‘Homeland’: Hugh Dancy’s John Zabel Won the Prize of Most Despicable Season 8 Character

If you’re among those who love to hate John Zabel (played by Claire Danes’ husband Hugh Dancy), then the final episode of Homeland was a real treat. Early on in the finale, Zabel has a verbal exchange with venerable national security adviser Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).

During that chat, Zabel doesn’t like what he hears. So he decides to take a different tack with Saul. “You know, I always heard you were a man of principle,” Zabel tells him. “Now, I’m starting to think you’re just making sh*t up.

Never mind that Zabel has a reputation for making up things to suit his argument. Also never mind that Saul has had one of the more distinguished careers in U.S. intelligence. Such things don’t concern a man like Zabel.

Even though Mike Dunne (Cliff Chamberlain) might have irritated you and Jenna Bragg (Andrea Deck) might have seemed impossibly clueless, Zabel definitely ended the season as Homeland’s most despicable character.

John Zabel loves any war he doesn’t have to fight

Hugh Dancy as John Zabel in HOMELAND, ‘The English Teacher” | Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

You don’t need to know John Zabel long before learning what he’s all about. Sitting in the Oval Office with President Hayes (Sam Trammell) and chief of staff David Wellington (Linus Roache) in episode 7, Zabel presents himself as part bootlicker, part warmonger.

“We just heard from Kabul: Haqqani guilty and sentenced to death,” he tells Wellington. “I was saying to the president, it took 10 years to get Osama Bin Laden. But he avenged Ralph Warner’s murder in, what, three days?” Even Hayes can’t stomach following that reasoning.

“I can hardly claim credit,” Hayes tells him. (Haqqani turned himself in, you’ll recall.) Zabel sees it differently. “I think you can, sir,” he says, between giggles. “It’s what that part of the world understands: An eye for an eye, a punch in the f*cking nose.”

Zabel finds ways to voice this line in every episode. In episode 8, tired of listening to his bluster, Wellington finally puts him in his place. “I’d say that for someone who’s never been in the military, you have way too many picture of tanks on your wall,” he tells Zabel. In short, this guy is what you might call “a chickenhawk.”

Zabel has the look and swagger of certain know-nothing DC insiders

Hugh Dancy as John Zabel in HOMELAND, “In Full Flight” | Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

In the final season of Homeland, you hear the frustration with the neverending Middle East wars from both American and Taliban forces. After so many years of conflict without a resolution, you wonder why the U.S. keeps going. The answer is, people like John Zabel keep the wars going.

With his three-piece suit, stupid beard, racist ideas, and lack of expertise in any field, Zabel represents the sort of character who’s become a fixture in Washington, D.C. in recent years. And one chat with Saul sums him up perfectly.

“All wars must be sold, Saul,” Zabel tells him, condescendingly. As Saul seems to stare through him, Zabel continues. “And for the record I still think overthrowing Saddam was the right call.”

So keep your Mike Dunne, your Jenna Bragg, your Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin). John Zabel is easily Homeland’s most despicable character. You have to salute the writing staff and Dancy for making such an obnoxious figure come to life.

Also see: ‘Homeland’: Showtime Wanted Anyone But Damian Lewis to Play Brody