Posts Tagged ‘Homeland’
I updated my Rolling Stone list of Homeland highlights to include a couple of strong scenes from the finale. There’s always good stuff in there!
I’d also like to promise everyone that no matter how vitriolic I sounded in my reviews, I ain’t even mad. The worst thing that happens when you watch a bad episode of TV is the feeling that “argh, I just watched a bad episode of TV.” Writing the review forces you to articulate the negativity, but that doesn’t mean I’m angry at the people who made it.
I reviewed the season finale of Homeland for Rolling Stone. I did not like it, I can tell you that much.
Despite my many many problems with Homeland this season there were still a lot of terrific scenes in there, and I wrote about them for Rolling Stone.
One thing I don’t think I mentioned specifically but which bears mention generally is that Carrie and Brody are both really singular characters amid the prestige-drama landscape, and the performances behind them (at least until very recently) have been dynamite. Between them they carve out a lot of new territory for the TV that big-time TV watchers watch, which is a big part of why the show clicked the way it did, and why folks have had so much patience with it.
I contributed the Game of Thrones and Homeland entries to Rolling Stone’s list of the 10 hottest liaisons on TV this year. My write-ups are juvenile and I make no apologies for this, nor for how excited I got to see where one of my entries ranked.
In the guise of a review of last night’s episode, which appears to have been retitled while it was airing, I present my grand unified theory of what’s wrong with Homeland over at Rolling Stone.
I contributed the Breaking Bad and Homeland entries to this list of TV’s ten most shocking deaths of 2012 for Rolling Stone. SPOILERS, SPOILERS, OH GOD THE SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING obviously.
It’s usually a pretty bad sign when your Emmy Award-winning drama repeatedly makes me think of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The result is my review of last night’s Homeland for Rolling Stone.
I reviewed last night’s pretty silly Homeland episode for Rolling Stone. “NEE-KO-LASS” lol
I reviewed tonight’s episode of Homeland for Rolling Stone. I’m probably a pretty tough sell on this show at this point.
I reviewed tonight’s episode of Homeland for Rolling Stone. No sir I didn’t like it.
I reviewed tonight’s episode of Homeland for Rolling Stone. Short version: Carrie Mathison is the one who knocks.
For my review of tonight’s episode of Homeland, please visit Rolling Stone. I liked this one quite a bit.
For my review of tonight’s episode of Homeland, please visit Rolling Stone. Uh, how about that ending?
For my review of tonight’s season premiere of Homeland, please visit Rolling Stone. It’s kind of a half-review, half-vent.
I’m excited to be covering Homeland for Rolling Stone this season. Here’s a Homeland cheat sheet I whipped up to catch you up in time for Season Two.
The very very good tv critic Alyssa Rosenberg celebrates Homeland‘s Emmy rampage last night in light of the show’s real-world, current-events relevance, something the other shows lack. That’s true as far as it gets you, which isn’t very. I’ve been saying for tedious years now that the reason The Wire has come to be regarded as the best show of the New Golden Age over, say, The Sopranos is because everything The Wire has to say, it actually says. On both a thematic and a narrative level, The Wire is about the failure of American government and law enforcement. Since many or even most critics writing for mainstream publications use allegory as the great legitimizer for genre art, this is catnip. You don’t even need to do the high-school English-essay amount of interpretation necessary to figure out whether the zombies represent consumerism or the amphibious monster represents American intervention on the Korean peninsula or whatever — all you need to know is how you feel about the War on Drugs, compare it to how David Simon feels about the War on Drugs, and call it a day. I realize I’m being reductive and unfair, there’s more to The Wire than an editorial cartoon, there’s breathtaking breadth and (the final season aside) depth to what he and Ed Burns did there, but yeah, pretty much that’s what’s going on.
