Carrie Mathison

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Carrie Mathison
Homeland character
First appearance "Pilot"
Created by Alex Gansa
Howard Gordon
Portrayed by Claire Danes
Full name Caroline Anne Mathison
Nickname(s) Carrie
Species Human
Gender Female
Occupation CIA NCS Case Officer
CIA CTC Deputy Director
CIA Pakistani Sub-Regional SAD Director
Title Deputy Director
Family Frank Mathison (father)
Ellen Mathison (mother)
Maggie Mathison (sister)
Tim (half-brother)
Significant other(s) Nicholas Brody (ex-lover)
David Estes (ex-lover)
Children Frannie Mathison (daughter)
Relatives Ruby Mathison (niece)
Josie Mathison (niece)

Caroline Anne "Carrie" Mathison, played by actress Claire Danes, is a fictional character and the protagonist of the American television drama/thriller series Homeland on Showtime, created by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. Carrie is a CIA officer who, while on assignment in Iraq, learned from a CIA asset that an American prisoner of war had been turned by al-Qaeda. After a U.S. Marine platoon sergeant named Nicholas Brody is rescued from captivity, Mathison believes that he is the POW described to her.[1] Carrie's investigation of Brody is complicated by her bipolar disorder and results in an obsession with her suspect.

For her performance as Mathison, Claire Danes has received several major acting awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama,[2] the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, and the TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama.[3]

Character biography[edit]

Background and personality[edit]

Caroline Anne Mathison was an Arabic language student at Princeton University, where she was recruited into the CIA by veteran officer Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).[4] Carrie developed a close working relationship with Saul, and is implied to have had a sexual relationship with CTC Director David Estes (David Harewood), her future boss, which contributed to the breakup of his marriage.[5] In college, Carrie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, for which she secretly began taking clozapine supplied by her older sister, Maggie (Amy Hargreaves).[4]

As a field operative in Iraq, Carrie infiltrated a prison to meet with an imprisoned CIA asset named Hasan Ibrahim, who claimed that he had information regarding an imminent terrorist attack in the United States. Moments before his execution, Hasan told Carrie that an American prisoner of war was turned by al-Qaeda figure Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). Carrie's unauthorized dealings with Hasan led to an international incident, causing Estes to have her reassigned to the CIA's Counterterrorism Center in Langley, Virginia.[4]

Season one[edit]

Ten months after her reassignment, Carrie attends an emergency staff meeting and learns that Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a U.S. Marine platoon sergeant, has been rescued after eight years in terrorist captivity. Carrie tells Saul about Hasan's claims, and expresses concern that Brody is the POW he was describing.[4] With the CIA having no cause to investigate Brody, Carrie conducts her own unauthorized surveillance using a one-month FISA warrant delivered by Saul. Initially, Carrie finds no evidence of Brody's involvement with terrorism.[6]

When her FISA warrant expires, Carrie takes to making personal contact with Brody instead. She bumps into Brody at a veterans' support group, where they strike up a conversation and immediately bond over their mutual experiences in the Middle East.[7] Brody asks Carrie to have a drink with him one night, culminating in a drunken sexual encounter in Carrie's car. The next day, he is brought in to Langley for a polygraph test over the apparent suicide of Afsal Hamid, a detained terrorist with whom Brody had a violent confrontation. Carrie, suspicious of Brody's replies, orders the interviewer to ask if he's ever been unfaithful to his wife. Brody says "no", successfully beating the polygraph.[8]

Afterwards, Carrie and Brody drive to her family's secluded cabin. Both find that they are more at ease with each other than with anyone else. However, after Brody realizes Carrie has been spying on him, she forces him to admit to his conversion to Islam, his meeting with and personal affection for Nazir, and his murder of a fellow POW named Tom Walker under duress by the terrorists. As Brody leaves, Saul contacts Carrie and informs her that Walker (Chris Chalk) is alive and was the POW who was turned. Carrie tries to apologize to Brody, but he rebuffs her and goes back to his family.[5]

