10   +   7   =  

homeland-season-3-episode-1‘Tin Man Is Down’

“I like Homeland, but I don’t think it’s as good as that other show… ‘Previously on Homeland.’” Amy Poehler’s joke during this year’s Golden Globes may not have earned many laughs, but it does help to emphasise (whether intentionally or not) the disappointment of Homeland’s second season. Despite a good start and a solid final episode, Homeland season 2 threw out its own rulebook, deciding instead to try and emulate the daft gung-ho style developed over 8 seasons of 24; as Poehler eludes to, it’s far more exciting to watch a recap than to sit through the whole season.

Season 3 begins 58 days after the explosive close of season 2, with Carrie, Saul & the rest of the CIA being dragged through the mud by an investigative government committee who want justice for the 200+ victims of the Langley bombing. Now Agency Director, Saul is trying to help amend the CIA’s flagging reputation, mainly hinged on an operation to execute various targets known to be involved in the CIA bombing. Meanwhile, Carrie is off her meds (again!!), unreservedly believes that Brody is innocent and is determined to prove it. Then there’s the Brody family, struggling to pick up the pieces left by the revelation that the man they held most dear to them was really a terrorist.

It’s an admirably low-key opening episode, opting to develop characters rather than simply hit the ground running. Unfortunately, despite moments of brilliance, the narrative feels confused, as if the writers can’t decide what kind of show they want Homeland to be.

The Brody family suffers the most. Their plotline feels repetitive and fails to stimulate; the most interesting aspect – the family’s unremitting hounding from the press – glossed over too quickly. Meanwhile, Dana continues to become Homeland’s very own incarnation of Kim Bauer. Not only a rebellious teen but also a suicide risk now, Dana’s story is both sloppy and lazy.

Worse still is the writer’s continued disregard for the protagonist they’ve created. Carrie, a once great TV heroine, is becoming harder to realistically accept: her frequent outbursts too improbable (declaring to the investigative committee that she believes Brody to be innocent), her persistent sobbing bordering on parody. Clare Danes continues to give as good as she can, but the writers just don’t seem to really care about her character.

Thank heavens then for Saul who, thanks in part to the sustained brilliance of Mandy Patinkin, continues to be Homeland’s only consistent character. Determined to save an organization he believes in, while also protect his friends and mend ties with his estranged wife, Saul’s tale is both exciting & poignant; the audience’s realization that he has no choice but to burn Carrie being much more effective than the final shot of Danes’s cry-face.

Not the blistering opening that many Homeland fans would have been hoping for, but also not a complete train wreck. The continued disregard for the brilliance of Carrie’s character is certainly frustrating, but Saul just about saves the day.

★★★

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