Does Homeland Have The Worst Opening Credits In TV History?

Disclaimer: Homeland is great. It can stretch plausability at times, but if you’re willing to suspend disbelief a little it’s one of the most enthralling dramas of recent times, with one of the most captivating dichotomies in the protagonists Brody and Carrie. Mike Copus writes weekly reviews for us, and does a far more articulate job than I can. Really the quality of the show itself is the antithesis of the nature of the opening credits.

You can divide the opening sequence into 2 equally clunky parts. One spells out the political backdrop that’s very much the world that Homeland is set in (or isn’t, technically), and the other ties this together with the dream-like stream-of-consciousness of the show’s protagonist Carrie Mathison. I don’t think it’s actually a terrible idea, but it’s one they’ve executed extremely poorly.


First, I’ll break down what doesn’t sit right with the political elements. While it’s important to establish a context, it does this so heavy handedly that you’re almost sick of the subject matter by the end of the credits. Stylised monochrome footage of speeches and monologues from US presidents delivering anti-terror discourse. But really in the 2 seconds soundbites from each all you hear is “terrorists. TERRORISM. We will not stop. blah blah blah” – imagine if the credits to Breaking Bad went like this – “the war on drugs. crystal meth. heroin. crystal meth. methy methy meth meth”. It has all the subtlety of Brian Blessed headbutting you in the cojones.


Problem #2 with the political aspects of the credits – it’s messy; it would be naive to expect Homeland to have an entirely fictional US history – so I have no real problem with the use of Reagan, Bush Snr, or even Clinton, and the show has made it abundantly clear that Homeland is set in a post-9/11 framework; the references to Bin Laden, and “I won’t – I can’t let that happen again” – but the show now exists with a fictional president and vice president, suggesting that at some point in the decade preceding 9/11 things morphed from real life history into the Homeland canon.

I absolutely hate writing this, and discussions about what’s canon, but it’s necessary when Homeland invites such questions – the show itself at times is guilty of muddling it’s history a little, but to a much larger extent the credits and footage of Obama totally undermine any semblance of timeline, and bring such questions into the fold. With fiction like this, it’s always best to not mention such inconsistencies with reality, and especially not remind everyone of inconsistencies each week.


Let’s move onto the dreamlike quality of the sequence – and this is opening a whole other can of worms. I’ll focus on just a couple of the more overt problems with this – the use of the maze is just about the most overused and tired metaphor they could possibly use to represent what’s actually a very well written cat-and-mouse chase between Carrie and Brody. It’s the television equivalent of some terrible band thinking they’re deep when singing about a journey, or falling.


I’m a big fan of the dream sequence – in particular I think LOST and The Sopranos were responsible for some of the most memorable dream sequences of recent years. They worked well because they delved into a character’s psyche and gave you an insight into their thoughts and memories, whilst giving it the obligatory surreal twist. To be fair to Homeland – it also does this to an extent, with the political footage, childhood photos and general context of espionage clearly weigh heavily on Carrie’s mind. But I want to single out the lion mask above – we don’t know Carrie’s life, sure, maybe it’s real important to her – but it boils my blood when I see it each week. It feels so lazy, like someone found in laying around in the prop department and thought – “hey this looks weird, perfect” without an afterthought.

What does it mean?!?

Apart from what is tangibly featured in the opening credits, the whole dream aspect has another major flaw – the editing looks like a GCSE student was let loose on Windows Movie Maker’s more crass effects – look at the image of Obama in particular, why in god’s name is he upside down? I’ll tell you – because someone thought UPSIDE DOWN = SURREAL, and that was it. The whole thing is full of cheap effects like this, for example inverting the colours – how they didn’t know better is beyond me.