The investigation into Walker leads Carrie and Saul to Mansour al-Zahrani (Ramsey Faragallah), a Saudi diplomat who acts as Nazir's intermediary. Carrie blackmails al-Zahrani into arranging a meeting with Walker at Farragut Square. However, the meet ends in disaster when Walker detonates a briefcase bomb carried by a double, killing al-Zahrani and three bystanders.[9] Carrie is injured in the explosion, leading to a severe manic episode that causes her to be hospitalized. Upon learning of her affair with Brody, Estes — already under pressure by Vice President William Walden to find a scapegoat for the bombing — dismisses Carrie from the CIA.[10]

Upon learning about Walden's upcoming policy summit at the State Department, Carrie realizes that it will be the target for Walker and Nazir's upcoming attack. When Walker stages a sniper attack on the dignitaries, Brody, Walden, and Estes are led to an underground bunker. Carrie realizes that the shooting is a diversion from the actual attack, in which Brody will bomb the bunker with a suicide vest and kill everyone inside. Carrie appears at Brody's house and pleads with his daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor), to contact her father and stop him from carrying out the attack. An alarmed Dana calls 911, leading the police to arrest Carrie.[11]

Brody relents from the attack at the last minute following a sudden phone call from Dana. The following day, as Carrie is being released into Maggie's custody, Brody confronts her and tells her to leave him and his family alone. Carrie, now discredited and doubting her own sanity, asks to be taken to a hospital for electroconvulsive therapy. Saul tries to stop the procedure, but she is undeterred. When Saul mentions that Nazir's son, Issa, was killed in a drone strike, Carrie — remembering that Brody cried Issa's name during a nightmare — fleetingly ponders this connection before being given a seizure by the ECT treatment.[11]

Season two[edit]

Six months later, Carrie is working as an English as a Second Language teacher and living with her sister. When one of her former CIA assets, Fatima Ali (Clara Khoury), demands to talk with Carrie, Saul and Estes persuade her to fly to Lebanon for a meeting.[12] Fatima gives the time and location of a planned meeting between her husband and Nazir in exchange for her defection. Saul and Estes' lack of trust in Carrie's judgment causes her to briefly have another breakdown. Carrie, Saul, and Estes set up an operation to capture Nazir, but Brody — who has been elected to Congress and is observing the operation with Walden in a situation room — tips him off and allows him to escape.[13]

Carrie, her obsession with the case renewed, ransacks Fatima's apartment and comes out with a satchel full of documents. After a pursuit by a Lebanese mob, Saul finds a hidden compartment in the satchel that it contains a memory card with Brody confessing to the aborted State Department bombing.[13] When the mission is over, however, she realizes that she will not be permitted back into the CIA, and attempts suicide by overdosing on her medication. At the last minute, she changes her mind and vomits up the pills. Moments later, Saul shows up at her door and shows her Brody's confession.[14] The video convinces Estes to let Carrie watch Brody, and to assign a CIA analyst named Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) to run the operation. Quinn has Carrie purposefully meet with Brody as part of a sting operation. During the meeting, Carrie intuits that he is on to her and blows her cover by confronting Brody about his treason, forcing Saul and Quinn have him arrested.[15]

During her interrogation of Brody, Carrie catches him by surprise by admitting that she wanted him to leave his family and move in with her. After Carrie systematically breaks Brody down and correctly surmises that Dana's phone call prevented the State Department bombing, he tearfully admits to his collaboration with Nazir and other al-Qaeda associates, and reveals that Nazir is planning an attack. Carrie gives Brody an ultimatum: either be exposed and sent to prison, or help the CIA in exchange for immunity. Left with no other options, Brody agrees to help the CIA.[16]

The pressures arising from both his family's needs and his espionage work lead Brody to break off contact with al-Qaeda. Carrie takes Brody to a hotel to convince him to go back to al-Qaeda; she has sex with him while Saul and Quinn uncomfortably listen in.[17] After Brody helps foil the attack, Carrie is captured by Nazir, who threatens to kill her unless Brody aids him in assassinating Walden.[18] After Brody kills Walden at Nazir's instruction,[18] Nazir releases Carrie, who leads the search of the abandoned mill where she was held. Realizing that Nazir is still hiding in the building, she leads a SWAT team inside and witnesses his death. Estes offers to reinstate Carrie and promote her to Station Chief. When Brody leaves his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) to be with her, however, Carrie finds herself torn between her career and her love for him.[19]

