Homeland Season 3 Review: Cleaning Up the Mess

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The Emmy-winning spy drama had a tonally uneven season, but eventually righted the wrongs of last year.

For those complaining about this season of Homeland, I think you’re forgetting a few things about season 2.  Remember when Abu Nazir, one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist leaders, personally called Brody on Skype to show him he’d kidnapped Carrie? Remember when Dana got into a hit-and-run and everyone was like, “all right, we’ll handle it,” and she just kept trying to turn herself in? Remember when Brody and Carrie had grunting, sweaty, sloppy sex in a motel room and the ENTIRE CIA control room was listening in? Yeah, this season was far from the worst. Still, it certainly had its work cut out for it.

If you look at the show before and after last year’s episode “Q&A,” there’s an unfortunate amount of dissonance. I think the show officially jumped the shark when it started capitalizing on its twists and turns, as opposed to letting them develop organically. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at how put-together the first three episodes of the season were. They weren’t perfect, but they were steadily laying the groundwork for a somber, more personal story.

The most interesting of these episodes was, of course, “Tower of David,” which finally showed what happened to Brody after he went on the run. This is when I first realized that there was no where else for his character to go. Although it would have been a depressing end, I was slightly hoping that when he was put in that hole by the doctor it would be the last we’d see of him. I guess, looking back, that would have been too good to be true.

Two things were consistently good about the season throughout: Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin. Regardless of their characters’ actions, or the craziness going on around them, these two delivered solidly good performances every week. Damian Lewis’ incessant shouting became more and more grating as the season progressed, but I will say that he and Danes still shared some magnetic scenes together. Out of all the new actors hired for the show, I think Shaun Toub as Javadi was the strongest asset. His character was given a plethora of intelligent dialogue, and it was all wonderfully delivered. I hope he sticks around for season 4.

Though the first three episodes were intriguing, they also were very reserved. I couldn’t really get a sense of where this season was headed, other than everyone being depressed about the Langley Bombing. Then everything changed with the episode “Game On,” in which we learned that Saul and Carrie had been working together the entire time. Everything leading up to this point–Carrie’s public outing, her time in the mental facility–was given an entirely different perspective. I still don’t think that the twist worked on every level it wanted to, but it definitely jolted the show with a new kind of energy. Now we had a tangible goal to be invested in.

Things could have quickly progressed to season 1-level greatness, but this is around where they took a turn for the worse. Pinpointing this season’s issues isn’t that difficult, as I can think of two major areas of weakness that plagued the remainder of the episodes. The first is, obviously, the entire Brody family. Homeland did a lot of work to separate itself from its missteps last year, but it was still haunted by some former demons. Episodes like “The Yoga Play,” “One Last Time,” and “Good Night” were all ruined by something like Dana’s insufferable angst or Brody’s control over Carrie’s emotions.

The other area that brought the show down was Carrie’s pregnancy. I was conflicted about it for a while, but now I see it was just a big waste of time. I’m not really sure what the point was of giving the least motherly character on TV a baby, and then heavily implying she’s going to give it up in the end. The only reason I can see for it is to strengthen Carrie’s relationship with Brody, but as I’ve already stated ad nauseam his character had no place in the show anymore. The only dark moment in an otherwise stellar finale was her admonition of the pregnancy to him. It really reinforced why the whole thing was so unnecessary.

Besides that, however, the finale was pretty damn perfect. The last two episodes, in fact, rejuvinated my interest in the show completely. They worked to effectively close out the Brody saga, and were able to make me feel for him one last time before his demise.

It’s interesting that the end saw each of the characters going their separate ways.  Carrie is heading to Istanbul, Saul to New York to work in the private sector, and Jessica and Dana are finally going to start paying attention to Chris (okay that last part may have been exaggerated, but seriously poor Chris Brody). It was a season finale that felt more like a series finale, but that seemed to be the point. The show can now be the phoenix rising from the ashes that it’s always wanted to be, and go in innumerable new directions. While it’s a shame that it took the writers an entire season to get to this point, I’m excited by endless possibilities. Grade: B

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

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