By Alec Stern, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 7, 2013
Though only having aired 24 episodes in total, Showtime’s “Homeland” has sent viewers for an incredibly emotional and tumultuous ride. After closing its first season at a creative high — giving new meaning to the phrase “binge-watching” and ending “Mad Men” ’s streak at the Emmy’s — all eyes were on creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. With much anticipation, season two premiered in September 2012 and over the next few months, continually diminished pieces of “Homeland” ’s credibility and status in the top tier of television dramas. Now, with season three just beginning, it will be interesting to see where “Homeland” goes. Judging by the season three premiere, the radically fluctuating quality and extreme crisis of identity that marred season two seem to have bled in, despite the almost year-long hiatus.
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It has been 58 days since Nicholas Brody’s (Damian Lewis, “Life”) alleged attack on CIA Headquarters. In that time, Saul (Mandy Patinkin, “Criminal Minds”) has emerged as the leader of the CIA’s counter-terrorism unit while Carrie (Claire Danes, “Temple Grandin”) has been self-medicating her bipolar disorder with alcohol and the sexual company of strangers. She has also been called to testify before the Senate regarding the attack and her whereabouts thereafter. Though Brody is noticeably absent from the episode, his family continues to be a major point of focus. Jessica (Morena Baccarin, “V”) is struggling with the media scrutiny and single parenthood, especially in the wake of Dana’s (Morgan Saylor, “K-Ville”) failed suicide attempt and months-long stay at a rehab facility.
In order to analyze “Homeland” ’s 25th episode, it’s important to look back at where “Homeland” has been. The first season was an almost flawless 12-hour story about a troubled CIA agent trying to protect her country and fight for what she knew to be true — that returned war hero Nicholas Brody had been turned into a terrorist while held prisoner at an Al-Qaeda compound. Remarkably, somewhere in season two, “Homeland” became a forbidden love story, throwing almost all credibility and believability aside. In season three, it already seems as if “Homeland” is continuing to drift further and further from its early accomplishments. “Homeland” ’s build-up was impressive, but how it’s handled the lasting effects of Brody’s attempted suicide mission has been less than stellar.
It’s as if “Homeland” doesn’t know exactly what to do with Brody anymore, let alone his family. Season two’s most obvious narrative slip-up (Dana and Finn’s highly unnecessary hit-and-run) has been replaced this season with an even more infuriating “sexting” storyline. Of course, it’s important to detail the effects Brody’s admission has had on his family (and a stint in rehab actually makes sense for Dana). But being forced to watch Dana navigate her love life, on top of Carrie and Brody’s silly romance, is completely gratuitous.
With each episode, “Homeland” begins to feel more and more like a combination of “24” and “Scandal” — in the worst possible way. Between the Brody family and Carrie’s alcohol-fueled sexual antics, the series plays like a CIA soap opera.
Despite all this, comparing anything to “Homeland” ’s first season is a dangerous game. In the grand scheme, “Homeland” has continued to be a well acted and engaging drama, despite not always giving us what we hoped for. “Homeland” is also great at leaving viewers wanting more, and this week’s episode was a perfect example of that. The final minutes are quite surprising and give the series a few viable options for the season. It also ensures a great confrontation between Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin, whose chemistry together has continued to shine since the pilot episode.
Ultimately, the season three premiere of “Homeland” proves that the first season was both a blessing and a curse.