Talking 'Homeland'

Backlash to the Backlash...

by Matt Paproth

6 December 2012

The backlash-to-the-backlash articles have followed suit, reminding readers that this is indeed a television show, one that has always been more interested in maintaining suspense and surprising viewers than in subtlety or in portraying the business of fighting terrorism with any degree of realism.
 
cover art

Homeland

Creator: Howard Gordon
Cast: Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin
Regular airtime: Sundays, 10pm ET

(Showtime)

Well, I seem to be late to the party in weighing in on Homeland’s most recent jawdroppers, unleashed in the hilariously titled “Broken Hearts” episode. With the week nearly over and episode 2.11 days away from hitting our screens, I am compelled to take a minute and see where we are and how we got here.

The backlash has been fervent this week, responding to the improbable events surrounding (OK, seriously, SPOILERS) the death of the Vice President. Other backlash topics include the frenzied over-emoting of Damian Lewis as Nick Brody, the bad-season-of-24-style-terrorism of Abu Nazir, the sudden and ridiculous surveillance-fails of the government, and the Lifetime-movie behavior of Carrie Matheson. The backlash-to-the-backlash articles have followed suit, reminding readers that this is indeed a television show, one that has always been more interested in maintaining suspense and surprising viewers than in subtlety or in portraying the business of fighting terrorism with any degree of realism.
  
This episode seems to have catalyzed growing fears among many viewers throughout the season. There was Brody’s foray into the woods, which seemed to deliberately echo The Sopranos’ classic “Pine Barrens” episode in how it used the forest as a physical space in which to explore its characters’ mental states (with less intentional, and more unintentional, humor). There was Carrie’s reckless behavior, which echoed the writers’, as she continually pushed us out of comfortable places and deeper into increasingly unrealistic plots. After twisting the knife unexpectedly at the end of the second episode, as Saul finds out that Brody is a terrorist, the series seemed poised to return to surveillance mode for the bulk of the season. And I was willing to suspend my disbelief and let Brody run around the government, because I was confident that that would have been a compelling string of episodes. But that lasted for less than two episodes, as Carrie broke cover and let Brody know that they were onto him. As plot developments, these were fantastic - truly unexpected developments that had me literally shouting at the television and covering my eyes (embarrassing, no?).

However, this furious pacing has pushed us so far away from reality that it’s a problem. So, when I am asked to believe that the Vice President’s pacemaker could be deactivated using a serial code (and, okay, there are people on the internet presenting evidence that this exists… but, like, was that the box he bought it in! and are we keeping it around in case it needs to be returned! did he buy his pacemaker from Target!)—It’s just too much. When I’m asked to believe that super-terrorist Abu Nazir would just hop a flight to the US out of impatience, and then behave like a James Bond villain—it’s too much. When I am asked to believe that Carrie’s disappearance would cause Saul-and-co. to be less concerned about Brody’s whereabouts—it’s a bridge too far.

And when nobody seems concerned that bug-eyed Brody is running around the Vice President’s residence—I mean, whoever wrote that scene with the magnifying glass had to be screwing with me. Whoever was directing that episode really needed to step in and call ‘bullshit’ on the whole operation.

But this is where we are. There are, astoundingly, two episodes remaining in the season. It’s like a concert where the artist pulls out the big hits a little too early… so I wonder, if this is what they planned for the third-to-last episode, what in God’s name do they have planned for the penultimate one? And if, as in the first season, they plan to supersize the finalé, what on earth will be unfolding?

There are a lot of wild theories out there, including the not-so-wild theory that Brody and Nazir were staging their antagonism for Carrie’s benefit. I got that idea during a crystal-clear video call I made with a friend via Skype… Did you know that you can make internet calls for free with Skype. Sign up today and discover a whole new world of staying in touch.

Note to Homeland producers: whatever Skype paid you for that, it wasn’t enough.

Anyway, wild theories abound on the internet, to which I will add mine. These last two episodes will continue to be totally off-the-rails ridiculous. Like, Saul gets tortured or something, Estes has an idea that isn’t totally wrong, maybe Brody’s son turns out to be the mole (called it!)... but then, in the final scene, everything that has happened turns out to be a dream Carrie had during her electro-shock therapy. She wakes up in the final minute of the season and discovers, well, whatever the producers want her to discover.

If you think about it, so much of this season seems to be staging Carrie’s fantasies—the government needs her again, she proclaims her love for Brody, she demonstrates her love for Brody in front of everyone (with them literally listening in), Brody’s family just wants to get away from him, and, finally, Brody demonstrates his true love for her—that this scenario now seems more believable to me than does a world in which all these things are actually happening.

And I am not a crazy person. I promise. [Jazz freakout.]

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