Can Homeland Return to Its Glory?

Tomorrow night, Showtime’s critically-acclaimed, two-time Emmy-winning drama Homeland returns for a revamped, rebranded fourth season, after its lackluster third season lost the support of fans and critics alike. This leads me to my question: Can Homeland return to its glory? Will the Brody’s being out of the picture help the show’s cause, or did the death of Emmy-winning writer Henry Bromell (“Q&A”) stunt the show’s growth at a premature peak? Claire Danes, being the multifaceted, talented actress she is, definitely has it in her to carry (Carrie) the show on her back with the death of Damien Lewis’ leading character. And don’t forget the incomparable Mandy Patinkin as television’s second favorite Saul (right behind Breaking Bad‘s and Better Call Saul‘s Saul Goodman, played by SNL alum Bob Odenkirk).

Take a look at this clip from season one, in which Carrie wires into the Brody household, tracking their every move. If this doesn’t scream stage-five clinger, I don’t know what does.

HOMELAND: “The Star”

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The time has come to say goodbye to the greatest magician in the game. In Homeland’s third season finale, Sargent Nicolas Brody finally met his demise – arcing full circle to serving his country one last time. But Carrie didn’t cry as much as I expected/hoped she would.

The episode, entitled “The Star,” picks up as Brody is stashing the dead body of Iranian dictator Akbari, an action that should place Javadi – Carrie and Saul’s ultimate pawn – in power. Brody reaches out to Carrie, who frantically escorts him to a safe house, where they await the arrival of an extraction team.

Back in the CIA headquarters, people are skeptical of Saul’s master plan and begin to toy with the idea of having Javadi capture Brody to gain his nation’s confidence. Bad news for Saul – the president approved this new plan and he’s sent packing with eleven hours left as commissioner.

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In a scene worthy of a Golden Globe nomination *ahem ahem* Carrie and Brody discuss their allegiances to their country, to themselves, and to each other, leading to the bombshell baby announcement. Right when we think these lovers will fly off in the Middle Eastern sunset, Javadi’s men come and take Brody prisoner, leaving Carrie alone with her feelings.

Soon, word is released that Brody stood before an Iranian military tribunal and was sentenced to death by hanging in the public square. With that in mind, us (the audience) thinks of a million and one different ways our hero can make it out unscathed. But that’s when it hits us – is Brody our hero? Has he ever been our hero? Or has he just been dragged along to test Carrie – tangling her allegiances to herself and to her nation. Once we understand these facts, it’s too late. Brody is being hoisted up on a noose by a crane, his body twitching as his lungs search for the air that just won’t go in. In his final moments, he sees Carrie climbing the fence, wailing his name, “Brody! Brody!.” She said she would be there, and she was.

In a sort of epilogue to the events of the first three seasons, we find a retired Saul vacationing in Greece with his now loving wife (I still don’t really get their relationship, but whatever). Carrie, now eight months pregnant, has been appointed to oversee operations in Istanbul. But she doesn’t want the baby. After a talk with her family, her father decides that he will take the child – who Carrie sees as both a burden and a painful reminder of the life she could never have with Brody.

At a commemorative ceremony honoring the brave men and women who lost their lives protecting the country they love, Carrie looks on with disgust, knowing that Brody has done more for this country than anyone would ever dare give him credit for. In a tearful final moment, she walks up to the wall of stars and discretely draws an additional star, honoring the man who opened Iran’s clenched fist and was betrayed by the CIA operatives who swore to protect him.

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While I understand Homeland is a money-making operation for Showtime, I really would have liked to see Carrie be executed alongside Brody. To be honest, I don’t think she has much left to live for. She has compromised so much about herself to be with Brody, that the epilogue didn’t really do her character justice. Another thing that has been irritating me about this season is the complete lack of jazz music, which was a staple theme throughout the first and second seasons. As trivial as it sounds, Carrie’s music taste truly defined her character from the start and played into her solitary lifestyle.

Also, where was the Brody clan in last night’s episode? Didn’t we need to see Dana’s reaction to her father’s death to make her season long drama worth sharing?! I think I am the only one on the face of the planet who appreciated Morgan Saylor’s portrayal of the disturbed teen who faced public scrutiny by her father’s actions. I’m glad to see reports that both her and Morena Baccarin will be returning for the fourth season, even if their roles are downsized. Part of what made Homeland so intriguing was the added aspect of the Brody’s home. Hurt hits on all fronts, people.

