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Pick one dramatic television series that is in the pantheon of all-time great shows and ask yourself which one of them had their reputation staked to the finale of Season 2.
Here’s a little help: none of them.
And that’s what’s so troubling going into the Season 2 finale of Showtime’s Homeland. Last season’s most taut, audacious new offering topped many Year End lists and ended up dominating the Emmys for that effort this year. But Season 2 has been quite a different story. In a column I wrote nearly a month ago on the troubling red flags of this series, my chief worry was in the DNA of the executive producers, who oversaw 24 and were at the helm when that went from great to not very good to laughable at lightning speed.
Truth be told, many of my comments about Homeland – even last year – were focused on how tricky it would be to sustain the frenetic pace and keep the quality up, mostly because of believability issues and painting characters into corners too quickly for the sake of pulse-pounding drama. When comparing it to other top tier series – and Homeland was definitely that in Season 1 — I noted that if any series could fall from graces on that list, it would definitely be Homeland.
And here we are at the end of Season 2 – a season that started off extremely strong and maintained that quality level for a bit, then began showing signs of real creative lag, of seriously bad decision making in the writing and scenarios and, finally, a culmination two or three episodes which did not in any way alter the worries I had in the column about the red flags.
More than anything, all of this information should point convincingly to the realization that Homeland has hit an early and unfortunate downturn. I put it at No. 10 in my year-end list of dramas for The Hollywood Reporter, with the option to recalibrate either way based on the finale. But again, you never want it to come down to the finale. And really, had that been a list that also combined comedies, Homeland would not have made the Top 10 cut (though I used 15, so maybe a little luck there).
Well, we’re all here – fans and critics and those who make the show – at this unfortunately awkward intersection. Homleand needs to do something tonight that either dramatically reshapes the series or creates an intriguing detour free of implausibility. Honestly, the odds do not appear to be in the show’s favor in that regard.
The writers could kill off Brody (Damian Lewis), but he’s such a fantastic actor, why would they? They could put him and Carrie (Claire Danes) into some buddy-revenge scenario, but that would hardly pass the implausibility part. They could come up with a mole, which would make it just like 24 (although I think the mole aspect at this point is overblown). They could have Estes (David Harewood) be killed or otherwise rendered useless – and that might help, but wouldn’t solve the what-happens-now part.
To give the writers credit, people are creating all kinds of smart or, more often, far-fetched scenarios about how the season will end. What that points to is dedication. Fans love the show. Many of them will no doubt go on whatever ride they’re taken on. Hell, there are still vociferous and forceful defenders of 24, which really takes a level of disillusionment not normally seen in sane people.
And yes, the writers could do something completely unexpected and wholly brilliant and we’ll all be falling on the ground in praise of this series. Let’s just wait to find out what they’ve got. (As a note, I’ll be watching on West Coast time because of other commitments, but will definitely post something after the show for discussion).
In the meantime, there’s a bit of hope. But it’s unfortunate that we even need to be talking about 11th hour miracles for a show that came out of the box so spectacularly. The exercise I mentioned above stays pertinent – no drama series that is now considered an all-time great ever had this put-up-or-shut-up kind of pressure as early as the last episode in Season 2. I can’t help but believe that does not bode well for tonight and for Homeland’s legacy.
But as the song says, here we are now. Entertain us. (But for the sake of the TV Gods, make it plausible.)
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