While it wasn’t the full Killing WTF, did anybody else find the last episode of Homeland a bit… meh? Spoilers ahead, and plenty of them.
Let’s deal with the plot failings first. We are asked to believe that the CIA are totally unaware of a drone attack on a school two years ago, which has been denounced by Al Qaeda, and which the Vice President has been on television to deny. How gullible / forgetful / devoid of double agents or the ability to (for example) get hold of satellite images are these people? Seriously, nobody in the office has noticed that the head terrorist they are tracking has gone silent for a year at exactly the same time as he claimed that a drone attack hit his home and killed over 80 children, and nobody has thought maybe one or more of his kids were involved? It takes Carrie having a manic phase to pick up on this, and even though she is thinking about it right at that moment, she has no reason to know why it is so entirely useful and relevant until she goes on a soft focus snogging Damien Lewis reverie? To be fair, I too would go on a soft focus snogging Damien Lewis reverie as I was heading under anaesthetic even if I hadn’t snogged Damien Lewis, which I am neither confirming nor denying, so that part at least has the ring of plausibility. Still - you’d hope the CIA was rather more on the ball.
In general it irritated me that the entire story turned on the worst episode in the series - Brody is made to be the English teacher to the beloved small son of Abu Nazir, whose adorable large-eyed innocence is conveniently blown to smithereens the very day he finally masters the lyrics to Take Me Out To The Ball Game. This is hella convenient for Abu Nazir, who doesn’t seem to have much of a B plan for if his son is not brutally murdered by Americans, short, perhaps, of keeping Brody on as an English teacher and soccer coach for the entire school, no hard feelings. It does allow us to root for Brody while still letting him be a terrorist, albeit a terrorist with a crap malfunctioning bomb suit, though I think a bit of moral complexity involving the Vice President not being an unspeakable cock who may as well have a Post It note on his forehead reading ‘Please Blow Me Up’ might have been welcome here. Having said that, I doubt anyone watching was disappointed to see that blonde Republican bitch get shot in the back, and the plot itself, to get Brody in the lockdown room, was very smart. Speaking of the blonde Republican bitch, you’ve got to ask yourself what the terrorist plan for getting Brody in the room would have been if that congressman hadn’t been caught wanking on Twitter or whatever it was that he’d done, allowing Brody to pick up the nomination - I suppose the terrorists assume that sooner or later some congressman will always do something embarrassing / illegal on Chat Roulette, and they are probably right. I’m in two minds about the broken bomb - on the one hand, it was great to know that Brody would have done it; on the other: basically it was a cheat.
Brody, though, was a fantastic character to spend a series with, veering enjoyably between sympathetic, sinister, noble and terrifyingly volatile (the deer killing being the best shooting-of-animals scene since Betty Draper pulled a rifle on next door’s pigeons) and keeping me guessing as to his intentions - wrongly, as it turned out - until the end. Also: hot. Carrie was even better, from her whore’s wash at the start of episode one to the extraordinarily sensitive portrayal of her breakdown in the final episodes, the best depiction of mental illness I can think of in a television programme that is not in itself about mental illness, and all the more remarkable for being within the context of a mainstream thriller. The questions raised but never answered about the boundaries (or not) between sanity, madness, intelligence, obsession and love were ultimately far more interesting than the humdrum political conspiracy which resolved the drama. Her friends, family and colleagues killing her with kindness was painful and true, and her disease rendering her incapable of expressing her correct deductions with any kind of appropriateness was agonisingly frustrating for her and for us. Her bravery in putting herself through electro-convulsive therapy in the end had me in tears. There’s an argument to be made that it was disappointing to make the female lead’s weakness be falling in love, but I can’t say I didn’t find that convincing, her solitude and disconnection having been so well-established at the start. The fact that it didn’t stop her going after Brody professionally was brilliant. (I enjoy thinking about this from Brody’s point of view - will he really be able to carry on resisting the only person who actually understands him? To what extent is love synonymous with recognition? Series 2 question, anyway.)
Most of the other characters were disappointing cyphers, though. Both the black characters were duplicitous bastards with little or no motivation. (Filmmakers: it is actually not OK to do that if you have no other black characters.) Brody’s wife Jessica was: oblivious, slightly irritable, liable to take her top off, nice. Best mate / adulterer Mike was: handsome, nice. Son Chris was: karate, nice. The daughter was a fair bit more interesting, and will come into her own in series two as she’s clearly twigged what’s going on, and Saul was a lot more interesting, partly because Mandy Patinkin is Mandy Patinkin, but the ‘is he the mole / isn’t he the mole’ question would have been more of a draw if there were any other candidates to be the mole (Due South guy? Muslim guy? They needed far more lines to be credible as potential double crossers.) Speaking of Saul, here’s a suggestion: Homeland is really a series about loneliness: discuss.
In the end, though, it was the structure that failed. The series built grippingly, twisting and turning its way to the audacious episode when Brody and Carrie went to the cabin the woods and Carrie unexpectedly put all her cards on the table far, far sooner than we would have expected, but from the arrival of Tom Walker (who was turned against his country because…? Never mind, apparently in his case we don’t need to know) it promised a climax which it failed to deliver. Anybody who was trying to guess the final twist - in other words, everyone - would have been disappointed because there wasn’t one. Nothing took place in the last episode that we didn’t already know, aside from the boss being in on the drone secret, which would have been more shocking if the boss had a personality. Worse, instead of resolving the Brody storyline, which would totally have been doable in that final episode (Blow himself up? Bottle it? Get stopped just in time? Double cross the terrorists? Commit suicide alone? It all would have been good) it seems it’s going to be dragged out for at least another series, if not indefinitely. There’ll be a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a Brody, Carrie will have to fight for her credibility, the conspiracy will get more and more complicated, it will all go on for far too long, and with no guarantee that it’ll even be resolved in Season 2, I’m not sure I can make the commitment to stick with it. I thought I was getting 24, with Carrie as a brilliant, vulnerable Jack Bauer; what I seem to have got is Lost. And also lost.