The 'Homeland' backlash: In defense of emotional truth
Wow, the internet is illuminated today with largely poor reaction to last night’s episode of Homeland. My colleague Adam Vary has done an excellent job in his EW.com recap of summarizing both the episode and the potentially objectionable plot twists. On Twitter, I made a joke — “If only Homeland was as plausible as The Walking Dead” — that was interpreted as being a slap at Homeland, when what I was really kidding was the “Homeland has become unbelievable” reaction. So I should make the case at greater than Twitter length here.
First: Brody is both in love with Carrie and super-stressed out, stressed to the nervous-breakdown point. I had no problem believing that, upon seeing Carrie held captive by Abu Nazir, and hearing the voice of his brainwashing torturer tap into his most vulnerable lizard-brain instincts, that Brody would become panicked, frantic, eager to save Carrie, and kill in the name of Nazir’s dead son Issa.
Second: I am in league with Todd VanDerWerff as he put it in an excellent A.V. Club review today: That I’ll basically accept all of the terms a TV series sets up as plausible, which includes (in this case and those of many TV shows) universally perfect cell-phone reception, the ability of terrorists to slip off the grid no matter how valiantly a TV version of our government tries to track him/her, and that you really can kill someone via his pacemaker, remotely controlled. I’ll buy into this. Why? Because the overriding emotional truth of these scenes resonates with me as a viewer and as a human. Episode writer Henry Bromell was tapping into the next step in the evolution of the connection between Brody and Carrie, even if the result was something that (I think) is going to end tragically: That Brody will become full-on terrorist, and it will fall primarily to Carrie to bring her lover-spy in from the cold, and do something to him that will cause immense agony.
It’s true that this was the first episode of Homeland in which I thought, while watching, that it was unfolding like an episode of 24, some of the key producers’ previous series. And by my standards, that would not be a good direction in which to move this show. (I liked some 24 seasons; grew bored with the format more quickly than most of America, to judge from the ratings.)
But when a season is hurtling toward its conclusion, sometimes pacing gets forced upon a production — to arrive at the designed finale, things are compelled to move along more quickly than the writers might like, had they more time to set up or fill in more artful details.
There was a great deal of this episode “Broken Hearts” that was deeply satisfying to me: The opening conversation/debate about the differences in spying philosophies between Mandy Patinkin’s Saul and F. Murray Abraham’s Dar Adal (doesn’t that name look like an anagram? “A RAD LAD”?). The amazing line-reading Morgan Saylor gave to Dana’s line to Finn, “Turns out my dad is, like, a super-spy and terrorists want to kill him or some s—.” The look on Brody’s face when he’s standing in front of his wife and hears the voice on the phone he longs to hear: his lover’s.
I understand the desire to want everything to add up in a thriller. It’s just that the bleeding heart of Homeland keeps messing things up in such an artful way, I can’t help staying in love with it.
For more: Homeland recap: Killer service