This is actually one of the opening’s better parts, and the least scathing I’ll be – the footage of a young Carrie practicing trumpet along with the footage of Louis Armstrong are a nice personal touch and nod to her love of jazz, the genre that soundtracks the show so well – it’s perhaps only the element of the dream sequence that works. And really it only half-does, the solitary trumpet parp just sounds funny, reminiscent of Soft Cell’s dire Torch. The general music is alright, but the dissonance and eeriness of it would work far better if it didn’t accompany such badly put together footage, and as such feels as if it’s trying too hard – like the rest of it.

Overall, perhaps it’s only worst when you individually look at the elements that make up the credits individually, but even watching the credits passively it feels like a mess. When you watch it actively, you realise what a contrived travesty it really is.

– Nestor Watach

20 thoughts on “Does Homeland Have The Worst Opening Credits In TV History?

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  3. I hated it the first few times I saw it, but as the series has unfolded I’ve grown to appreciate it. I believe it’s meant to be a reflection of Carrie’s mind. Shots of her as a little girl cement the presidential clips as strong memories for her, maybe even traumatic memories. I know as a child every time I saw Reagan on TV talking about terrorism and war, it frightened me. Throw in those random memories like the jazz elements, the mask and the maze (which make sense as memories OR memories of dreams to me over metaphor), the news bits, the dialogue with Saul and the shot of Brody in D.C. (which is a clip from the show but could also be how Carrie sees him in her mind, as a predator plotting his next move) and you have a pretty good representation of the chaos Carrie has to wade through in her mind in order to function in her job.

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  5. This show is awesome but the the intro is the worst piece of shit I’ve ever seen. It leaves a stale taste that almost carries* over into the beginning of the episode.

  6. lots of butthurt fan boys on here apparently. The intro is indeed one of the stupidest intros i have seen. To the guy who posted 3 times acting as 3 different people, suck it up and go back to playing some mindless CoD

  7. The Labyrinth metaphor, I think, is quite complex. Especially when you consider the mythological context of the maze (the original myth involved a maze rather than labyrinth which Homeland uses) to trap the minotaur – here represented by the mask + human body. It puts her in the place of the enemy – does that foreshadow what happens in the plot? Or is it how she can be mistaken as the enemy? I can go deeper, but I think just that itself is an accurate symbol of the themes/plot of the entire series.

  8. I find this is one of the most compelling and interesting opening ever and disagree with the major part of your post. Gotta admit the labyrinth metaphor was easy but well : what else would you have used ? Still, when you begin to watch Homeland, you cannot decode all of this since the plot has not unfolded enough yet :)

    • Exactly, I think those haters here (and the author of this article) don’t understand this opening sequence. For me is the shot with little Carrie wearing lion mask a huge goosebump moment in this opening. It perfectly resembles her personality of strong woman willing to fight. (she acts like a lion on the outside, but she is gentle inside.) I agree that maze metaphor is too obvious, but I would blame it on the fast pace of this sequence, they needed to communicate ideas to the audience quickly so more simple aproach was used.
      Reversed Obama shot could be, in my opinion, also read as an metaphor. I think the director had expressed his opinion on Obama. Something upside down is commonly interpreted as something wrong. Maybe the director or whoever created this opening was disappoited by Obama and by this little touch he non-violently shows his opinion. This is my interpretation.

      I was sceptical of this show because of this “terroris” theme, but eventualy I loved it. And I think it’s normal in a show about terrorism to use word terrorists. It’s almost like complaining about word “Cylons” appearing in the show “Battlestar Galactica”.
      I totaly agree with author of this article about the trumpet “jazz” part.

      P.S.: Question for the author: Do you think that creators of this great show (as you said yourself) would do a sloppy job on the opening credits?

  9. I find this is one of the most compelling and interesting opening ever and disagree with the major part of your post. Gotta admit the labyrinth metaphor was easy but well : what else would you have used ? Still, when you begin to watch Homeland, you cannot decode all of this since the plot has not unfolded enough yet :)

    • You’re an idiot. Opening sequence for this show is one of the best out there and you’re article proves you’re an obnoxious moron. Worst thing I’ve read in a while.

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