Homeland: End of Season Report, Part 2

20 Jan

Carrie is bloody

Part 2 of my thoughts on the second season of Homeland; part 1 can be found here.

I’ve read some interviews with Homeland co-creators Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon and it seemed like they didn’t exactly know where they were going with the second season until the season wore on, and it shows. Sometimes that kind of television works; Vince Gilligan famously has made seasons of Breaking Bad that way, and he’s created brilliant television that way. However, in this season of Homeland, I felt it went from brilliant episode to clumsy one, from emotionally poignant moment to out of place action season, from true-to-the-story character interaction to forced actions happening only to move the plot forward.  Consistency and the sense of a plan were both sorely lacking, when we as viewers put ourselves in the show runners hands, there’s hopefully a sense of trust that they know where they’re going, which Homeland lost as this season went on.

Selling high is an issue television shows often have with characters, as sports teams have with players. It’s tempting to wring everything out of a character, but sometimes you need to eliminate a character, either because the character’s run dry of characterization, or because the character’s remaining in existence is simply implausible within the universe of the show and makes other plotlines more problematic. I’m still deciding whether I feel this way for sure, but I’m certainly leaning towards the position that killing Brody at some point during the second season would have been the smart move. That Homeland pulled off not killing Brody and having the bomb go off and not feeling like a total cop out in the first season is an amazing act, and it actually went off surprising well. Damien Lewis in fact has often provided the acting job that makes Brody’s internal struggles go and his role has been more difficult than the superbly talented Claire Daines’. I’m not sure where else Brody can go; he’s had his struggle, he’s no longer a terrorist (if he lied to Carrie and was somehow behind the bomb, that would be the worst decision ever, and the absolutely worst kind of twist that is just there because you couldn’t have possibly seen it coming), he’s made his peace with leaving his wife, and his love with Carrie. If this was a different type of show, there’d be more for Brody to do, because he’s a very well rendered character, but in this show I don’t think his remaining value is equal to the price of inconvenience and implausibility of keeping him around.

Another issue with the finale: It wasn’t really a finale. The second to last episode was the finale and the finale was the first episode of the third season. I’m not a big fan of that chronology. If a show doesn’t really want to play into seasons at all, then I’m absolutely fine with ending at a seemingly random point; this is kind of what Game of Thrones does. However, if a show pretty much plays by a seasonal format, I would prefer it adhere to its format; I hate cheap cliffhangers (not saying Homeland did that, but just another end of season pet peeve) and attempts to show the beginning of the next season into prior one. If you’re going to do seasons, then do a season. It’s better than a cheap True Blood-ish cliffhanger for sure, but it’s still not great.

In regards to that third season, it looks like they’re trying to push the reset button a bit. They’ve basically finished out the big arc, over the course of two seasons – the chase for Abu Nazir, and Brody and his relationship with the terrorists and his family. It’s hard to see how Brody can be relating to anyone else for a while next season without getting caught, and it would seem at least somewhat odd for Brody’s family to be hanging around without that connection outside of their initial shock and maybe a funeral scene. Dana’s definitely been built up for more and seems to have faith in Brody that the rest won’t, though I’m not sure what they could possibly do with that, and she’s a bit too young to become Carrie Jr. at the CIA. David Estes is gone, and it looks like Saul will be running the show. I think Saul’s been the most loved non-Brody or Carrie character in the show over the course of two seasons so this will give him an excuse to get an even bigger chunk of the show to himself, which we’ll see if he can handle (the James Harden of Homeland? Though I guess Durant (Daines), but not Westbrook (Lewis) could still be around? Too complicated an analogy already).

The best seasons of seasonally oriented shows get better and tighter and they go forward; while it maybe takes the first few episodes to sort things out and figure out a plan, by the last four or so episodes, things are happening and it feels like the show runners are on top of everything. Season 1 of Homeland very much felt like that; season 2 did not. It certainly wasn’t predictable, but the actions seemed haphazard and took left and right turns that were often less surprises and more strange decisions. I think partly this is because they boxed themselves into too many corners and forgot the key to positive unpredictability, which is to have many plausible outcomes possible at any time, so that there’s any number of ways the show can go and all of them feel natural. I think Homeland boxed itself in one or two too many times this season and left with unsatisfying outcomes, and I think that maybe they realize that which is why they’re trying to start the third season over by wiping the slate clean and reestablishing that anything can happen again.

Also, Homeland is falling into the difficulty that many shows have as they move on in seasons; how to keep the show relevant and interesting, and they turn to a device that many tv shows before them have turned to: raising the stakes. Whatever happened so far, whatever’s going to happen in the next season makes that look like nothing, sometimes devaluing in a way your early seasons to increase apprehension for the next. It’s a device that gets tired fast, but can work once or twice if handled well. Is Homeland up to reinventing itself? I’m not sure, but I hope so.

One Response to “Homeland: End of Season Report, Part 2”

  1. Yara March 20, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Revi agora legendado e relvsoi excluir meu comente1rio anterior pois ainda estava com algumas dfavidas, que agora ne3o as tenho mais.Fomos todos manipulados, principalmente a Carrie.FELIZ NATAL E 2013 REPLETO DE ALEGRIAS.Parabe9ns ao site que nos aguentou ate9 o fim. Ano que vem estaremos de novo, reclamando, pedindo, brigando, elogiando, etc.. etc…Aiiiii vou passar o Natal sem as minhas se9ries favoritas, droga, sf3 me resta comer panetone.

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