She goes with Brody to a memorial service for Walden at Langley, and tells him she wants to be with him. During the service, al-Qaeda operatives plant a bomb in Brody's car and detonate it, in an attack planned by Nazir in advance of his death. The blast kills Estes, Walden's family, and numerous senior government officials. Al-Qaeda also leaks Brody's confession video, thus framing him for the attack. Believing that Brody is innocent yet knowing that no one else will, Carrie drives him over the Canadian border and sets out to clear his name.[20]

Season three[edit]

Fifty-eight days after the Langley bombing, Carrie has been reinstated to the CIA and answers questioning by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. During her testimony, she states that Brody had nothing to do with the attack. Information is leaked to the public about her previous immunity deal with Brody, as well as her sexual relationship with him. Saul acknowledges Carrie's bipolar disorder when he appears before the committee.[21] In retaliation, Carrie leaks classified information to a reporter, leading Saul to have her temporarily committed. Quinn stops by her room to visit, but she accuses him of trying to shut her up. She appears before a hospital committee to ask for her release, which her father and sister attend. When they tell her to begin taking lithium again, she flies into a rage and has to be forcibly medicated and restrained. She is then formally committed.[22]

Weeks later, a lawyer named Paul Franklin (Jason Butler Harner) visits Carrie in the hospital and offers to help her retaliate against the CIA, but she refuses. Franklin nevertheless secures her release and persuades her to meet with Leland Bennett (Martin Donovan), a lawyer representing the Iranian bank that financed the Langley bombing. Bennett makes a deal with Carrie: his clients will protect her from further reprisals in exchange for intelligence on the CIA's inner workings. The episode's final scene reveals that her entire ordeal is part of a secret operation she has been working on with Saul.[23]

Jessica Brody begs Carrie to help find Dana, who has run off with her boyfriend Leo (Sam Underwood). Carrie runs a ploy to slip her surveillance and tell FBI Special Agent Hall (Billy Smith), who is assigned to the Brody family detail, to find Dana. Saul calls her and tells her that she has jeopardized the operation. That night, Carrie is kidnapped and brought before Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub), an Iranian intelligence operative and the mastermind of the Langley attack.[24] Upon interrogating her, Javadi deduces that the CIA is on to him. Carrie offers the agency's protection in exchange for information on the other bombers. Javadi agrees to help them, but evades his surveillance detail to murder his ex-wife and daughter-in-law. Carrie and Quinn arrive too late to stop the double murder, then take him into custody. Meanwhile, Carrie learns that she is pregnant.[25]

During questioning, Javadi says that one of Nazir's men detonated the Langley bomb, and that Brody had nothing to do with it. As Carrie delivers Javadi to the airport, he tells her that Bennett knows the bomber's identity. Carrie enlists Quinn to help clear Brody's name.[26] To track down the bomber, she tells Franklin that Leland's firm has been linked to the bombing, provoking Leland into ordering the bomber moved out of the country. She takes part in a stakeout of the bomber's hotel room and watches as Franklin approaches with a silenced pistol. Carrie insists on intervening, as she cannot prove Brody's innocence without the bomber's testimony. Black ops agent Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) orders her to stand down, but she ignores him and starts running toward the hotel. Quinn shoots her in the shoulder to stop her. Adal's team then drives her to the hospital.[27]

Saul visits Carrie in the hospital and reveals the full scope of the operation: Brody will seek political asylum in Iran and assassinate the leader of the Revolutionary Guard so that Javadi can take his place. Carrie goes to see Brody, who is suffering through heroin withdrawal, and takes him to the motel where Dana is working as a maid. Brody tries to get out of the car and see her, but is subdued by the soldiers flanking him; Carrie then tells him that going through the operation is his only chance for redemption. After Brody weans off the drugs and regains his strength, Carrie takes him to see Dana, who says that she never wants to see Carrie or her father again. Carrie and Brody say goodbye as he ships out for Tehran.[28]