Homeland, to its credit, is a much weirder show than The Wire — things happen that don’t need to happen, that communicate on a level deeper and more inscrutable than the immediate needs of the plot or the politics — and weirdness is where greatness lies. I don’t think greatness lies in condemning our army of flying killer robots or the ubiquitous surveillance state, necessarily. I think bravery lies there, for sure, even just in terms of the personal standing of the cast and crew; think of how many people in the Emmy room last night have done volunteer stuff for the Obama campaign, and then think of well-deserved teeth-grinding contempt in which Homeland holds the Obama drone-strike campaign, for example. But I think we get into trouble if we applaud art for echoing our current-day politics because it lets us off the hook.
To me, as ameliorative and bracing as Homeland‘s critique of Terror War is (it is after all a point of view I fully share, urgently share even, given my Damascene conversion years back), it comes much more alive when connecting the workaday lies we tell our loved ones every day, the secrets we keep from them, and the lies and secrets that end up getting people killed. It’s about cultivating deception as a habit of thought, and the short distance between cutting people out of your personal reality and a willingness to create a reality without them in it at all. Watching Carrie and Brody conduct their self-destructive secret lives while putting up a front to those who care for them is the meat of the show, for me, not the op-ed stuff.
So that’s why I’m not happy that Homeland beat Mad Men or Breaking Bad, or maybe even Game of Thrones — on an apples-to-apples basis those shows have more meat (to mix my food metaphors) even if no scenes take place in CIA headquarters. They also didn’t take a nosedive in the final third of the season and reveal an inherent structural limitation that would’ve left them better off as miniseries than as ongoing serials, and making the Vice President an asshole can’t get you past that either.
Below are links to all my posts on Homeland, to be updated as the series progresses. I hope you enjoy them.
* Season One, Episode One
* Season One, Episodes 2-5
* Season One, Episodes 6-9
* Season One, Episodes 10-12
* Homeland is the new The Wire: thoughts on allegory and topicality in fiction
* Homeland Season Two Cheat Sheet
* Season Two, Episode One: “The Smile”
* Season Two, Episode Two: “Beirut Is Back”
* Season Two, Episode Three: “State of Independence”
* Season Two, Episode Four: “New Car Smell”
* Season Two, Episode Five: “Q&A”
* Season Two, Episode Six: “A Gettysburg Address”
* Season Two, Episode Seven: “The Clearing”
* Season Two, Episode Eight: “I’ll Fly Away”
* Season Two, Episode Nine: “Two Hats”
* Season Two, Episode Ten: “Broken Hearts”
* Season Two, Episode Eleven: “The Motherfucker in the Turban” / “In Memoriam”
* Season Two, Episode Twelve: “The Choice”
* The 12 Best Moments from Homeland‘s Bad Season 2
* You might have noticed I didn’t put the episode titles in the header for this post, as has become my custom. That’s because the title of Ep 10 is “Representative Brody” — yup, that’s a spoiler right there in the name of the episode. (The others were called “The Vest” and “Marine One,” just for the record.) I found myself struggling with this kind of shit throughout this final run, and often due to people who should know better, like the people who named the episodes, or the network, which thought it would be a good idea to put a spoiler-filled ad for the Homeland Season One DVD/Blu-Ray box set as the first thing you see when you fire up an episode of the show on Showtime On Demand. I fucking saw his hand on the bomb detonator before I watched the, like, third episode! And of course I knew he ultimately lived to co-star in Season Two. And thanks to smart alecks who think it’s a good idea to drop lines like “In Homeland‘s literally shocking season finale” amid articles that aren’t in-depth discussions of Homeland that I’d therefore know to stay away from, I had a pretty clear idea of where Carrie was headed, too. Irritating. I know that many pro TV critics have developed callouses where their sensitivity to spoilers ought to be, but for those of us who aren’t inundated with screeners for every show, who don’t watch every show, it’s hella annoying — more so, Showtime, when it’s you doing it!
* Anyway, perhaps you can tell from my tone, but I found this final stretch of show deeply frustrating. Not just due to the spoilers, mind you — I am capable of getting past that kind of thing, thank you very much, as anyone who’s ever heard me talk about Twin Peaks, A Game of Thrones, or the first three or four seasons of The Sopranos can tell you. Ultimately it’s the execution that keeps you coming back (though contra my “who cares about spoilers” critical brethren, I firmly believe that what a show chooses to withhold, and when it chooses to reveal it, and the experience of encountering that reveal in that moment, is a part of the execution, not a stunt), and, you know, Homeland remained a well-acted and tense and thoughtful show. But it was a well-acted and tense and thoughtful show that was hamstrung by it structure in several ways.
