Here at EW, Fall TV Wish List is a new weekly series in which our TV critics Melissa Maerz and Jeff Jensen weigh in on what they hope the coming season will bring for some of their favorite shows. Today: Showtime’s Homeland, which premieres its third season on Sept. 29.
WHERE WE LEFT OFF
“Maybe all this will end in tears,” Brody (Damian Lewis) predicted during the season 2 finale. And that’s pretty much what happened. (Then again, it’s pretty much what always happens: Just watch the Claire Danes Cry Face Supercut.) After Quinn (Rupert Friend) declined to kill Brody, Brody’s car exploded right next to the memorial for Bill Walden (Jamey Sheridan), killing Estes (David Harewood) and much of the C.I.A. The followers of the late Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) leaked Brody’s old confession tape to the national news, implicating him (falsely) in the bombing, while also cluing in Jessica (Morena Baccarin) about her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s past. And Carrie (Claire Danes) made her big, romantic, “I’ve decided I want to be with you” speech to Brody, only to have their celebratory snogging interrupted by a massive boom! and a run for the Canadian border, where she and her terrorist boyfriend parted ways. (“Goodbye, love!”) The good news? At some point, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) actually smiled — ostensibly because Carrie survived the explosion, but maybe also because Patinkin knew that he’d earned that Emmy nod. The bad news? Now Brody will never get to be Carrie’s cabin boy.
WHAT I LOVED ABOUT LAST SEASON
No Emmy-winning drama took wilder risks than Homeland did last season. And yet, many of those twists felt organic to the story, since it was told from the perspective of the biggest risk-taker in the C.I.A. Watching Carrie and her team capture Brody within the season’s first four episodes was thrilling, especially since most writers would’ve milked that tension forever. And the mental chess match that followed in the riveting “Q & A” episode was brilliant on all levels: the acting (and all the levels meta-acting, since both Carrie and Brody were lying at certain points), the whip-smart, zig-zag dialogue, even the way it was filmed, with the camera pointed across the table at Brody, as if we were the ones interrogating him, not Carrie. (When the camera angle rose to look down on Brody from above, it was clear that the power between him and Carrie had shifted: Clearly, he was in over his head now.) Episodes like these ask the big questions that make this show seem much deeper than its crazy, Oops!-I-accidentally-shot-the-jihadist-tailor-on-the-way-back-from-Gettysburg! plot twists. At what point does plotting a crime become a crime itself? Is it ever justifiable for the C.I.A. to do unethical things to accomplish the very ethical goal of saving American lives? These questions felt especially timely, considering that this season’s covert assassinations, government spying without a warrant, and drone strikes could also double as a critique of the Obama administration. Oh, and one last thing: I realize that we’re supposed to believe that one of Nazir’s henchmen planted that bomb in Brody’s car. But the season finale raised so many questions about Brody’s true motives that I wondered if he might’ve known about the plan all along. Why did Brody happen tell Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) to “keep taking care” of his family right before his car exploded? And why didn’t he invite Dana to Walden’s funeral — he was her ex-boyfriend’s dad, after all — if he didn’t think her life was at stake? The fact that I’m even asking these questions just proves how effective Homeland is. This isn’t just a great drama about paranoia works. You already know how it works, because it makes you paranoid.
WHAT I WASN’T CRAZY ABOUT
The biggest problem with Homeland used to be the best part: Carrie and Brody’s relationship. The idea of a C.I.A. agent falling for a terrorist might seem like ridiculous Harlequin romance stuff. But the first season made a convincing argument that these two people both felt so alienated from everyone else that they actually needed each other. (“Your past and my illness,” as Carrie later put it, is what united them.) It started out as a relationship of convenience, and if they could use each other for their own political means, all the better. So when the two of them suddenly got starry-eyed for each other, even planning their future together, it didn’t feel genuine, especially for two people who were willing to die (or, in Carrie’s case, risk death) in the name of their ideals. Maybe Brody was faking his affection, to get the C.I.A. on his side. Either way, Carrie and Brody were far more compelling when they weren’t so much hooking up as screwing each other over. Other problems: Dana and Finn’s melodramatic hit-and-run, which set up future plot points all too conveniently. The logistical loopholes, including the fact that Secret Service didn’t notice a suspicious car parked right in front of the C.I.A. memorial, and the idea that Brody could kill Walden so easily. (Aren’t there cameras in the White House? And what bodyguard in his right mind would ever leave the Vice President alone with another person?) Also, why didn’t the president die at Walden’s memorial? Yes, it was a special, C.I.A.-only memorial, but you’d think that POTUS would’ve at least shown up. Somehow, though, none of this bugged me as much as one tiny, niggling thing: Why does Jessica call her own husband “Brody” instead of “Nicholas”? She’s not on his frat brother. Brody is her last name, too.
WHAT I’M HOPING FOR NEXT SEASON
More Saul, please. His paternal relationship with Carrie was by far the most moving aspect of last season, especially when he left that cell phone message for her, his voice cracking, thinking that she was dead. Patinkin deserves that Emmy nomination: He communicates more emotion with his beard than most actors can with actual words. With Estes gone, Saul is next in line to be promoted, and now that his wife is coming home, his storyline should get richer, especially since the C.I.A will no doubt face a trial for the bombing that killed many of their own men and women. And Carrie will need his help, since she’ll be off her meds for at least part of this season. I’ve refrained from watching season three’s premiere until it airs, but I hear that (slight spoiler alert!) Brody doesn’t even show up in the first few episodes, which is good news. Now Homeland can scale back this epic romance to a more tightly-knit, character-driven, spy vs. spy thriller. Exec producer Alex Gansa tells EW that the new episodes will be “a little more John Le Carré.” How cool would it be to see Carrie and Saul play Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy? Considering his fondness for suspenders, I suspect that Rupert Friend might make a great Tailor.
Melissa Maerz on Twitter: @MsMelissaMaerz