Carrie watches via satellite as a Special Operations team transports Brody to the Iranian border. The team encounters Iraqi Police officers who recognize Brody and open fire on them. The operation is endangered when the team's van hits a land mine, severely injuring the team leader and attracting enemy fire. Saul calls off the operation and orders Brody to turn back, but Brody refuses and runs toward the border. Carrie tells Brody that he will die on his own, but he insists that she find a way to get him back safely. Fortunately, Iranian border guards take Brody in, saving the operation.[29]

Carrie travels to Tehran to make sure the assassination goes smoothly, and watches as Brody is taken to meet with the head of the Revolutionary Guard, General Deshan Akbari (Houshang Touzie). Brody does not get close enough to Akbari to inject him with cyanide as planned, putting the mission in jeopardy. The situation worsens when Brody starts giving interviews to Iranian television denouncing the U.S.; over Carrie's objections, Saul orders Brody to be killed. Carrie calls Brody to warn him, and pleads with him to come with her to safety. Brody refuses, however, and manages to enter the Revolutionary Guard headquarters and kill Akbari.[30]

After informing Carrie of his success, Brody goes with her to a safe house 100 miles out of Tehran. There, she tells him she is pregnant with his child. Saul assures her that Brody will be safely extracted, but his successor as CIA Director, Senator Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts), betrays Carrie and Brody's location to Javadi, who arranges their capture. Brody is convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Carrie tries desperately to secure his release, but to no avail. When she calls him in his cell, he asks her not to come to his execution. She goes anyway, however, and calls out his name as he is hanged in a public square.[31]

Four months later, Lockhart promotes a heavily pregnant Carrie to Station Chief in Istanbul, but refuses her request to give Brody a star on the CIA Memorial Wall. Carrie accepts the job, but later tells her father and sister that she won't be taking the baby - a girl - with her to Istanbul. Her father tells her that he will take the child. Later, Carrie draws a star on the wall for Brody after a memorial ceremony for the victims of the Langley attack.[31]

Season four[edit]

Carrie, now CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan, authorizes a drone strike on a Pakistani farmhouse where Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar), a highly sought terrorist, is reportedly in hiding. The strike occurs while Haqqani is attending a wedding, resulting in his apparent death along with 40 civilians. Carrie travels to Islamabad to learn that Sandy Bachman (Corey Stoll), the Station Chief in Pakistan, had been outed. Carrie and Quinn attempt to rescue Bachman, but they are spotted by an angry mob that kills Bachman. Carrie and Quinn manage to escape. In Washington, Lockhart permanently "recalls" Carrie from her post in Afghanistan.[32]

Meanwhile, Carrie is struggling with raising her infant daughter, Frannie. She sees no point in being a mother with Brody dead, and interacts with the child as little as possible, often leaving her in the care of her sister Maggie. While bathing Frannie, Carrie is momentarily tempted to drown her.[33] She leaves Frannie with Maggie, reasoning that her daughter is better off without her.[33]

Carrie and Quinn meet Jordan Harris (Adam Godley), a former CIA case officer who reveals that Bachman had leaked intelligence and was protected by Lockhart. Carrie blackmails Lockhart into promoting her to Bachman's former post as the CIA's Station Chief in Pakistan. In Islamabad, Carrie attempts to turn Haqqani's young nephew Aayan Ibrahim (Suraj Sharma), a Pakistani medical student whose family was killed in the drone strike, and who may hold valuable information. Quinn requests dismissal from the CIA, but Carrie convinces him to come to Islamabad when he finds evidence that Bachman's death was a setup.[34]

The mission becomes complicated when Carrie learns that Haqqani is still alive, and sees him together with Aayan. Suspecting that Aayan helping his uncle carry out a terrorist plot, she sleeps with Aayan in an attempt to recruit him as an asset.[35] Carrie stages her own kidnapping to scare Aayan into leaving the country. She then watches via drone as he meets with Haqqani, who produces Saul, bound and gagged, from his car. Haqqani accuses Aayan of spying on him and shoots him in the head, killing him. Enraged, Carrie orders a drone strike, even though it would kill Saul. Quinn stops her, however.[36]

