Coming off the high that was the ending of Breaking Bad is tough. With Mad Men in hiatus (and don’t get me started on the 7-7 breakup for the final season), we do not have any premier shows on television right now in my opinion. This means in the coming months there may be a decline in TV reviews, although final recaps of Ray Donovan, The Challenge, and The Bridge are coming. There are a few keys to writing about a show on a week-to-week basis: #1 is depth. Simply put, not many shows have it. That isn’t to say they aren’t entertaining, but there are few that rise to the level of art that can be compared alongside great novels and cinema. If a show doesn’t reach a certain threshold, there just isn’t enough to analyze on a weekly basis. It would be akin to breaking down every chapter of a Dan Brown novel. Sure, the journey as a whole can be very enjoyable, but how much do we actually know about Robert Langdon after a few books? Just enjoy the ride for what it is.
This brings me to Homeland, which I think got mis-characterized in its first season as a show attempting to compete with the Breaking Bad‘s of the world (and it’s Emmy success helped underscore the argument). It isn’t, and that’s OK. While the first season in my opinion was brilliant TV until the ending, it was basically see-sawing the whole time on whether or not Nicholas Brody was a terrorist. That’s not a question that can sustain the life of a show. Let’s compare it to Mad Men, which similarly lured viewers in with the question of ‘who is the real Don Draper.’ We know from the rest of the show that Don’s hidden identity is much less relevant than the characters themselves, but Homeland failed to get away from the original premise. If Brody had bombed the White House at the end of Season 1 it would have been one of the most brave acts in the history of TV writing. In fact, it’s something Damien Lewis recently admitted he thought would happen. However, the suits stepped in and kept him alive. Then Season 2 came, and while it brought us magnificent acting in scenes like Q&A‘s interrogation, they essentially rehashed the same question from Season 1. Only now the stakes were greater because a potential terrorist was to be the future VPOTUS. Where do you go from here? After writing themselves out of the most devastating tragedy since 9/11 at the end of Season 1, they actually carried it out in Season 2, with Brody to blame both times. At this point I think the writers want us to believe he’s innocent, but they’ve still left a sliver of doubt. Brody points out his car to Carrie right before the bomb goes off–a perfect set-up if he wanted to convince Carrie he was innocent. By keeping Emmy-winning Damien Lewis alive, they have handcuffed their storytelling.
We return to the Homeland universe and Carrie is still dealing with the same problem (assuming Brody didn’t actually bomb the CIA): she’s right and no one will believe her. By the end of the episode even Saul sells her down the river, which affords another opportunity for Carrie to cry. Seriously, does she cry on every single episode? I don’t know how she’s going to prove Brody’s innocence this time, but suffice to say I have no doubt she will at some point.
Since Brody is still alive, we are forced to stay with the family he left behind, although I can’t see how they are possibly relevant to the story anymore. What exactly is the show about at this point? Showrunner Alex Gansa seems convinced the Brody-Carrie love story is significant, but that’s not the show I want to watch. I signed up for excitement and a unique American-turned-terrorist story I had never heard before. I think the showrunners don’t know how to let characters go when their role in the story is over. Instead, we get a bombshell dropped: Dana tried to commit suicide. Holy shit! I didn’t see that coming from such a young character. Unfortunately, while Morgan Saylor may possess the acting chops needed to play out the role, I just don’t see why we need to keep tabs on the Brodys. This means there will likely be some payoff way down the line where Nicholas is innocent and Dana forgives him, but just…why? Suffice to say, I don’t know if we’ll be recapping the show on a weekly basis, but these are my general thoughts heading into Season 3. I hope we get back on course, but I fear the Gansa and Gordon may be too far gone to get back on track.