So this year, I’ll be recapping Season Three of Homeland over at Slant Magazine. The review of the opener, “Tin Man Is Down” is up, and I’ll be updating this post with quotes from other recaps that I’ve read and either strongly agree or disagree with. I will say this: paying such close attention to an episode of television certainly changes the way in which I watch it, and I’ll let you all know by the end whether that’s for the better or worse. In any case, this week, I wound up matching the three main story lines to the three supporting Wizard of Oz characters–the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. (It’s significant that in this bleak world, there is no room for an innocent Dorothy.) I also criticized the main action sequence with Peter Quinn as being all too easily accomplished; Homeland keeps switching between the extremes of Rubicon and 24 and it sometimes throws the realism for a loop. Anyway, join the discussion, won’t you?
Alyssa Rosenberg over at New York‘s Vulture Blog:
Once upon a time, Carrie was Cassandra, a person who saw the world with terrible clarity, but who was ignored because of David Estes’ personal resentments towards her, and later because of bias against her mental illness. Her marginalization seemed like an injustice. But over the two seasons that we’ve come to know Carrie, it’s become hard to tell if she could ever really reconcile her sense of her own brilliance and the need to follow the law, and effectively work within a large bureaucracy. Carrie may treasure the insights she reaches when she’s manic, but those states make it impossible for her to launch compelling defenses of her theories and her analytical work. To her father, she blames her Lithium for blunting her sharp eyes, but that seems like more of an excuse for losing herself in her affair with Brody and dreams of a new life at the expense of constant vigilance. Medical treatment for her bipolar disorder, just like legal restrictions on surveillance, are yet another thing that Carrie’s too good to abide by.
This is, I suspect, going to be the season of Carrie-hate: it’s harder and harder to justify her actions, even though it becomes easier and easier to empathize with her. I like her even more as a character, because unlike the first time she went off her medication, she’s now aware of the fact that it’s taking a toll on her–but also that it’s a burden that she has to take on, given the fact that she misses things while drugged-up. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I don’t think that she’s only using the tragedy as an excuse, although from what I’ve read about people on antidepressants and other emotion-controlling drugs (like David Foster Wallace), I suspect that she’s certainly been looking for a reason to get back to her “regular” self. Still, she could have run off with Brody; she could have quit the CIA; she’s not looking for an easy way out. She’s trying to have it both ways, and I’m eager to see how badly that will cost her.
Dana doesn’t just suffer because her father’s now the most wanted fugitive in the world; she tries to kill herself in a moment of absolute despair. Homeland gets into trouble when it forgets that it’s not a show about Nicholas Brody, but in the Brody family storyline, it remembers that it’s at its most powerful when it’s a show about how the people in Brody’s orbit perceive him. The ghost of Nick Brody is literally the only thing tying all of the series’ disparate storylines at this point, and that’s an interesting choice, one that takes its time to make itself fully known but one that carries a punch when we see, say, Dana struggling to readjust to a world that’s spinning off its axis or Jess trying to move forward while being subject to journalists hounding her when she picks up her daughter from a mental health facility that she had to beg her mother to pay for.
I guess that’s a fair justification for the Brody family sticking around–in that it shows the consequences (think about how often Walt Jr. got the short shrift on Breaking Bad) of Brody’s actions, justified or not. Perception is the sticking point for Homeland, especially as CIA black-ops more and more resemble terrorist strikes (in reverse), and it’s dramatically satisfying to see people struggle with loss. But I don’t trust the writers with Dana–not after last year–and let’s face it: confusion is difficult to write. All too often, what are meant to be mixed signals from Dana simply come across as half-measures–moreover, the show is taking the easy way out, cutting two months ago to the aftermath of Dana’s suicide, rather than the moments leading up to it.