There was a time when the plausibility of “Homeland,” Showtime’s addictive espionage thriller, had been a selling point (well, to an extent — it’s still an espionage thriller). As Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz notes, unlike “other military-espionage tales” (notably, “24″), the show managed to be “intimate and grounded.”
But, as the Season 2 finale demonstrated, that might not be the case anymore.
The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley observed that the unlikely plot twists in the show’s second season became increasingly sudden and unpredictable: “After so many detours to the implausible, there was every reason to expect the season finale to be a letdown, and even downright silly.” (Stanley, however, was one of the few critics who enjoyed Season 2’s closing.)
But the final straw, for most, was that the love story between Carrie (Claire Danes), a CIA agent, and Brody (Damian Lewis), her target, hijacked the show.
It’s not that we didn’t want to see the love story evolve (Salon’s Willa Paskin was engrossed by it: “Yes, their whole dynamic has always been a little implausible and a lot twisted, a partnership resting on a wacked power dynamic and a whole lot of chemistry, but I was into them. I, like the creators of ‘Homeland,’ believed the show ‘elevated‘ when Brody and Carrie were on-screen together.”).
It’s that the show, which originally offered a layered look at terrorism and geopolitics, chose Carrie and Brody’s love over the plot’s ability to move forward. Paskin wrote, “Brody — who is no longer a threat or a source — is really only integral to the show if you believe ‘Homeland’ is mostly about the continuing love affair between Carrie and Brody, and not about a host of other things, including but not limited to the development of Carrie Mathison’s character.” BuzzFeed’s Kate Arthur similarly noted, “As it turns out, Homeland is a love story instead of a spy thriller. I was looking for Brody to double-cross Carrie, and force them into a situation in which she would have to take him out; I was wrong.”
And the sense of disappointment with the series finale was amplified, as it cemented the doubt in our minds: Is this the future of “Homeland”? As Arthur asks, “While I very much look forward to liking Homeland again, can I like these people again? God, I hope so.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman writes:
What Homeland did accomplish in 70 minutes is hammer home the kind of show it will be going forward, which wasn’t what attracted most people to it in the first place. Homeland is now a full-blown love story between Brody (Damian Lewis) and Carrie (Claire Danes), a kind of “spy who loves me even if I’m crazy and maybe he’s reformed” kind of thing.
On the positive side — at least the season finale of Showtime’s other hit, “Dexter,” was as satisfying as “Homeland” was disappointing.