I was ready to quit Homeland. In fact, I had. If Community had a gas leak season, then Showtime’s once-great drama gets SNL parody seasons. The refusal to kill Brody until it was too late, the baby Brody, the stubborn insistence on continuing to follow the adventures of Dana — Homeland was in a bad place coming into this season, but something as miraculous as Carrie somehow still having her job happened: it apparently got good again.
So I decided to check back in. Ten hours later, I was hooked. The first seven episodes of the season ranged from a Saul shrug to good, but the next three? The return of exciting Homeland. Last night’s “Krieg Nicht Lieb” was a slight step down, but there was still a deadly tense scene near the end that nicely set up next Sunday’s season finale. So how did Homeland fix itself and become must-see TV again? It stopped talking.
Homeland is a lot like a Christopher Nolan movie: it appears smarter than it actually is. In the moment, Inception is a lot of fun, but if you stop and think about what you’re watching, you’ll notice the Langley bombing-sized plot holes. The same true’s of the intelligently dumb Homeland. That’s not an insult! Homeland is a TV series, and TV’s goal is to entertain us (and sell beer), so if the show wants us to believe that, sure, Quinn had enough time to go to a Kinko’s in Pakistan and make a giant cardboard cutout of Aayan, the relative of terrorist Haissam Haqqani who Carrie sleeps with shortly before he dies (she has a stellar track record), so that he could use it to hide a very long bomb in plain sight, why not? It looked cool and it got the good job done. Those moments of action-packed, morally murky, 24-esque ridiculousness are far easier to accept than when Homeland slows down and has Carrie and Quinn verbally hate-f*cking each other. Honestly, the only two acceptable conversations should be back-and-forths between Carrie and Saul and…that’s about it. Quinn’s at his best when he’s saying nothing at all.
Speaking of: after some drunken early season hiccups, Quinn’s turned into an unstable mix of Charlie “WILDCARD” Kelly, Johnny Manziel, and Jeremy Renner’s character from The Hurt Locker, and it’s doing wonders for the show. He makes Carrie look stable by comparison, at least when she’s not on super-LSD, or whatever was in her replacement pills. He drives the action, and because he has nothing at home to come back to (unlike Carrie with her sister and baby, who she probably doesn’t want to drown anymore…maybe?), there’s a sense that in any scene, something could go horribly wrong. There are stakes. Saul being captured earlier in the season was intoxicating and devastating, but deep down, you knew Homeland probably wasn’t going to kill Mandy Patinkin — the same isn’t so for the wonderfully-named Rupert Friend.
(Also, this is a minor point, but unlike Sons of Anarchy, which stretched its episode running lengths anywhere from 70 to 700 minutes, most Homeland‘s clock in at a reasonable 44-50 minutes. It’s hard to keep up a breakneck pace longer than that, so they don’t even try.)
Here’s where we are heading into the finale: The Guy from Smash stopped Carrie, who had just convinced Quinn to not blow up a small chunk of Pakistan, from assassinating Haqqani in the middle of a protest, because look who’s in the backseat? Dastardly Dar Adal! And if you’ll recall, Quinn’s his protége. How will all this come together next Sunday? I have no idea, but so long as there aren’t any Brody hallucination dreams, I’ll be watching. Goddamn you, Carrie.