Showtime’s Homeland was a series that was welcome as a subtler follow up to Fox’s 24 which had Jack Bauer taking on the governments of Russia and the United States with brute force in its final season. If it weren’t for Kiefer Sutherland’s aging knees, Homeland may have had to wait to find a home. Another show about the international interest in terrorists and terrorism was actually welcome, and toning things down by focusing on the less violent fight against terrorism quickly drew a following.
Season 1 started off great, with the ongoing theme of whether Brody was a terrorist – or not. Would Brody die? That was the question that had viewers looking forward to the beginning of Season 2. Then Season 2 came – and Brody didn’t die. That left a problem for the writers and the series, since if you aren’t going to kill him off, what do you do with him? In order to keep Brody alive and relevant, Homeland began its downward spiral after only a single season. Viewers kept faithfully watching, hoping that the writers would find a way to make Brody relevant again.
Instead of watching a series about terrorism, viewers were left to view episodes and events that just got sillier and sillier with each passing week. Realizing they were losing their followers, the writers made the fatal mistake of swinging the plot pendulum to the other side, and Homeland became a show that took its characters and itself too seriously. The drama is gone, replaced by episode after episode of boredom.
If you are looking for evidence of this claim, consider the episode where 30 minutes was spent with Quinn following a van around. It was watch a real life stakeout, except this one was moving but had all the excitement of cold pizza. Carrie, a centerpiece of the show, was reduced to spending hours on end where her biggest concern was childcare, an ongoing issue that would have been better resolved if she simply stopped spending all that hard earned money on childcare and gave the child to her sister. Maybe these episodes appealed to moms or moms-to-be, but in a show about terrorism and drama it’s hard to justify the time spent following Mademoiselle Carrie and her childcare crisis.
As the series crawled along, it did what many call the unthinkable: it basically divorced the characters of Carrie and Saul. They talked, but their dynamic was part of what fueled continued interest in the show. Carrie was left pretty much alone, perhaps because she had the childcare crisis or maybe Mandy Patinkin finally got to her and she found a way to avoid him on and off the set. He has a well-known reputation for being difficult to work with, so it seems fair to throw this possibility into the mix. Whatever the reason, isolating Carrie was a huge error.
One thing many people may not know is that Homeland was renewed for two seasons, 7 and 8, prior to the opener of Season 6. By doing this it committed itself to grinding out at least two more seasons regardless of the quality or consistency of the shows. This decision seems to have said to its fans, we’re going to try to fix this thing but give us a couple of seasons. It was announced this year that Season 8 would be the end of Homeland.
So when should have Homeland ended? After 7 seasons, there is enough of a history and evidence to objectively state – after Season 1. The reason is that it seems the writers and producers had no clue about what to do after the first season. Were they expecting it to be an epic fail? Did anyone during the first season actually start to recognize they had a winner on their hands and started making preparations for the next two or three seasons?
What is amazing in all of this drama is that people wanted to see a show about terror and terrorism. Characters get killed off all the time, even in daytime soap operas. Sitcoms are able to continue by adding characters, usually a new baby or child relative, to the cast. Killing off Brody would have made perfect sense and opened the door for another bad actor (in the non-theatrical sense).
In the end, it seems the show was going to find a way through hope alone: hope that the writers would find out what to do with Brody; hope that the viewers would continue to be patient with the show; and hope that none of the key characters would opt to leave the show. Two of the three came true, so maybe there is something to be said about flying by the seat of your pants. Fortunately, the end is near.