By Tim Kaiser, Editor-in-Chief |
There will be no spoilers from Season 4 (the current season), but as I am explaining the need to reboot there will be spoilers from the previous three. Proceed at your own risk. *
Every year there is a show that captures the collective consciousness of the country and consumes TV watchers (i.e. “True Detective” last year). In 2011, there is no doubt that show was “Homeland.” It captivated casual TV watchers, bloggers, and award voters alike in its first season on the air. However, since the show has become the scourge of the internet as unrealistic plot and wrong turns have caused “Homeland” to disintegrate into just another show.
“Homeland” moved from a smart spy thriller on American soil with a traitorous American Marine and an amazingly brilliant but unstable CIA agent doing whatever it takes to get her job done to a mash-up of a less realistic “24″ and “Romeo and Juliet.”
Possibly the best thing about the show in the early going was Claire Danes, and the Emmys recognized her for it with a Best Actress award. People heralded it as the first true female anti-hero of the Golden Age of TV in the mold of Soprano, McNulty, White, Draper, etc. Willing to push everything aside for the greatness of that one thing. She ran on the need to not be wrong again like on 9/11. She took personal responsibility for each live lost that day. Carrie was fueled by alcohol, patriotism, and egotism. As the series progressed she got crazier and crazier, constantly cried and put her love of Brody ahead of all. She completely abandoned the things that made her so compelling as a character.
“Homeland” might be the perfect example of what happens when studios/ executives meddle with creators. As you may have noticed, those great anti-heroes and their shows mentioned above did not appear on Showtime. The truly great shows of the last 15 years have been led by dictatorial showrunners and writers who have full control or close to it. Showtime seems determined to mess up their good shows by meddling and keeping them on the air long after they overstayed their welcome creatively “(DEXTER” ANYONE!). Anyone that was paying attention knew that Brody wasn’t supposed to make it out of Season 1. It took some very creative writing to keep him and it strangled the show for two more years.
This show was built on the idea of Carrie as the sole lead and Brody being just a Season 1 plot. It turned into a dual-lead show thanks to execs trying to cash in. The story goes that it was planned Brody would either blow up the bunker or wouldn’t but there would be some resolution to his story, arrest or death. Instead the network saw how much people loved the Brody and Carrie love story and forced the showrunner, Alex Gansa, to keep him alive and focus more on that storyline. This was fairly obvious the next two years as it turned into a love story with the back drop of espionage instead of the other way around.
Gansa doesn’t get off scot-free. He fell back into some of his old habits from 24. Some of the spy craft in “Archer” is more realistic than some of the storylines that were cooked up on “Homeland.” The most infamously convoluted was the way in which Brody killed the Vice President. This lays out the ridiculousness better than possibly anything. If the rumors aren’t true and Gansa really wanted that prolonged love story all along I have even less sympathy for his show getting screwed up.
Mercifully, Brody is dead and gone and we have moved on. Carrie is now running a CIA station in Afghanistan ordering drone strikes in the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Her kid (YEAH REMEMBER SHE HAD A KID IN THAT TERRIBLE STORYLINE) is back home with her sister. She has her stuff somewhat together and is competent at her job again.
Let’s face it I’m not going anywhere regardless of how this season goes because I am a completist when it comes to TV and have already sunk so much time in, but I am hopeful for “Homeland’s” future. The drone storyline is largely untapped on TV outside of a “The Good Wife” episode and I am sure one of the 15 “NCIS’s”, all of which I refuse to watch. Gansa and company are taking a unique look at the ripple effects of these drone strikes. The show has also moved production to South Africa, and it has reenergized the show. The show always shined when it left fake DC aka Charlotte and now full time in the “Middle East” is working for me.
Gansa could easily fall in his old traps of all-encompassing love stories and ridiculous action hero storylines, but I think Homeland is finally re-becoming the show we all wanted it to be.
“Homeland” airs Sunday nights at 8 CT on Showtime.
**The two-part season premiere is available online for free.