With Homeland back on TV, Phil Harrison puts season three under the spotlight.
When Homeland first aired in 2012 the series was everything that had been missing from American TV shows so far. Skeptical, unpredictable and ambivalent about the US’s place in the world, the series delved where none other had been brave enough to go before. As we enter season three with Brody on the run and Carrie back on the ropes of the investigation, it’s really time for Homeland to remind us why we fell in love with it.
Who are the good guys? This used to be Homeland’s trump card. It came closer than any other mainstream American show to acknowledging that the US conduct of the War on Terror had caused as many problems as it had solved. But since Brody’s failure to launch at the end of season one, things have gone a bit 24. Abu Nazir was a cartoon villain. This season’s bad guy is called The Magician (‘he makes people disappear’). Last year we had a man juggling five masters, a murderous tailor and assassination by remote controlled pacemaker. Less is more…
Characterisation: Do we still care? First, the good news. Brody’s daughter Dana is throwing a spanner in the works. Yes, that really is good news. Because the internal dynamics of the Brody family should continue to be fascinating. And Carrie? Still barking up the right tree, but in a distractingly eccentric way? Still making that tragi-comic sad-face, on and off her meds, meeting random strangers and drowning in jazz and mixed drinks? Of course she is. Something’s starting not to ring true here. And it isn’t just the ease with which she shrugged off her season one shock therapy.
Plausibility: The Carrie conundrum ‘Just what are you smoking, Miss Mathison?’ asks the senator in charge of Carrie’s Select Committee hearing. It’s a good question and a pre-emptive strike – an acknowledgment that we might struggle to believe Carrie will ever be trusted again. And there’s new CIA head honcho Saul, whose sudden about-turn undermines everything we thought we knew about him.
Excitement: Choose a target Well, that will depend. Season two’s climax gave us the big bang we craved. But it’s left a big hole – and we don’t just mean where CIA HQ used to be. There’s no sign of Brody in episode one – could Quinn be about to take up the slack?
Homeland works best as a high-wire act: balancing loyalty and betrayal, the visceral and the procedural, the personal and the political. Might juggling the demands of its network and the logic of its narrative prove its biggest challenge? Homeland is on OSN First HD every Tuesday at 10pm