Homeland: a season gets silly

As the political suspense shows nears the end of its second season, our critic takes a look at the season’s many highs and lows.


Since its debut, Homeland has been touted as 24 with a brain — a political thriller with ambitions grander than simply “Hey, let’s shoot that terrorist over there.” Despite some stand-out episodes and truly moving character moments, though, Season Two has gradually descended into silly action movie territory.

This couldn’t have been made more evident than in last night’s episode, “In Memoriam” (originally titled “That Motherfucker With The Turban”). Showtime’s original programming, even when good, often finds excuses to delve into lurid material, even demanding that cult favourites like “Party Down” include more nudity. Homeland‘s vice isn’t smut, but silly, borderline-preposterous plotting.

When last we saw CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), she was heading into darkness to hunt down terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). She had escaped Nazir, in part due to the intervention of Congressman Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who texted Vice President Walden’s pacemaker serial number to remotely induce a heart attack. Brody allows the VP (Jamey Sheridan) to die, apparently to save Carrie.

Though it’s never said, it’s clear Brody has some unresolved issues with Walden’s drone strike order. He may have lost been freed of his loyalty to Nazir, but not of his own personal hatred of Walden’s outright murder of innocent children.

After Carrie steps outside, she finds the cavalry has arrived, and Nazir is missing. There are questions about how Nazir escaped, teasing once again that there may or may not be a mole in the agency. Alas, like many fans of the show have always believed, there isn’t, Nazir is just really good at hiding.

And here we enter horror movie territory, where Nazir stealthily assaults agents like Michael Meyers and stalks damsel in distress Carrie. Until he gets shot repeatedly.

It’s a testament to the show’s writers that they manage to work above their material, peppering the show with powerful character moments. It’s those moments and some terrific performances that allow audiences to overlook the Vice President’s remotely controlled pacemaker (which, Nazir claims, he learned about in the New York Times).

As a result, the episode has some of season two’s best and worst moments. There’s a lot of clichés and silliness, but it still takes courage to kill off the show’s main villian before the season finale. Last season, many fans seemed disappointed that Brody wasn’t killed off during his failed suicide bombing, but it’s paid some worthwhile dividends, largely due to Lewis’s excellent work.

There were also still some of the best character moments since Carrie turning Brody as a double agent in “Q&A.” Even minor characters, like captured terrorist Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson), lured Carrie in a false sense of security that her interrogation was working before lashing out, the exact opposite of Brody’s interrogation.

And this Sunday we enter the season finale, “The Choice.” With the show coming to the end of its second season, and several major plotlines seemingly wrapped up, it’s easy to have doubts about the show’s future, but Homeland has backed itself into some seemingly inescapable corners in the past. One of the joys of the show is watching the writers find their way out. ■

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