You have to make the most of things in life- opportunities, unseasonably warm days, chance encounters, free previews of premium channels. That last one is important. You gotta get on that when it happens and it doesn’t matter if it’s a preview of HBO, Starz, Showtime or whatever, even Cinemax. A weekend-long free preview pops up and you need to be ready to pounce, get the DVR on standby and make the most of a wonderfully free situation.
And that is what I did recently, taking advantage of a Showtime free preview to get caught up on Homeland. Because why not? What’s the worst that can happen, you get hooked back in? I can live with that. What I can report back is that after watching the second half of last season and the first episode of this season, I can see no clear and present danger to getting back into Homeland.
So here is a question, why is Homeland still on? I bailed on the show at some point during the second season; I’m not even sure if I finished it or not. It started out so strong, almost too strong and the next thing you know, Brody is killing the Vice President, the world’s most dangerous terrorist is kicking it in an abandoned warehouse outside of D.C. and a car bomb wipes out most of the CIA. Oh, I guess I did finish the season. Either way, I was finished with Homeland. Which was kind of a bummer because truth be told, the show’s first season is definitely one of the best seasons of television ever. It’s actually so flippin’ good that it should have quit while it’s ahead. That was never going to happen, though. Not with all the buzz it got and the Emmys and the hullabaloo is stirred up. A second season was a given and sadly, so was the return of Brody. Homeboy was supposed to die at the end of the first season, but that plan was scrapped because of the chemistry between Carrie and Brody. It was a short-sighted move with long-sighted implications.
I have no clue what went down on season three, but based on what I saw I can guess that there was instances of Carrie being right, Carrie yelling, Carrie on her meds, Carrie off her meds, some explosions, some dudes typing away on keyboards and more Carrie yelling. The Internet told me Brody died, so while watching the episodes I did, knowing he wasn’t going to suddenly pop up was reassuring. And hey, the second half of season four was pretty good and had some quality 24-levels of intensity. Homeland is really good at making you think something could blow up at any moment. Kind of like how anytime someone was driving in a car on Mad Men, you were waiting for it to crash. I spent the whole season four finale waiting for an explosion. Yet there was no explosion, just a mildly confusing moment at the end that I suppose was intended to be an emotional explosion.
This season presumably kicks off a few years down the road from last season’s finale, with Carrie and her daughter living in Germany. Unfortunately the most intense aspect of Homeland is Carrie being a parent. Yet she seems to be doing all right, teaching the girl German and heading up security for some kind of foundation. But this is Homeland, where someone is always moments away from getting a bag thrown over the head and tossed in a van. You guess it- that happens and even better, it’s Carrie. But here is where I started to have issues with the show- when Carrie was snatched up and thrown in the van, I wasn’t all that concerned. It had a been there/done that vibe and while any show entering their fifth season will be chased be echoes of the past, this time it felt stale. Shit felt like weak sauce, which is the exact opposite Homeland felt like back in the day. Some shows get better with age, some don’t. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones all got better (or in the case of Game of Thrones, are getting better) as they got older. The Americans keeps getting better; the third and fourth season of The Wire were two of the show’s best, although the fifth might have been the worst. Some shows that got worst the longer they went on- definitely The Office, The Sopranos maybe went on too long and I heard Dexter totally overstayed it’s welcome. Homeland definitely is in this second category; a show that should have quit while it was ahead.
Homeland wasn’t going anywhere after that first season, though. So what could they have done to prevent the sorry state the show is in now? Well for starters, killing Brody and closing the book on that story line at the end of season one would have been a start. I’m increasingly drawn to these mini-series style series- like True Detective or Fargo. Homeland would most certainly benefit from a reset at the end of each season. Carrie isn’t going to die and that’s part of the problem. What are the stakes here if Carrie, along with Quinn and Saul, don’t seem to be going anywhere? It’s why I felt nothing when Carrie was tossed into that van during the season opener. She was going to be fine- just maybe not home to cook dinner for lil’ Frannie, but fine nonetheless. I maintain that one of the reasons the first season of True Detective was so exciting was because it was going to end and because it was going to end, the main characters didn’t need to live. That upped the stakes. Homeland needs stakes like that and the way it can do that is by using that reset button.
A show with more of an emphasis on Quinn wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either. Although then you are getting a little too close to a 24 sequel and Homeland as currently constituted already feels like 24’s cousin.
A show about international espionage and terrorism, one with a new story, setting and characters each season sounds interesting, way more interesting than this season of Homeland, where Carrie will no doubt be roped back into the CIA and will be in a CIA situation room, yelling at analysts by the fifth episode, if not the fourth.
A show that is allowed to re-invent itself and able to do so without having to start from scratch, because a template is in place would then be able to exercise it’s creative muscles more freely.
Or they can just pull the plug on Homeland after this season.
Either way, I’ll be watching the new season of Fargo, so just tell me how Homeland ends.