Homeland – State of Independance
That this show’s first season was the one recent US cable drama to made it big on my home continent’s channels seemed a little strange to me, but for the show it has turned into that success makes perfect sense. The last two episodes – the first of the show’s second season – were spectacular, but they were also strangely straight. These episodes had spies, shooting, suspense and shocking twists; I say again they were spectacular, but in the literal sense of the word. This third episode though shifted the style back from the breakneck viscera of Breaking Bad and towards the manic and maudlin internal lives of its character, ala Mad Men (those two are the poles on which all other airing shows must sit) and while this material is what sold me on the show originally I’m not sure that I’m buying it as much anymore.
This episode wasn’t just an allegorical return to form however but also a return to familiar content. It begins by re-introducing the weird sex stuff between Brody and his wife that their side of the show thrived on back in its early days, has these characters talking about his returning home and how hard that was and ends with a rekindling of the romance between Baccarin and the best friend that was dropped episodes ago for the more important material. Then there is the case of the week sub-plot built around Brody having to return to Gettysburg to deal with the Tailor because of CIA information that we hadn’t heard of. It’s not that this stuff is inherently uninteresting or that it hasn’t served the show well in the past (I love the sex stuff, The Jacket was a great ep and Saul’s roadtrip a strong point of the season) but it just seems out of place now; like the show has taken a step back or Showtime put an episode in out of order.
Carie’s story was similarly reminiscent in that it took us all the way back to what I believe was the very first scene of the show: once she returns home, like a broken soldier from a bloody war, she shops through through the closet and coming out with a short cut dress, putting it on, dolling up and then drugging up quite drastically. I loved the original scene, in fact I remember saying that it alone was what convinced me of the shows merit, but again repeated here it simply doesn’t have the same effect. Carie isn’t a CIA agent with some quirks anymore, she is a broken human being and as great as Claire Danes may be in the role I think that her character is becoming sort-of problematic.
The first season was brilliantly scripted as a whole, the way that it hooked us in early with a killer concept and then slowly started to slide down, step by step, revealing the depths of its characters to us made for some great viewing. Now though those answers are out, we’ve seen the bottom layer and so no matter how great an individual scene may be the show as a whole is lacking that special feeling: ‘Is Brody a Terrorist’ is much more fascinating to me than ‘Yes’ and similarly the slow psychotic break of Carie was far more interesting than her simply sitting shattered in a hundred separate pieces.
There were a lot of lines and scenes in this episode that were there to tease the audience – Saul showing up only in the first and last scenes, “You didn’t really think that you would get reinstated”, etc. – but the one that stuck out most to me was “Your great American story is only just beginning”. The reason? To me this show now feels like its on its final legs; like Dexter it has made its big reveal, it has taken that step that it can’t take back but here it only seems like the latest in a long line of them. This was an episode that worked to remind us that this is not a new show and nor is it really even a new season (you couldn’t, for example, ‘jump in’ this year to see what the fuss was all about) that instead it’s simply the second part of a story that is seemingly built out of only the two halves.
It could just be that this was a quieter episode – I certainly wouldn’t say that it was bad in any way – but I do feel like the issue I had with it was a larger one because I accidentally caught the teaser for next week’s and while it seems action packed it gives me a similar feeling. More of the spy stuff, more trying to catch Brody, more using honey as bait; the show is backtracking but it’s far too late, it’s already off the cliff. Though if there is one thing besides weird sex stuff that this show can do it is surprise, to subvert expectations, so there is a strong chance that I will be back next week as enthused as ever by the show’s youth and vibrancy. I just wonder if what we took to be braveness, will and energy was simply the show being ‘wired’ like its lead was and that a crash will inevitably come to it as it did Carie.