Homeland Recap/Breakup: S3E5 & E6

Dear Homeland,

Hey… I know we haven’t recapped in a while. Sorry I’ve been out of touch. I’ve just been doing some thinking, and, well… I think we should spend some time apart.

Homeland, starring Claire Danes' cry face

Homeland, starring Claire Danes’ cry face

No, hey, don’t cry. You know how that quivering chin gets me.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted this to work out. What we had was love at first season premiere. Do you remember when you used to tease me about Brody’s true allegiances? Or the fact that nobody believed Carrie and her giant wall of color-coded paper? Those were good times. I was swept off my feet by your discussion of surveillance and counter-terrorism, your plots to kill the vice president, your redheaded Muslims with absurdly tiny mouths. But it’s mostly because we had such good times – had, not have – that I need a break.

Between the (necessary) removal of the Carrie and Brody romance/shitshow and the uncertainty pervading every event since the Langley bombing season 2 finale, everything about this season has felt like an afterthought. The only storylines that seems focused on the big picture involves Senator Lockhart (the great Tracy Letts) taking over as director of the CIA, which gives Saul’s secretive efforts to catch the Langley bombers some serious dramatic weight. Why, then, have those efforts involved institutionalizing unstable agents (PREGNANT unstable agents, but I’ll get to that in a minute) and failing to realize their new bad guy might have no reservations about taking a broken bottle to his ex-wife’s neck?

I welcomed season 3’s much-buzzed “twist,” mostly because it gave the proceedings a sense of ballsiness that proved Homeland’s writers can still fuck with us. But just as that twist suggested everything leading up to it was solely to get Carrie in with Iran’s terrorists, this week’s episode suddenly said EVERYTHING leading up to it was to get Majid Javadi (who in my head I call Abu Nazir 2.0, because he’s the new villain and Shaun Toub strikes a more convincingly chilling figure) in a room with Saul. Oh, and by the way, Abu Nazir 2.0 and Saul have a big important personal history, k? Also, because Saul’s ragtag team is bizarrely too incompetent to prevent the gruesome death of two innocent women, getting this guy in an interrogation room comes at a high price. And as Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) says, “This is just the beginning.”

And this all still feels trivial to me! Maybe if I had started watching Homeland this season, I would be more invested in things like Saul’s rocky marriage, or Carrie’s ginger fetus (WAIT FOR IT), or the many effects of the Langley bombing on Brody’s family. But I doubt it. Homeland is just not firing on all cylinders. It’s never bothered me before that the show doesn’t really have a sense of humor – usually a dealbreaker – because it used to withhold information in a way that felt gleefully suspenseful. Now it’s more plodding than tongue-in-cheek, more of a chore to enjoy, let alone recap.

Claire Danes' cry face, winner of three Emmy awards

Claire Danes’ cry face, winner of three Emmy awards

The other thing wearing me down, frankly, is the existence of American Horror Story: Coven. Though intrigued by its innovative format, I had always dismissed Ryan Murphy’s weird show because it sounded unfocused and kind of sick. Now that I’m watching the third “season,” I realize it’s actually tightly focused, and completely sick. Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett as ruthlessly fabulous diva-witches? My cauldron runneth over! As someone who has never fully appreciated the horror genre, I’m loving the fearless B-movie parodying and playful exploration of female power. The other show that has captivated my attention, Masters of Sex, isn’t so much exceeding my comfort zone as it is filling the hole Mad Men has left behind. Six episodes in, Showtime’s other Sunday night show has given the excellent Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan heartbreakingly beautiful storylines and a titillating relationship. I find myself thinking about both these shows, as well as the many others I could or should be watching, far more than Homeland season 3.

Knowing I’m not alone in this has certainly facilitated this breakup. Between the many “Who cares?” responses to Brody’s Venezuelan adventures to the many, many “Who cares?” responses to poor Dana, it feels like TV watchers everywhere consider themselves former Homeland fans rather than current. (Even Claire Danes seems to want to move on from these shenanigans. That’s not a good sign.) The Twittersphere in particular has been a series of eye-rolls in 140 characters or less on Sunday nights, so when I heard something silly was going to happen in this week’s episode, I braced myself for the worst.

