Courtesy Reuters

In Homeland, the wildly popular Showtime series, the United States is a troubled place. Week after week, the series shows us a parade of social ailments: mental illness, prescription drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, marital infidelity, surly teenagers. The authorities, meanwhile, are a mix of treacherous politicians and feckless, scheming bureaucrats who casually embrace illegal detention, criminal cover-ups, and domestic spying. And then there are terrorists -- lots of them -- running loose everywhere, one step away from causing another national catastrophe. (Warning: spoilers follow.)

The series centers on the relationship between a bipolar hot mess of a CIA case officer, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), and a tormented ex-marine, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). After eight years of captivity in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, during which he was "flipped" by the al Qaeda mastermind Abu Nazir, Brody returns to the United States with a mission to carry out a terrorist attack.

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  • RICHARD A. FALKENRATH is the Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Adjunct Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security at the Council on Foreign Relations and principal at the Chertoff Group, LLC. He is a former deputy commissioner of counterterrorism at the New York City Police Department and a former deputy homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush.
  • More By Richard A. Falkenrath