Can 'Homeland' Season 4 Return the Show to its Former Glory?

What do you know about Ray Finkle?
What do you know about Ray Finkle?

 

Homeland’s first season was universally well received. The show was like a well-paced, more realistic 24. Claire Danes’ performance as bipolar CIA officer Carrie Mathison won her Emmys and Golden Globes. Her chemistry with Damian’s Lewis’ Nicholas Brody was impeccable.

Too impeccable, as it turned out. Nicholas Brody was a character that could only go so far. The time leading up to him strapping on a suicide vest was riveting. Would he actually go through with it? Would a primary character on a hit show actually assassinate the Vice President of the United States with a suicide vest?

No, of course he wouldn’t. Brody survived and his story went on and on and on. It was still pretty good for a while in season 2. The episode where he gets caught and interrogated (Q&A) is among the show’s best. But the plots started to spiral into convoluted madness. A terrorist tactical team operating on U.S. soil! The most wanted man in the world snuck into the U.S. simply because he shaved his beard? The Vice President’s pacemaker was hacked! Shake my damn head, indeed.

Still, the show would not kill Brody. He impregnated Carrie. He was framed for a major bombing at the Vice President’s funeral. Brody made it to Venezuela and the sweet mistress of heroin addiction. He even got one more shot at redemption, just to be subjected to death by crane hanging.

But yes, Brody died on the way back to his home planet, and Homeland gets a chance to hit the reset button. Sort of. Carrie will still be the focus, and who knows how much her baby will be around. Saul is back, for another year of hot Mandy Patinkin beard action. The Bear (fuckin’ hope not) probably should have abandoned Carrie years ago considering her increasingly poor decision making, but he hangs in there. Saul is by far the best part of Homeland and it just wouldn’t be the same without him.

Peter Quinn is back with the world’s worst mustache. No, not Peter Quill, the star-traveling 70s pop aficionado from Guardians of the Galaxy, QUINN. Rumor has it that he finally got a couch for his apartment. I’ll believe it when I see it. F. Murray Abraham also returns as Dar Adal, to spread mystery and intrigue just by existing and wearing jeff caps.

Guess who’s not back? The Brody family! Yes, poor Chris will be even more ignored than ever. Dana will have to make her crazy, inexplicable choices in the world of fan fiction. And Morena Baccarin can finally return to her true calling as a space escort. The Brody family side stories were tiresome in the second season, and they were exhausting by the time Nick Brody was riding the dragon down old South America way.

The fourth season will take place primarily in the Middle East, after Carrie was promoted to Station Chief in Istanbul. The trailer makes it appear like Homeland is returning to its espionage core, exploring issues of who you can trust and drone strikes. Our untrustworthy American in this round is Corey Stoll, who seems like he’s on every other show these days. Stoll has gone with bald/clean shaven and wig/clean shaven, so I suppose it’s time for bald/beard. You can’t trust a government operative with the bald/beard combo.

Homeland became a chore to watch in the third season. Something I kept up with more out of habit than actual interest. It’s at its best when it’s developing its characters and not slipping into the 24 habit of shocking twists for the sake of shocking twists. 24 exists in its own wonderful, crazy world where Jack Bauer can torture half of the world’s population, make enemies of China and Russia, and be best buds with multiple Presidents. Crazy, often illogical story twists are its bread and butter. Homeland needs to be more grounded and character-based. Carrie’s career and her relationship with Saul are the core of this show. She isn’t Jack Bauer, nor does she have to be. She’s more than her relationship with Nicholas Brody. Homeland has a fresh start, hopefully it can take advantage and get back to what made it great in the first place.

 

Homeland Season 4 premieres on Sunday, October 5th at 9pm (ET)

 

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