Homeland Series 2 has received a lot of stick over the last few months. Many found its pace occupied two extremes: either madcap fast or dawdling through boring conversations with irrelevant characters. Others took exception at its lack of credibility, particular highlights including Brody’s superpowered bunker-breaching phone signal (mine stops working if I stand underneath a particularly leafy bough) or Walden’s secret ‘off-button’ pacemaker. Carrie Matheson, previously the toast of TV reviewers everywhere, began to grate, both through her patented ‘cryface’ (see Buzzfeed/Anne Hathaway’s Impression on Saturday Night Live) or lack of respect for her own safety that bordered on lemming-esque. Surely, many have cried, Homeland has lost its way.
All of this is valid, and I agree with it to an extent, but I still have a lot of respect for the show. If anything, it is a victim of its own success. Series 1 was such a well-structured and tense affair that recapturing that genie was always going to be a tough task. Homeland’s original gambit, questioning the motives of Sergeant Brody, had a shelf-life; after the twists and turns of Series 1, the audience was left fairly certain of where its loyalties lay.
Indeed, as Series 2 rolled into view, it was originally unclear how the new status quo would hold together; many reviewers opined that the new ‘mystery’ was as to how far Brody had been turned away from his terrorist chums at the close of the first series, and the first couple of episodes appeared to conform to this structure. Brody as congressman was being pulled in more and more against his will as a kind of terrorist roadie, while trying to keep his family unawares, with Carrie attempted to rebuild her career in the CIA elsewhere. Fine. That would work.
But then the writers pulled the unexpected; they outed Brody to the CIA. The entire premise of the first season was undone – Carrie was right, and everything changed. And that’s when I realised what makes Homeland stand out from other shows. It still has the power to surprise me.
There are many, many ways in which Homeland is like How I Met Your Mother (remember the episode where Lily and Marshall accidentally killed the suicide vest tailor? Hilarious.) but one difference is their attitudes towards the premise that first begat their respective shows. How I Met Your Mother promises an eventual, cathartic end that it never delivers, and as the years go on the connection of the storylines to the titular reveal becomes more and more tenuous, leaving the show depleted of much that made it so watchable in the first place.
Homeland’s bravery is the antithesis of this, nonchalantly blowing apart cover stories, preconceptions (and various characters) on an almost weekly basis. And it didn’t stop at the CIA’s discovery this series – Brody’s suicide tape played across the nation was truly shocking TV in a way that’s hard to find these days.
Certainly, there are a lot of flaws with Homeland – sometimes it stretches plausibility (though it’s no 24), and it often feels like the writers have forgotten previous plotlines. And Dana is really annoying.
But I think that Homeland has done fantastically well to work past its limitations – and even if it doesn’t stand up well against its previous self, it still stands up to most other shows in that kind of genre. I for one will be looking forward to Series 3 with great interest. Although the real reason I watch it, like everybody else, is for Saul. He’s like a walking hug with a beard.
Until the next series, you can always stay entertained with the sheer brilliance of Homeland-inspired internet insanity. Mostly this.