Dear Homeland, What The F*ck Happened To You?
After a dismal start to the season, Homeland dropped a massive twist last night. But is it enough to keep us interested? [spoilers]
Welcome to our Homeland recaps. This week’s episode was ‘Game On’. Spoilers and an emotional open letter follow.
That was a big twist, so I’m writing this to thank you for attempting to save the relationship. But I think we might still have to break up.
I’m not entirely sure where we started to go wrong. Maybe I expected too much of you. Perhaps you tried so hard to impress early on in our relationship that when it came time for us to settle down and really get to know each other, the only thing we had left was a physical connection built on cheap thrills. Like sexting, or that time we choked a tailor to death in a Maryland forest.
All I know is that for weeks now, I’ve been feeling unsure of whether or not I should be doing this any more… Whether or not, WE should be doing this any more. But then you surprised me this week — like that time you broke into my house and insisted we make popsicle stick folk art — and now I feel like we could still work. When you revealed that Saul and Carrie were in on Carrie being locked up (and, as it turned out, bait for terrorist recruiters), you made me reassess some of the distrust and resentment I’ve had building up, and now I’m so conflicted.
That distrust and resentment? Well, I can’t say exactly when it started.
It might’ve been that time when a pair of lovestruck teens on the lam from a psychiatry recovery clinic quoted poetry in a graveyard while swigging cheap champagne. Or perhaps it was when that new CIA analyst figured out that a shadowy terrorist mastermind happened to be the mystery owner of a professional soccer team in Venezuela using a fake name. Or maybe it was when your most interesting character was left out of three-and-a-half of your first four episodes.
And after the first half of this episode plodded through the motions again — Carrie in the psych ward having her petition for release being denied, Dana Brody getting moony-eyed over Dreamy Psycho Emo Maybe Vampire Leo, Jessica Brody being all sad — I thought that was it. I thought we were over.
Each of the set pieces felt like that time in the kitchen when you came at me with a steak knife, and we pretended like it was a joke: we laughed uncomfortably and tried to forget about it. But, in truth, hanging out with you had become as riveting as listening to Hootie & the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View from beginning to end.
I mean, it’s not like your creators don’t know what they’re doing. When you have a pedigree like The X-Files and 24, it’s clear that they have the know-how to pull a story together, even if the first three episodes have been a drag. And now, with Saul and Carrie back to being devious CIA mofos, you just might be able to get this Season Three arc to work. I just don’t know if I can do it with you; you’ve hurt me too much.
Like I said, I’m conflicted. I mean, Carrie dealing with her psychiatric demons in hospital, all in an attempt to go as deep under cover domestically as possible? That was reminiscent of our good times, back when we were happy. When you had Carrie running around DC — with no money, no car, and no other way to hide from her (seemingly) unwanted recruiters, except via banging that awesome Brody/Josh Homme lookalike again and then stealing his money — you actually gave us ‘Good Carrie’ again, and I thank you for that.
Good Carrie is when you let Carrie do what she does best: being all manic and super intense, but with an actual goal to work towards. That it was to convince everyone that the CIA had thrown her under the bus and not only abandoned her, but was trying to keep her locked up too… all in order to become the CIA’s mole to catch Javadi? That was classic Good Carrie. Now we have an obvious line to her and Brody interacting again, which is where you tend to do your best work.
Your devious long-con also revealed that Saul perhaps isn’t the worst? Once again, thank you because Saul is the best. When you had him say “You’re an amazing person, Carrie Mathison, amazing…” it almost made up for him uncharacteristically yelling at Fara about her headscarf. I also love how any time you have a scene involving a rumpled, gruff Saul, you handle it with a sure hand and add layers of brooding intensity on top.
My biggest concern now is whether or not you can keep this up. When we first met, you were a mind-spinning spy thriller involving the CIA and ruthless terrorists, boasting a will-he-won’t-he storyline involving a recently-freed US marine who is suspected by a bi-polar CIA agent to have been ‘turned’ by Al Qaeda. And then they hooked up.
But of late? To be honest, you’ve let yourself go. You’ve been hijacked by your own fascination with your weakest characters. Spending so much time with Jessica and Dana Brody and their counterparts (the weirdly-looks-more-like-Damian-Lewis-each-season Marine Mike and Dreamy Psycho Emo Maybe Vampire Leo) makes for TV that’s even more tedious than that time I sat through a Kevin James movie.
Yes, I get that you’re trying to show the fallout of the decisions and actions taken in your first two seasons, and the ramifications of Brody’s (suspected) actions on those closest to him. The morose tone of the beginning of this season was just right, but really, you needed to hit the gym of fast-paced storytelling way earlier. Work those muscles, get into shape for me! Because even with this twist, I don’t know… It might be too little, too late.
We both know that Carrie will end up in Venezuela with Brody, where they’ll play a game of cat-and-mouse with geo-political ramifications, and they’ll likely be wearing excellently tailored street clothes while they’re at it. And, c’mon, we’re not idiots: something is going to happen to Dana. Just make sure it’s good, please? Like, say, Dreamy Psycho Emo Maybe Vampire Leo will try to kill her (actually kill her) or he’ll just show the world her boobs, and Mrs Brody — perhaps even Brody himself — will have to fashion a solution. (While we’re at it, it’s still weird that your main character is called by his last name by everyone, including his family; it’s like your weird uncle demanding we call him ‘chief’. Please make this stop.)
All I ask is that you make it more compelling than the usual rubbish lines you’ve had her uttering lately: “I just want to stay like this forever. Usually, I wake up and just feel so… strange. But today, this is just perfect.” Really? And quoting poetry by Coleridge? C’mon, we all know that a pair of runaway teens would be banging like recently freed psychotic rabbits.
So, as you can see, I’m worried. I’m worried that you’re now giving me cheap twists and ‘shock’ revelations just to keep me interested, like that time we got really drunk and you suggested calling up your ‘hot’ friend from uni to ‘party‘. Or bought that bondage outfit.
I guess that’s where I’m at. I don’t know if you can change, but I hope you can. What we’ve shared has mostly been fun: sometimes great, and sometimes weirdly boring and uncomfortable. But mainly, I don’t like seeing you wasting your potential. Please try to be good from now on. Please?
P.S. I’m serious. Kill Dana off.
P.P.S. Also, thanks for bringing back Virgil.
P.P.P.S. Kill Dana off already.
Jaymz is a New York-based writer (originally from Melbourne, and the former Editor of triple j magazine), super-yacht enthusiast, hi-tech jewel thief and Bengal tiger trainer. He enjoys wearing monocles, finely spiced rum, constructing pillow forts, and zip-lining from Hong Kong skyscrapers. You can find him on twitter via @jaymzclements
Follow the rest of his Homeland recaps here.