Meanwhile, Dennis Boyd (Mark Moses), the husband of the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, breaks into Carrie's apartment and photographs her medication and family photos.[37] Boyd switches her medication with a hallucinogen. She has a delusional episode and attacks a security guard, and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officers take her into custody. Lieutenant colonel Raza Jaffrey (Aasar Khan) questions her, but she hallucinates that he is Brody and breaks down crying in his arms.[38] She receives a call from Saul, who has escaped from his captors. She helps him evade the local Taliban, and talks him out of committing suicide when they find him. Ultimately, however, she delivers him to the Taliban so they will spare his life. Later that night, she meets with Jaffrey, who tells her that Boyd is working with the ISI.[39] Carrie sets a trap for Boyd with his wife's help, and he is taken into custody.[40]

Carrie oversees a prisoner exchange: Saul for five Taliban members. When Saul comes into view, however, Carrie sees a young boy behind him wearing a suicide vest. Carrie goes herself to retrieve Saul, and persuades him to let the exchange go forward and come with her. As they go back to the U.S. Embassy, their car is hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.[40] Marines pull Carrie and Saul from the wreckage, and take them back the embassy, which has been invaded by Haqqani's forces. The White House orders U.S. forces out of Pakistan and relieves Carrie of her command. When Quinn kidnaps Farhad Ghazi (Tamer Burjaq), the ISI agent who kidnapped Saul, Carrie asks Lockhart to let her stay in Islamabad for five more days so she can bring him in.[41] She finds him and pleads with him to leave the country, but he refuses and escapes. She later stops him from assassinating Haqqani, and sees that Haqqani has Adal in his entourage.[42] Meanwhile, she receives a phone call from Maggie, who tells her that their father has died. Carrie finds some solace in talking to Frannie, and decides to be a better mother to her.[42]

Quinn shows up at her father's funeral, and the two share a kiss; Carrie balks at the idea of a relationship. She also sees her estranged mother, and finds out that she has a half-brother. She tries to contact Quinn, but his phone has been disconnected. She confronts Adal, and learns that Quinn has accepted a mission in Iraq, and that Saul and Adal are negotiating with Haqqani.[43]


Homeland co-creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa initially pitched the show to networks with the Carrie Mathison character being a rather strait-laced CIA officer.[44] Once it wasn't picked up and they moved on to the cable channels, they were able to experiment with more complex and flawed main characters. Carrie was given bipolar disorder and made more of an unreliable narrator.[44] Showtime eventually secured the rights to the show and embraced the more unstable version of the character.

From the initial conception of the character, Gordon and Gansa targeted Claire Danes to play the lead role of Carrie. The pair were very impressed with her acting prowess, especially in My So-Called Life and Temple Grandin, but were skeptical as to whether she would accept a television role.[44] Indeed, Danes was not necessarily looking to return to television, but she found the script and the character to be very compelling.[45] In addition, the opportunity to be a part of the "renaissance" of high-quality dramas on cable television appealed to her.[45]

To prepare for the role, Danes had to learn much about the CIA, as well as the nuances of playing someone who has bipolar disorder. Danes' personal research into the CIA touched on such topics as its internal culture, agency politics, and the implications of being a female agent.[46] She also was granted access to CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and was able to personally consult with the female CIA officer whom the Carrie Mathison character was loosely based on.[46]



Hank Stuever of The Washington Post in his 2011 Fall TV roundup said that Carrie Mathison was "easily this season's strongest female character".[47] The A.V. Club‍ '​s Todd VanDerWerff called Carrie "my favorite new character of this TV season", noting the way she attacks everything with reckless abandon.[48]

In November 2011, The Atlantic named Carrie Mathison as one of the best characters on TV, calling her "the thinking man's Jack Bauer", and going on to say "We both root for Carrie's assuredness and are turned off by her brash, erratic, and occasionally reckless behavior".[49]

In Digital Spy's list of the top 25 best TV characters of 2012, Carrie Mathison was ranked #2.[50]


For her portrayal of Carrie Mathison in the premiere season of Homeland, Claire Danes received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama,[2] TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama,[3] Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Drama Actress,[51] and Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama.[52]

For the second season of Homeland, Danes repeated her wins for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series,[53] Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama and the Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama. Additionally, she won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series.


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  23. ^ "Game On". Homeland. Season 3. Episode 4. October 20, 2013. Showtime. 
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