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.

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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

 

MAD MEN Takes on Dr. King’s Assassination

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We all knew it was coming. As soon as we learned that this season would be taking place in 1967, I had Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in mind. But I never could have predicted how powerful the episode could be – but last night, I found out.

Within the first fifteen minutes of Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men, Peggy is apartment hunting with Abe (with her money, of course), Bobby is peeling the wallpaper in his room (apparently he’s a character now?), and Don and Megan get all dolled up for the big advertising award ceremony.

As Paul Newman, who comically appears as a speak from SCDP’s tables, is introducing the awards, a man shouts out an almost inaudible jeer, causing the room to go into panic. A fade to the Francis home reveals that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been shot and killed.

Ginsberg, who had been set up on a blind date, sits in a diner when the news breaks, causing the episode’s most powerful moment of two black cooks on the verge of collapsing in the wake of the radio announcement.

If you recall, last episode the writers tried to incorporate Dawn and black culture into the show and it really didn’t work out or seem to make sense. Now it does.

Cinematically, my favorite shot from last night is when Peter and Trudy are on the phone, both of them listening to the same broadcaster unveil the news. She is ardent about the parameter she set around the house after finding out about Peter’s affair. Peter, however, is distraught that he will not be able to see his child.

Conversely, Don wants nothing to do with the kids and thinks that for their safety they should not come in to the city to stay with him for the weekend. However, Betty being Betty insists, so Sally, Bobby, and Gene come to the Big Apple.

Meanwhile, Joan and Peggy both deal with their African American secretaries in very distinct ways. Peggy gives a delayed, but genuine hug to her employee, whereas Joan goes in for the awkward, Voldemort hug.

This episode guest starred William Mapother as Randall Walsh, who plays a trippy insurance tycoon (I think). But besides his crazy rants about Tecumseh and being visited by Dr. King’s spirit, what took me back was that he also played Ethan Rom on Lost! Maybe this is intended to be a crossover episode? It would fit with Lost’s constant time jumps!

In the office, Harry and Pete argue about how their business relates to the Dr. King assassination. Harry is displeased that many of their scheduled ads will not air during the regular primetime shows because of the continuous coverage of the riots that have broken out in the wake of the murder. Pete, who we actually get to agree with for once, puts Harry in his place by reminding him that Dr. King was a man with a wife and four kids. Cooper ultimately breaks up the fight – the writers needed to squeeze him into the episode somehow.

Towards the end of the episode, Don takes Bobby to the movies to see The Planet of the Apes. His son is so fascinated by the movie – which symbolically relates to the Dr. King assassination, in that humans are doing more harm to the world than good – that they stay for a second showing. As they wait for the second feature to start, Bobby questions a black theater attendant as to whether or not he has seen the film. When he says he has not yet, Bobby (the show’s apparent new character) says, “Everyone likes to go to the movies when they’re sad.” Atta boy, Bobby.

Don later reveals to Megan that he had never loved his children the way he thought he was supposed to love them until that moment, giving Don a much more human quality (something he has been lacking this season so far).

Overall, this episode, like the JFK assassination episode, is powerful beyond words. The writers, who suffered a major loss to Homeland at last year’s Golden Globes and Emmy’s, are proving that this is the same show that audiences fell in love with six years ago. And if the acting keeps up, maybe Christina Hendricks or Elizabeth Moss can pull a fast one on Claire Danes. But let’s be honest, John Hamm has no chance – especially with Damien Lewis’ performance in the last season of Homeland and Bryan Cranston’s final season of Breaking Bad scheduled to premiere in July.

A 2013 Television Preview

It’s January. It’s a new year and it’s time to make changes in your life. You could stick to the cliché New Years’ Resolutions by saying you’ll go to the gym more or try to be nicer to your peers. But I say: to hell with that. I want to watch more TV. And I don’t mean the reality garbage polluting broadcast and cable television like Honey Boo Boo and The Bachelor. I want to see more original plots, more raw character studies, and more comedies that ditch the trite “situational” format. So I guess I have two resolutions this year: to watch more television and to make you watch more as well.

In early January, The Golden Globes set off the awards season and created quite the buzz in the entertainment world. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association put on the second biggest celebration of film and television (emphasis on the “second”) with hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the helm. Per usual, the Globes branched out their nominations far and wide, where as the Oscars and Emmys tend to stay reserved with strictly critically acclaimed works.