So… Carrie Mathison is pregnant? I honestly can’t muster the will to care. #SORRYNOTSORRY

Though the writers clearly want us to speculate about the baby’s father, and what this means for their whole operation, this does not feel like the fun kind of soap-operatic twist. Fun would have a hard time surviving in Homeland. Just look at how easy it is to parody, and how self-serious it appears by contrast.

So goodbye for now, Homeland. Staying loyal to a TV show really is like a relationship, and when it’s not working you have to ask yourself, “Is it me?” And much as I still love the astonishing Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Morena Baccarin, and somehow believable Damian Lewis, I’ve come to the conclusion, dear Homeland, that it’s not me, it’s you.

Anne Hathaway as Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison on SNL

Anne Hathaway as Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison on SNL

Say hi to your mother for me,

Jack Smart

P.S. I’m not necessarily giving up on practicing the art of recapping, although it is difficult to keep up. Many of my favorite writers on the internet recap TV so eloquently and convincingly, I find myself reading reviews of shows I haven’t even seen. Some of them include occasional glimpses into the notes they take while watching an episode live, and I always think I would love to see those. Here, just for the heck of it, are my unedited and largely unintelligible notes for episodes 5 and 6 of Homeland:

Saul invites Peter Quinn in on the act, “Fuck me” boy that Peter Quinn guy is serious, nice transition to Carrie grabbing the meds she must take in order to NOOOO

Abu Nazir 2.0 I presume drives in from canada yeah no prob

“we don’t have to be who we are” yeah right these kids will get away with that, another car incident aaah?

WTFWTF JESSICA AND CARRIE havent had a scene together since like two seconds at the end of season 1 this is huuuuuuge what but IT MAKES SENSE because of what Jessica is saying about not having listened to Carrie before WOAH

Quinn’s serving up “Carrie you’re being crazy” realness

why doesn’t Carrie listen to jazz anymore? also couldn’t whoever’s watching her know about Jessica and like bug her house? OOOH yoga play is fun

Tracy Letts! the perfect whitebread American dominant male sleazebag. hey they talked about this in Skyfall, who told Saul he’d be director? and now does he want it?

that’s why Carrie is invested in Dana – the one person Brody would reach out to ish

Dana finds out Leo might be a killer, yikes that’s definitely not what happened, bad liar, so Dana’s place in the story was partly to jeopardize Carrie’s operation hmm

it’s like Veep, we’ll never meet the president

well now we know why Tracy Letts is a regular, what does this mean for Saul and Carrie’s mission? SAUL BADASSES ALL OVER THE PLACE artlessly cutting Lockhart down to size babooom

shooting Dana’s reunion from faraway on the porch was brilliant way to numb this inevitability, ambiguous whether she hugged her mom, Dana has no home WOW Morgan Saylor face collapse with some beautiful music

UH OH can Quinn hear this?? so intense her naked and crying, “she’s always been on her own” Saul whyyougottabethatway

MUST BE ALL THAT YOGA OH SHIT

we establish that Carrie is completely on her own, and though steps could be taken to help her, everyone is still operating under the premise that Carrie isn’t working with the CIA

added tangential plot element: Saul’s wife is seeing another man, I’ll tell you who could use some yoga…

nice suspense going on in trying to figure out how in control Carrie is here, the unexpectedly bright lighting behind her woah then Carrie 12 minutes into the episode reveals herself to Abu Nazir 2.0 of all people, the fact that he’s an enemy to Iran is being used to get him in a room with Saul, the layers of secrecy are thickening as the top leaders of each side meet without their underlings knowing okkkk

is Saul going to take out his domestic frustration on Fara? and then suddenly Saul and 2.0 have a personal beef!

ummmmmmmmmm? Carrie is pregnant. ok. verging on stupid-silly.

how will this Lockhart director stuff fadge?

oops duh Saul fucked up, horrific scene, so cold-blooded, Saul punches Javadi, but Quinn’s comment, “this is just the beginning” is tooo true

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