Homeland Blog: Episode 9 – Two Hats

The return of Abu Nazir at the end of last week’s episode can’t have come as a shock to many. Like a bad instalment of The Apprentice, the ‘twist’ was flagged up by the choice of emphasis in the recap. “Oh, you’re choosing to mention him for the first time in four weeks are you? I wonder why that might be.â€?

Yet this week’s episode shows the series isn’t without hope. Things are going a bit Burn Notice with the revelation that Quinn’s job is to kill Brody as and when he stops being of use. It squares the circle of why the CIA were so happy to let a known terrorist go jogging around quaint Washington woodland.

But we’re now far enough into the second series to confirm the diagnosis: Homeland isn’t what it was. The clarity of purpose of the first series is gone. Yes, it can still throw you curveballs, but it’s lost that eye the threat of cancellation brings to any series. When your show can be axed with two episodes to spare, you need to stay pretty close to base, just in case you need to cut back sharpish.

It’s interesting to look back at the first series. Look at the pilot episode. It ends with Carrie spotting Brody’s twitching fingers, flashbacks revealing it was he who beat Tom Walker and ending with our man staring purposefully at the Capitol. Boom, you’ve got a complete story and twist ending. Brody’s a terrorist and he’s duped us all. No wonder they picked it up for a series.

Jump forward to episode seven, midway through the first season. Exactly the place you’d cut a series dead that was flagging in the ratings. At the end of that episode, we’ve had Brody’s finger twitches explained – it’s a reflex when he doesn’t have his prayer beads – he and Carrie have confronted each other over their relationship, and Saul realises Brody was never the terrorist: it was Walker.

Once again, thank you and good night. It’s ironic that had the series ended there, it’d have been a cleverer conclusion than the one we got. Watch the next episode after each of those and you can see the writers unpicking the seems, slipping back in uncertainty and overturning what had been concluded: but still wary that they might have to pull it all together again in a few weeks time.

The problem now is we know the series has another three years. Not only might the end not come in two weeks time, it might not come in two years. Homeland thrives on deferring certainty, but you can’t defer it indefinitely. If the show’s writers don’t know where this is heading, it’s going to end up a little Lost.