? Sound off in our comments section below.

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