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Homeland: Season Review

29 Dec

I’ve repeated several times on this blog my contention that Homeland was far and away the best new show of this television season.  Now that the season is over, it’s time to take stock of where we are, how things went, and subsequently what things look like for next year.  My brother tried to describe Homeland as 24 on crack, but it’s really the opposite.  Instead of 24 sped up, it’s a couple of episodes of 24 slowed down, with fewer big action moments and more built up long-lasting tension.

First, the biggest event, the main concern of the finale, Brody’s attempt to blow himself up in the protection locker, killing the Vice President and many other high-ranking officials.  Right after it happened, I wished the explosion had happened, but after taking some time to think about it, I was happy with how everything went down.  The creators navigated a narrow passageway here but did it really well.  They faced a difficult choice.  Choose to blow up the bomb, and we’re entirely done with Brody, a character that has been at the heart of the show.  Choose not to, and it seems like a cop out for both the character and the show.  We need a good reason for him not to, and without one, it seems like the creators can’t pull the trigger on a major event.  One of the best parts of 24 is that outside of Jack Bauer, just about every character could get killed at any time.  If you cop out too many times, tense situations become like the show that cried wolf; it’s hard to keep the audience guessing if they feel pretty sure they know what’s going to happen.  In an interview I read, the creators noted that they thought about killing Brody, but that they thought he had more story left to tell, and I agree.  The writers managed this by first creating a situation in which the bomb didn’t go off due to a malfunction, and then having Brody’s daughter get through to him and convince him not to set it off.  If done another way, this would sound lame.  However, what really sold it was the work that had been put in the preceding episodes about the bond between Brody and his daughter.  There had been several scenes focusing on their close connection, and because of this groundwork laid, the moment at which she convinces her dad without exactly knowing it to not set off the bomb felt earned and meaningful rather than cheap.

Carrie’s shock therapy at the end was the other extremely powerful moment in the finale.  It was both sad and encouraging at the same time that Carrie was willing to resort to this radical treatment.  It was hard to watch (it’s difficult to believe that shock treatment is a serious medical treatment nowadays) but also reflected Carrie’s desire to change.  She was crazy, but it was almost comforting, as a viewer, that her craziness was legit craziness; she had a recognized mental disorder, rather than just being unexplainably irrational.  However, it was painful to see her come apart at the seams.

It was impossible not to enjoy Saul’s power play.  Saul was pretty much designed by the writers as the character the viewers are supposed to just about unabashedly like, and well, that’s what happened.  After weeks of reluctantly taking orders from boss David, he finally uses the knowledge he gained to put himself in the driver’s seat.

I loved the video Brody recorded about his reasons for becoming a terrorist.  It bridged a little bit of a gap between how someone could spin their terrorism into helping out America.  Sure, blowing up a bomb is never an acceptable way to protest the system, but at least in this case, the crimes he’s accusing the US of, of blowing up children, are actually true.  This was the extra step that helped me buy in to Brody’s actions.  Additionally, the video can become a plot point, out there in the world somewhere, for someone to discover evidence of Brody’s treachery.  I was pleased with the decision to kill Walker as well.  Walker played a key role in the season, but wasn’t really a character, and he served his purpose.

As a final couple of notes, the acting was all around excellent, led by Claire Danes and Damien Lewis, and I enjoy that James Rebhorn can play a crazy bipolar father on a show about the CIA while at the same time being a high-ranking officer on another TV show (White Collar).  Soon to follow, a look forward at the new season.

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