* First, in order to keep the focus on Brody and Nasir’s unknown endgame, it had to downplay the severity of everything else. America’s first-ever modern-day suicide bomber blows up a plaza in downtown DC, killing a Saudi diplomat among four other people, injuring dozens including several spooks, in the middle of an operation that brought said diplomat to that location with the knowledge of 16 government agencies on the intelligence side alone, and the very next day a smiling Sgt. Brody announces his candidacy to the fawning press? I didn’t buy it any more than I bought that the entire country wouldn’t have flipped the fuck out. Same with the sniper attack, which wasn’t even an hour old before the Vice President, who was covered in the blood of one of his oldest friends and biggest supporters, was crackin’ wise and characterizing the day’s events with “What a fuckin’ day.” That it was, sir! Finally, no one seemed to give another thought to the fact, the fact, that the world’s most wanted terrorist has a mole inside the homeland security apparatus. It all rang false emotionally as well as politically.
* Second and more fundamental is the issue of anticlimax. Everything builds to a bomb that doesn’t go off, carried by a criminal that doesn’t get caught. That level of narrative blueballs is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to endure over the course of multiple seasons — it was hard enough to watch the half hour or so left of the finale as it was. You start to wonder if this isn’t one of those shows whose concept can’t really sustain year after year of material.
* That’s to say nothing of the fact that given what we know about the Vice President and his cronies, if this were a slightly less civilized show like Deadwood or Game of Thrones, we’d be cheering for whoever blew him up.
* Speaking of which, more or less: I’m glad Carrie noticed that a surgical sniper attack on the President or Vice President isn’t the usual terrorist style; as I said before, it’s practically honorable, having a highly trained soldier kill one military leader instead of inducing some teenager to blow up a marketplace or whatever. But also as I’ve said before, Abu Nasir displays an almost supervillainous ability to further his master plan. He turns not one but two highly trained Marine snipers? Partners, no less? He sustains them with a multi-person network located within the United States, consisting of diplomats, moneymen, hitmen, willing American accomplices, bombmakers, goons, and on and on and on? If he can get all those people into place you start to wonder why he hasn’t already acted. Even if all he wanted was vengeance, at this point he probably could have had it and then some.
* And that Twilight Zone ending! The moment Saul mentioned the death of Nazir’s son to Carrie, I literally stopped and wrote down exactly what was going to happen: “The son’s name is Isa, and she’ll remember Brody shouting it in his sleep, and then zzzap.” When the nurse told the sister “It’s the anesthetic, everyone does it” I made a wah-wah-wah sad trombone noise, it was so corny.
* I mean, nothing but love for Claire Danes’s performance of Carrie’s mania. This was a side of that character that had to stay pretty much hidden for the entire season, and then suddenly Danes had to dig down and fish this whole new personality out at the drop of a hat. She was riveting, and the sequence in which Saul works with her color coding and produces the clue that could crack the case because that’s how much he loves and respects her even when she’s crazy was breathtaking. Patinkin was strong throughout these final episodes too, with his quiet anger at Estes and his palpable discomfort with discovering how helpless and in need Carrie really is. It was smart of the show to save the Carrie-Dana get-together for the climax, since it’s always fun to force two characters who’ve never interacted together at a big moment. The time-lapse image of Brody just standing there looking at Little Round Top in Gettysburg was good and creepy. There was a beautiful shot of Walker in the apartment he broke into, setting up his sniper rifle against the nighttime skyline of DC while the woman looked on, tied to the chair. “There’s no time, Saul…It’s high purple…” is a great line, Carrie’s “I am the one who knocks” or “It will shock you how much it didn’t happen.” I did a lot of fun guessing as to the identity of the mole. It’s great that the real villain is “drone strikes.” But ultimately I felt like they slapped a “to be continued” where god and science demanded a “the end.”