Homeland Season 3: mediocre storytelling and wasted potential

rs_560x415-130717144249-1024.homeland.ls.71713SHOWTIME’S Homeland is a commercial and critical success. Receiving around 2 million viewers per episode in the US (including U.S. President Barak Obama) this season, and having received 8 Emmy’s it is not surprising that it has been renewed for a fourth season. However, after this latest season I would hardly call it one of the best shows on television, though it definitely has the potential to be. Though not wishing to spoil too much of the current series, I shall be spoiling the first two. If you haven’t seen them by now and are reading this I would strongly recommend returning to this article after seeing them.

The first season of Homeland started the series off strongly, with a decent concept of US Marine Nicholas Brody (played by Damien Lewis) being captured in Iraq by Al Qaeda and supposedly turned to fight for them upon returning home after a heroes welcome. The only one with a hunch that this returned hero may not be all he seems is bipolar CIA analyst Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes).

Homeland has changed greatly since the first season when Brody’s loyalty was up in the air and Carrie was to say the least, unstable. The second season continued in a similar fashion and somehow a romance between the two lead characters formed, one of the show runner’s biggest mistakes in my eyes. Things however were moving at a reasonable pace, particularly towards the end when the main antagonist of the series, Abu Nazir was killed and Brody was forced to go on the run after being framed for a terrorist attack on the CIA, changing the political landscape of the CIA leadership.

My main problem with this current season is the use of recycled plots in the first half of the season. From Dana’s teen angst, to Carrie being crazy enough and being put in a mental hospital, we have seen these at least once before in the prior series. Not only are the recycled plots awful and sloppy in terms of story telling, but they’re also boring and almost irrelevant to the main overarching season plot considering the amount of time we spend on them. It’s just a time filler and therefore a waste.

It is not until the last four episodes that the pace and intrigue of the season picks up, with the final two episodes being some of the best episodes of the entire series. The overall finale seems as though they did not expect the series to continue; the Brody Plotline has been wrapped up, and people seem to be moving on to bigger and brighter things.

Another beef I have is that for such a widely well received show, it has rather concerning political undertones that it implies about the Middle-East. Whilst this was some of this content in the middle of the series helped me to continue watching, the fact that they imply that Iran directly funds and helps organise Al-Qaeda seems a step to far in feeding preconceptions to the masses. I also can’t help but feel that there is also a constant feeding of Islamaphobia, with every antagonist being a radical Muslim, despite the counter-presence of Lewis’s character being a Muslim.

Though now highly unlikely to return next season, Damien Lewis’s performance as Brody, for what little we saw of it, was tremendous. I don’t know whether the show runners thought he would steal the show or were in a bind after that awful romance with Carrie that they could not give shared screen time, but there was so little of him, and more so on Carrie, that it seemed that they were focused on the future of the series with hopefully a new original plot on the way with Carrie in the forefront. Claire Danes, also, was fantastic at portraying the absolute bat-crap craziness of her character.

That is not to focus too much on the main two leads. Rupert Friend as the highly under utilised Peter Quinn, a black-ops operative is really someone who I hoped to see the series branch out with this season to no avail. Maybe next season… Mandy Patinkins character of Saul Berenson, on the other hand, was given a brilliant opportunity to flesh out the character due to the circumstances of being Acting Director of the CIA. Whilst at times he seems passive and a pushover, when he has a comeback, you feel joy he shows at the burn that he has just delivered.

Yet despite the high standard of acting, the story seemed tied down by trying to wrap up the Brody storyline in the finale yet did not have enough substance to carry it there. This is even more of a problem considering the short nature of the series, only twelve episodes, as opposed to normal American shows which usually have four or more episodes per season. Whereas a weak plot would have been excusable in a film or mini-series, the importance of a decent compelling storyline in a popular and critically acclaimed series is paramount to carry viewers from week to week. What really would have been great was an international hunt for Brody, public enemy number one. Instead we got a shoddy storyline leading towards a grand finale which was, whilst compelling, not earned. I can only hope this leads to a fresh start for season 4.