Homeland’s first season featured some seriously bold television, without question. What looked to be one kind of series quickly turned into another, and then rinsed and repeated for the course of an entire season of accomplished, taut television. It was a little weird to see that opening credits sequence for the first time, with its floating jazz and odd imagery. Within a few episodes, though, we all realized that Homeland looked to jazz for structural inspiration, throwing story beats at us that we never had the chance to see coming. All of this built to a thrilling penultimate episode which gave way to a more denouement-oriented season finale, somewhat echoing the way things are done over at Breaking Bad, another of the finest dramas on television. When Homeland’s second season was getting ready to premiere, viewers were all wondering where the story would go, and some of us are a little disappointed now that everything is over. [MAJOR SPOILERS ahead.] Many of us thoroughly expected to see Brody die by the time the credits rolled on episode twelve. Instead, what we got was a whole lot of talking between two people that, to be honest, don’t really need to be together anymore. When we started Homeland, it was about an unhealthy obsession exacerbated by the fog of war. It was about Carrie and her dangerous combination of brilliance with a precarious mental situation. It was about Brody and the audience wondering exactly where his loyalties did lie (accomplished by a powerhouse performance on the part of Damian Lewis). When Carrie and Brody did connect, I never felt like it was because they saw something in one another that drove them truly crazy. I saw them as developing an ill-advised attraction because they connected with each other when they couldn’t with anyone else. Brody, broken by the horrors of war, couldn’t connect with his own wife, and could only reach out to someone who understood the violence he had experienced. Carrie, dealing with her own fractured psyche, could only connect with someone else that had been pushed to the fringes of humanity. This was perfect for the strange cat-and-mouse game that took up most of seasons one, but doesn’t so efficiently inform the long, fireside chats that we sat through during the second season’s final episode.
Season two of Homeland brought me to the point where I got tired of suspending my disbelief. All of my disbelief. ALL of it. Maybe halfway through the season, I was totally willing to just accept that Abu Nazir, apparently the most wanted terrorist in the world, was able to just sneak his way into the United States. Even before that, I was down to accept that Brody would just get frustrated and snap that tailor’s neck in the woods. After both of those outrageous things, I was willing to accept that nobody really thought it was a big deal that Brody was the only person in the office with the Vice President when he died. Also with the fact that Carrie didn’t say anything despite knowing that Brody had basically murdered the VP. But then the show had to keep veering into action show territory. The brainchild of a couple of 24 producers, Homeland has always been as much about brains as it has been about bombs, but the last half of season two skewed largely in the direction of the latter. The result was something of a mixed bag.
While I’ll definitely still be around for season three, I’m disappointed with a lot of what went down towards the end of season two. I’m disappointed Brody didn’t die. I’m disappointed that Carrie decided to grab a pipe and run back into a dark, shadowy building with the apparent intention of single handedly killing the most dangerous terrorist in the entire world. I’m disappointed that a SWAT team member let himself get separated from his teammate when we heard dialogue in the immediately preceding scene establishing that SWAT team members are consummate professionals who never get separated from their teammates.
It’s really tough to avoid judging an entire season of television based on the string of episodes that closed it, but Homeland brought us some pretty distracting television towards the end of that second run. Episodes like “The Smile” and “Q&A” were of the high quality that we had come to expect, but the final few episodes steered things in an unfortunate direction. Homeland is still a damn good show, but this second season showed some serious storytelling fallibility. With Brody still around it’ll be tough for the show to find really interesting material to work with next season, but I’m definitely still invested in Carrie and her story. Provided, of course, that she doesn’t keep trying to be the most mentally unstable action hero television has ever seen.