Here’s to Damian Lewis, who crafted such a compelling character that we despised, yet cared for; vehemently hated, now mourn for. Rest in peace, Sargent Nicolas Brody. A U.S. prisoner of war has turned. And now, he has fallen.

My Open Letter to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

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Dear Hollywood Foreign Press Association,

Did you watch this season of Homeland? Like, actually, did you watch it? Even past the first seven episodes? It got better, you know. How about Game of Thrones? Does the phase “Rains of Castamere” not sing “Golden Globe nomination” to you? Oh, here’s another one: Did you watch Mad Men this season? It was a lot darker than usual, so maybe you turned it off because you got a little scared. The Hershey Pitch? Anyone? 

On the other hand, did you per chance watch Downton Abbey? Maybe you were just watching Joanne Froggatt’s heartbreaking performance in episodes 4-8. Because other than that, the season was shit (no offense, Downton, I still love you). And Masters of Sex? I know you like to give experimental shows a chance, but not this year. Not when the three most talked about dramas are left out in the cold. Just throw a nod at Lizzy Caplan and call it a day. Just kidding, you didn’t do that either. How about Anna Gunn? Wasn’t she great on this season of Breaking Bad? It’s like she was SO GOOD she won an Emmy for it, or something. I see you gave some love to Taylor Schilling for Orange is the New Black, but, as the also-snubbed cast of Arrested Development would say, “Her?” Really? You had an entire ensemble of amazing breakout artists (Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, etc.) and you only shed light on Schilling? Shame on you. Shame. On. You.

You’re lucky Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are hosting, because their comedic gold will make me forget about all the wrongdoings you have done this holiday season.

Best,

Rob Zappulla

 

TV Haikus

Two weeks gone, and to what avail? So I’ve decided to write haikus to make up for my lack of television blogging. This is cool, right?

NEW GIRL

Coach is back, thank God!

But Schmidt moved out, Cece’s sad.

Nick and Jess? In love.

“Temple Grandin” jokes,

A lot of diversity

For a show on Fox.

THE MINDY PROJECT

Mindy rebounds and

Makes a bro club for her friends.

Appreciated.

Josh Peck guest stars, what?

Doc Reed’s dad? Charles Widmore.

Danny in the nude.

MODERN FAMILY

Cam and Mitch engaged,

Extravagance? No Pepper.

Prostitute downstairs.

Manny vs. Manny

Can they both win? But, of course!

Lily makes me laugh.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

Nan and Christian boy,

Fiona kills new supreme,

Where’s your tongue, Spaulding?

Zombies attack house,

Who blinds Delia? Burn her!

Misty Day revives.

DOWNTON ABBEY

Edith’s pregnant. Yikes!

Mary rolls in the mud. Yikes!

Violet’s sick, then not.

Robert takes the states.

Bates learns truths about Anna,

Baxter’s the new spy.

HOMELAND

Carrie pees on stick.

Plus? Whose? Saul goes duck hunting.

Random people die.

Dana changes name.

Moves out of the house, abrupt!

Where is Brody? Huh?

THE WALKING DEAD

Who burned the bodies?

Carol. Sorrowful goodbye,

Alcohol poisons.

Flu plagues the prison;

Beth – no tears in this new world.

Carl should die soon.

Well, that was a fun segment, right? Let’s just look at this picture and laugh:

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/challenge-haiku/

Sunday Funday

As a college student, Sunday’s are just too busy to cram into 24 hours. And to make matters worse, the television industry loves to put all my favorite dramas on the same night – adding up to three hours  (four if I choose to watch Masters of Sex).

That being said, I can’t possibly devote three to four hours to television on the day when I do a week’s worth of work, so I have to spread them out – all while avoiding spoilers around every corner of every social media outlet. And the only thing worse than a spoiler is a false spoiler. Example? Someone Instagrammed a picture of a grieving Michonne holding baby Judith. My initial thought? They killed off Rick! Needless to say, I had an extensive and intensive panic attack during the first thirty minutes of Sunday night’s episode, until I learned that Michonne was just really emotional about babies and the flu. Tangent aside, let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s dramas.