The big shuffle of the night came as HBO’s Girls dethroned favorite and three-time winner Modern Family for best comedy series. Lena Dunham, who also serves as the shows creator, director, and writer, took home the award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy or musical television series.

The show, which premiered its second season the night of the Globes, has certainly caught the public’s attention and will rightfully receive more viewers moving forward. Girls, which follows the lives of four twentysomethings in the Big Apple, will certainly never attain the ratings of Modern Family, but Dunham has certainly created something fresh and real with her painfully independent characters.

In the drama category, Homeland swept, as it did in September’s Emmys, for best drama, best lead actress Claire Danes, and best lead actor Damien Lewis. I believe both the show’s writing and acting is unparalleled to anything currently on television. Homeland’s major competitors, AMC’s Mad Men and Breaking Bad both slumped in their respective fifth seasons, giving the terrorist drama an easy win. Many contend that the show is moving in an irrational way, with frequent plot-twists and unrealistic CIA activity.

These same critics were pulling for Masterpiece Classic’s Downton Abbey: Season Two, which the Globes considered a drama series rather than a mini-series, as it was deemed champion of that category last year. The British period drama has received acclaim of monumental proportion worldwide. Double nominee Dame Maggie Smith won the award for best supporting actress in a television series, but failed to make an appearance.

Downton Abbey: Season Three has recently premiered in the United States through a partnership with PBS, but as an avid fan I watched the season unfold in the fall along with my fellow Englishmen. Without revealing any spoilers, I am confident that the drama will sweep in September’s Emmy Awards and next year’s Globes, specifically noting supporting actor Allen Leech, who plays the chauffeur-turned-revolutionary Irishman, Tom Branson.

While the winners and nominations did span the enormous television genome, I was disappointed that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association overlooked many performances.

Time and time again, ABC’s comedy The Middle is overshadowed by its glorified older sibling, Modern Family. Specifically, Eden Sher, who plays the try-hard, awkward middle child, Sue Heck, definitely deserved a nomination. From her quirky meltdowns to her overconfidence in being the school’s mascot, Sher brings life to the show and has me laughing and quoting her for days.

Another show that always misses the cut is Showtime’s Shameless. Led by veterans William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum, the cast of this dysfunctional family dramedy consistently delivers grade A performances – especially from the Gallagher children, who make the kids from Modern Family look like amateurs.

Looking forward into 2013, keep an eye out for both the established AMC network, as well as the up-and-coming FX.

AMC’s Breaking Bad will air the second half of its final season this summer, concluding the award-winning drama’s run. Fans can expect the period drama Mad Men to return in the spring for its sixth season. Many rumors are circulating that the hit drama could conclude in its seventh season, giving actor Jon Hamm and the rest of the cast only two more chances to win the first acting award for the show at the Emmys or Globes.

In early February, the apocalypse thriller The Walking Dead will resume its third season, hoping the shatter its own record of 10.9 million viewers for its season three premiere. The show, which only reached critical acclaim for its first season, is the backbone of AMC, drawing in more viewers than Breaking Bad and Mad Men combined.

What I’m most looking forward to in 2013, however, is to see if FX can hold its own against other highly established cable networks. In the past year, we have seen FX produce both American Horror Story and American Horror Story: Asylum, both of which received numerous nods at various award ceremonies. The shows creator, Ryan Murphy, has said that plans for a third season are in motion and says that many actors from both season one and two will return. Although he says it will take place in modern day, he alluded to some historical roots, leading many to believe that Salem, Massachusetts could be the focus for the upcoming season.

After the success of AHS, FX has picked up a new drama The Americans, which is set to premiere on January 30th. I am liking the prospects of this show, as it will document America during the Cold War in the 1980s. Although much is unknown about the show’s plot, it has been revealed that it will follow a group of KGB agents that become sleeper cells in America. Although the name is intriguing, I would have loved to see it be called something witty, like Homeland: Cold War.

Last, but not least, make sure to subscribe to Netflix this May, where a fourth and final season of Fox’s ex-hit comedy Arrested Development will stream exclusively. Filming is currently in the works and it has been confirmed that the whole Bluth family will return along with the regular guest stars.

So may this new year bring health, happiness, and great television to all.