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.

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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.

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.