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On The Walking Dead, a deadly flu is sweeping through the prison – but its not as deadly as the zombies it produces. Cell Block D has quite the night of feasting, to say the least. While the group focus its efforts on putting down the walkers within the walls of the prison, a herd amasses outside the western wall, and the wire fence begins to give. In a game time decision, Rick chooses to lure the walkers away from the prison fences with his precious pigs, sacrificing them with a slight slit of their hamstrings.

Meanwhile, Carol is continuing to be the most well-thought out, developed character on the show, worthy of “cool aunt” status. After losing her own daughter in season two, she has made it her agenda to teach the youngsters how to defends themselves.

In other news, the writers are poking fun at themselves by having Michonne poke fun at Carl for taking his stupid sheriff’s hat off.

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On Homeland, Carrie is released from the mental facility and we get one last glimpse from her supervisor Abby, who is arguably the greatest guest star Homeland has ever had. There’s a lot of CIA jargon thrown around that all boils down to Carrie collapsing into the arms of a weeping Saul. In a 24-inspired twist, we learn that the two pals have been working together all along to make Carrie a double agent for the Venezuelan-Iranian terrorism operation. More stuff happened with Dana, but none worth mentioning after I thought her story was supposed to be over after coming to terms with her mother.

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Across the pond, Downton Abbey is on its game. Trouble is brewing downstairs with the addition of the new Lady’s Maid, Baxter, who serves as a new con buddy for the low-lying Thomas. Meanwhile, Daisy is forced to help Alfred for his cooking exam – a feat that strains on her heart strings, knowing that she will be helping him leave. However, her efforts come to fruition when he fails the test at the London Ritz – a scene that’s masterfully shot – and he comes crawling back to her. Mr. Bates seeks answers from Anna, but goes straight to the gossip ringleader herself, Mrs. Hughes, who sets things straight and reunites the battered couple.

Upstairs, it’s all business. Mary learns that Lord Gillingham has proposed to another woman, and it a moment of solitude she cracks –knowing that he was her last chance at happiness in a world without Matthew. The world is ending for Edith because Michael hasn’t written to her in a week. Like, honestly Edith – no one cares about you. Meanwhile, Rose is being a bimbo and jumps at the thought of Robert’s birthday party, where something bad is bound to happen. Either Robert himself will drop dead or his elderly mother, Violet the Countess Dowager, will suffer a heart attack during a loving toast to her son and the estate. While Dame Maggie Smith is truly the corner stone of this period drama and makes us laugh week after week, it is pivotal that we see a member of the old generation finally bid farewell, as the youths have suffered so much in this time – starting with Downton’s heir dying on the Titanic, to World War I taking the lives of men from all walks of life (including Daisy’s betrothed William), and ending with Sybil and Matthew passing long before their time.

Because I didn’t want this post to end on a sad note, here’s the best Dowager meme to grace the Internet:

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A Word on Last Week’s HOMELAND

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In a few hours, Homeland‘s fourth episode of the season will premiere on Showtime. However, the show has been receiving a lot of negative critical feedback as of late. While I understand that focusing on Dana for two whole episodes was unnecessary, the critics who wrote that the season’s third episode was painfully boring are gravely mistaken.

Writer Ross Jones of the British paper The Telegraph, had this to say:

“If nothing else, this season of Homeland will be remembered as a highly effective piece of immersive television. The two lead characters, Brody (Damien Lewis) and Carrie (Claire Danes), are now stuck staring at the same scenery with no obvious way out, devoid of hope and anaesthetised against their will – feelings all too familiar to anybody who made it through this episode.” (full article)

He hit all the points of why this episode, entitled “Tower of David,” is a masterpiece, only to rip it to shreds and write it off as boring.

I equate this episode to Breaking Bad‘s episode entitled “The Fly,” in which Walter attempts to kill a fly in his meth lab to ensure the purity of the product. Both episodes showcase a snapshot of the main characters’ lives, which so happens to be a low point for all of the characters in both shows. Even though Brody and Carrie don’t interact in this episode, we feel their bond become stronger and stronger as they both descend towards their rock bottom. Similarly, the character study in “The Fly” teaches Jesse the value of purity and we get a glimpse at Walter’s blooming obsession (almost addiction) with meth – something confirmed in the final moments of the series.

