Tuesday, 17 December 2013

HOMELAND, 3.12 – 'The Star'

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

written by Alex Gansa & Meredith Stiehm | directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

The third season of Homeland ends in a largely satisfying way; particularly if you'd grown bored of Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) and think the show desperately needs to find a new direction. For a show that was once highly respected because it was plausible (allowing for dramatic license, of course), it's a shame this season has been characterised by questionable developments, but thankfully it's always been an entertaining ride.

To jump into spoilers immediately, I'm glad the show has finally killed Brody. If it hadn't been for Lewis's chemistry with co-star Claire Danes way back in season 1, I think this would have happened much sooner—and, ironically, that initial chemistry didn't drive the show anywhere near as much over the course of season 2 and, especially, season 3.

So kudos to the writers for having him succeed in his mission to kill Akbari, but end up getting caught by Javadi (Shaun Toub) because the mission simply works best if he's eliminated from play. Brody was duly hung before morning prayer; sickeningly winched into the air to be asphyxiated with maximum pain. One of this year's most harrowing scenes, made all the worse when you stop to consider the quality of life Brody's had these past 8 years or so.

And while Brody died a hero (with caveats) in the eyes of the US government higher-ups, it's maddeningly unclear how the western world views him. The CIA can't be associated with Akbari's assassination at Brody's hand, so presumably he's seen as a globe-trotting maniac who bombed the US and then just decided to assassinate a top-ranking Iranian. The lack of clarity surrounding all this is one of my biggest problems about "The Star", as it feels like the writers knew they have to steer clear of problem areas in the story. I can gloss over how Brody managed to murder the head of the Iranian Republican Guard and leave the secure building unchallenged, but other things are less easy to overlook.

Still, "The Star" did an indelible job underlining one of Homeland's most uncomfortable truths: that individuals are often manipulated for other people's benefit (both good and evil), then discarded when they've fulfilled their purpose and the bigger picture's been improved. It's not a very comforting thought, but Brody's sacrifice did result in a significant change to global politics—with the fictional Iran agreeing to nuclear inspections in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.

A retired Saul (Mandy Patinkin) gets to privately bask in his glory to cap a lifelong CIA career, while now enjoying a healthier marriage; and Carrie gets to feel her beloved Brody atoned for his sins (even if others still disagree his Iranian mission admonishes all his sins). Plus there's always going to be a part of Brody around, as she's pregnant with his child. Who's looking forward to frazzled, single mother Carrie in season 4, possible off her meds again? A show of hands! What, nobody?

Overall, I rather enjoyed this finale and it's a relief to know Homeland can now explore fresh territory next year—with Carrie as Javadi's handler as the youngest ever station chief in Istanbul. The CIA apparently don't care she still has bipolar disorder (which was a big no-no back in season 1), and new CIA Director Lockhart (Tracy Letts) has somehow forgiven Carrie for her insubordination up until now.

So yes, Homeland has become sillier and less persuasive concerning how the plot develops and characters behave, which is a shame because the show was once very robust to criticism. But it's still providing fun and compelling hours most weeks, and I don't think this third season was as terrible as some have made out. It actually did three of the key things critics have been crying out for: sidelined the increasingly tedious Brody family, kept Brody out of events for the majority of the year's events, and eventually ended his role in the show. It may not have been the most elegant of seasons, but perhaps now the writers can move forward and ensure the post-Brody Homeland is built to last...

15 December 2013 | Showtime