Monday, December 16, 2013

Homeland Season Three Finale

Nicholas Brody was an amateur adrift in a world of professionals who act like amateurs. As a convert to Islam, he was some way from being an American everyman, but he was at least a freelance dodgy decision-maker, and thus his ethical contortions have tended to carry more dramatic weight than those of the characters working within organisations. Carrie has her vulnerabilities, but remains a career spook. If there is a deeper meaning behind this thriller format, it is that the beliefs we hold about the world lead us into startling moral compromises. Without Brody, Homeland may struggle to recreate the immediacy of this moral jeopardy when the key protagonists are all under orders.

Peter Quinn, that other long-range marksman with existential issues has therefore offered both parallels and contrasts with the former Marine sniper. Saul's function has been to be the man on the fence, essentially decent, but capable of suddenly slipping off either side of the ethical divide given the circumstances.

Yet perhaps the showmakers were right to think Brody had been exhausted dramatically, that the story could either end here or continue without him. They seemed to be experimenting with viewer interest levels in a Brodie-less Homeland when the first few episodes of season three excluded him - though not without his soap opera family, perhaps another reason why they thought the programme might be better off without him...and Dana!

And the sexual/romantic chemistry between Brody and Carrie has been a big gaping absence in the show from the start. There's clearly more going on under the radar between Carrie and Quinn.

Anyway, the opening credits appear to have been subtly tweaked to suggest that this is Carrie's story, with Brody and the whole Middle Eastern mess now merely subordinate.

Going forward, there are loose ends everywhere, many of which could be worked up into new story directions.

While one has to presume that the scriptwriters have long given up on the idea of holding Carrie to account for her role in the death of the Vice President, season one teased us with the possibility of a mole in the CIA. The conclusion of season two and commentary by Majid Javardi in season three then further alluded to inside collusion in the Langley bombing. So perhaps now a new antagonist will emerge for Carrie to fixate on?

The trouble is that the second season ended with very few speaking characters alive at Langley other than Saul and Carrie, so the double-agent may have to be a relative newcomer and therefore, frankly, a dramatic risk.

Saul's masterplan looks a lot less masterful under close examination. If the Iranians knew that Brody played no part in the car bomb attack, they would have had reasons to be suspicious, and even more so when he suddenly decided to kill the general. The would surely have asked themselves if this was anything more than a random act of violence. Meanwhile, after the assassination was announced by major western news networks, the CIA would surely have had some explaining to do. We were never given a chance to see what kind of coverage - and more to the point, redemption - came Brody's way after he completed his mission.

It was a little cheeky of the show's writers to tie back Saul's stratagem to the recent deal with Iran, especially as real-life events as one stage seemed set to overtake them rather awkwardly.

The part I really couldn't buy however was the way that Saul, as director of the agency, had no direct line to the President. Indeed, he seemed almost cut adrift from all the politicians except the man who was after his job. One call to the Oval Office elaborating on how Lockhart had turned traitor, passing classified info on the CIA Director's laptop to Mossad, would have removed him from the picture permanently, with no concomitant public exposé of Saul's wife's infidelity. 

A few more things we learned in this season of Homeland...

  • Majid Javardi might have done in his wife using a broken bottle, yet somehow Andrew Lockhart remains more deserving of an icky end 
  • But of course it is still Dana that we'd have liked to have seen swinging from that crane in the main square of Tehran. 
  • Bonkers Carrie has been explored to the limit now...please.
  • The CIA are not allowed to conduct operations on American soil, yet when seem able to do so more competently there than abroad
  • Caracas looks fun.