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Critics, however, loved what Vince Gilligan and the team did in “The Fly.” Time‘s writer James Poniewozik compared this episode to an episode of The Sopranos:

“After I watched the screener of “The Fly,” I tweeted that the episode was like “Breaking Bad’s ‘Pine Barrens,’ plus.” The “Pine Barrens” comparison, while a little facile, meant this: like The Sopranos’ classic, this was a set piece involving two characters in isolation, on a quest/hunt together. It was, first, incredibly well-directed for maximum tension. And the object of the hunt, like it was for Paulie and Christopher with The Russian, was not just important in itself but as a device to bring them into extremis and place their relationship under stress.” (full article)

So, by transitive property, “Tower of David” is Homelands “Pine Barrens,” right?

The Lies in HOMELAND and the Rape at DOWNTON ABBEY

Sunday night was chalk full of great television with Showtime’s Homeland returning to its prime and the UK’s Downton Abbey giving me the chills.

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First up is Homeland. While the plot still lingers around Dana, this season’s second episode created a sort of closure to the Brody family saga while Sargent Brody is off the map. Dana sneaks back into the loony house to see Leo, played by Sam Underwood, who had a brief stint on Showtime’s now-ended drama Dexter, as a serial killer much like the title character was in his youth. Anyway, Dana’s mother begins to scold her daughter when she comes home, but Morgan Saylor delivers a powerful monologue about how she has chosen life because of Leo and other declarative statements that makes Jessica Brody look at her life and look at her choices – most regrettably, her husband. Now that we know Dana is no longer suicidal, we can abandon the household and focus solely on the terrorist father, who has been absent for the first two episodes of the season.

Meanwhile, Carrie is out for blood. After being pinned as the CIA officer who had an affair with Sargent Brody and for knowing about the Langley bombing, Carrie seeks to crush the CIA from the inside-out by going straight to the media. However, Saul sends in the feds who detain her in a psychiatric correctional facility.

Peter Quinn witnesses Carrie’s trial and knows that what Saul is doing is wrong. While his character has been sketchy from his introduction last season, he has become my favorite character this season. He has to live with knowing he killed an innocent nine-year-old on his covert operation and he calls Saul out for not taking responsibility for his own mistake – Carrie.

Nazanin Boniadi joined the cast as the young, burka-wearing CIA analyst Fara Sherazi, who you may remember as Nora from How I Met Your Mother. Boniadi is terrific so far, as she takes on a group of corrupt bankers who lent money to the Iranian terrorist group responsible for the Langley Bombing. But it’s Peter Quinn who gets the last laugh, taunting one of the bankers as he exits a dinner party.

At the end of the episode, Carrie is being injected with a tranquilizer as Dana discovers her father prayer rug and assumes the position – even though she has no clue what she’s doing.

I’m looking forward to next weeks episode when we finally meet up with Brody and find out why he’s bald!

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This episode of Downton Abbey left me with a terrible taste in my mouth because of Joanne Froggatt’s heartbreaking performance – but that comes at the end.

Dozens of guests gather in Downton for a much needed house party to lift the family’s spirits. Among them is Lord Gillingham, a childhood acquaintance of Mary’s, who brings along his valet, Mr. Green, whose happy-go-lucky personality clicks with that of Anna’s, but Mr. Bates isn’t too keen on her flirtatious manner. Gillingham is played by Tom Cullen, a star of the independent film business.

Edith brings her man, publisher Michael Gregson, but her father doesn’t give him the time of day – that is, not until Gregson is able to win back a large sum of money Lord Grantham lost to the scheming Sampson in various poker games through his stay.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Mrs. Padmore can’t keep up with the meal preparations, leading to an acute heart attack. Thankfully, Alfred, the aspiring cook he has eluded to be, is there to whip up the sauces for the lot of dinner guests.

At the same time, cousin Isabelle has fallen into a slump of depression, so the Dowager feels it her duty to occupy her time to comfort her and get her mind off her dead son, much like she feels the need to pair her granddaughter Mary up with the “glorified pirate,” Lord Gillingham.

While most of this is the wishy-washy drama we have come to love from Downton, we were all caught off guard by the violent beating scene that left the lovely Anna Bates a victim of rape by Lord Gillingham’s valet, Mr. Green. There has a great deal of backlash from the audience about the controversial scene being aired on British television, especially since the episode peaked at 9.9 million viewers. My stomach nearly flipped as the Grantham family and their servants enjoyed the vocal stylings of a famous Australian singer, drowning the screams of the Lady’s Maid.

So before you go to bed tonight, say a prayer for Anna Bates. And then, ask the Devil to take Mr. Green far, far away.