Homeland had a tough road to travel this season. The once critically-revered show had found itself at a low point. Its third season inspired apathy from even its strongest fans. The show had worn Brody down to a nub.
The fourth season presented Homeland for a chance to reinvent itself. It has largely done that in chaotic Pakistan.
Islamabad has infused new life into Homeland. It’s a dangerous, unpredictable locale that highlights the tension between the U.S. and Pakistan. When season 4 is focused on this tension, it’s been riveting. Spy vs. spy, who’s on what side, this is what Homeland excels at. We’ve seen Carrie Mathison destroy her life time and time again. It’s interesting when done on on Mad Men, a cyclical drama full of absorbing, nuanced, funny characters. Carrie’s spirals are frustrating. The cyclical nature simply feels repetitive. Her job and the issues that come with it make Homeland worth watching.
The early parts of the fourth season dragged because they continued this habit. Making Carrie an unloving mother was a mistake. Having her sleep with Aayan as part of the job was tiresome. Where they’re at now is exciting and new. The show feels unpredictable again. I genuinely worried about Saul’s life while he was in captivity. The first half of the latest episode, 13 Hours in Islamabad, was some of the tensest television I’ve ever watched. Sure, there were still some moronic decisions being made by key characters. Yes, the entire situation is ridiculous. But that’s TV. This was good TV with stakes and excitement and things that go boom.
Still, Homeland has some odd moments. There was a clear parallel between the invasion of the U.S. embassy and the events of Benghazi, yet for some reason a news report stating that very connection was shown. The connection is obvious. The damn episode title is a direct reference to Benghazi! There’s no need to hammer it home. That kind of blunt storytelling is best left to The Newsroom.
There’s two episodes left, with the focus on a pissed off Quinn going rogue. Tensions between the fictional U.S. and Pakistan are through the roof. For the first time since the first season ended, I’m actually looking forward to how Homeland ends.