'Homeland' Red Flags: Will It Crash and Burn or Soar to Greatness?
'Homeland' Finale Includes Extra Disclaimer Following Connecticut Shooting
Note: There are season one spoilers in this story and references to season two episodes that have already aired.
Few series have careened so drastically – with exhilaration and creativity -- from beginning to end of a season than Showtime’s Homeland did in its first season. The series about whether a United States Marine, held prisoner for eight years, is really an al-Qaeda operative ran the table at the Emmys, including best drama, and is looking to set itself up permanently in the pantheon of truly great series.
Ah, but it’s early yet.
It’s wonderful to get that hardware – and stars Damian Lewis and Claire Danes were both exceptional in their Emmy-winning performances – but true greatness is earned with time. Television is that living, breathing, endless story that is so difficult to keep sharp episode to episode, season to season. That’s why there are so few series that are unquestionable brilliant.
As season two moves onward for Homeland – it has been equally spectacular this year, following up on some jaw-dropping twists from season one -- some of the nagging worries I had about the show from the start have started to pop up.
And cause more worrying.
Look, no writer or producer should be judged on their past work (or, more accurately, have that work held against them as they forge on with a new project), but there’s no getting around the fact that Homeland co-creators and executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa are tied to the Fox series 24, which seemed almost revolutionary when it first debuted in 2001 with its breathtaking pace, heart-pounding twists and creative use of multiple screens. However, 24 very quickly buckled under the weight of its promise and became, at best, merely an entertaining hour of television and, at worst, Fox’s finest sitcom.
But the first season of Homeland was, start to finish, wonderful and surprising. In fact, its surprises were so quick and well-earned that you wondered what the hell the producers were thinking. They revealed that not only was Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Lewis) working for al-Qaeda, but that he was going to blow up the vice president in a suicide mission. It’s a testament to how taut and unpredictable Homeland was (and how amazing Lewis was in the role) that even if your head was telling you that there was no way they’d kill off the main character and shift the series so dramatically in season one, your head also couldn’t rule out the possibility.
That is very, very difficult for a series to pull off. I’d say the reason everyone involved with Homeland is holding an Emmy statue is because they did the near impossible. (By the way, 24 killed off a major character at the end as well, which was a huge shock – one that could have played into some viewers’ doubts about what to expect.)
In any case, it’s a brilliant scene that perfectly encapsulates why Homeland is great. Writing, acting, execution, a short history of unpredictable storytelling that refused to let the audience get complacent
As Sgt. Brody, explosives taped into a vest he wore under his military uniform, was set to press the button, tension in the episode had reached maximum impact. And, almost beyond belief, he flipped the switch.