Many US TV series – and particularly those which arrive with a big concept – lose something after the first series. Some, like True Blood, continue to entertain, but find their intoxicating mix diluted through familiarity. Some, like Twin Peaks, keep you at arm’s length for too long. For the majority of the first two episodes, Homeland has looked like going down the Heroes path, i.e. diving off a cliff, the plot resolved and little fresh intrigue to be found.
Producer Howard Gordonâs warnings that âcharacters [who viewers] are invested in could goâ? havenât helped. Itâs the same reductionist mode of publicity that hurt the later Harry Potter books. It suggests your piece is unable to offer its own intrigue and reduces the viewing experience to Guess Whoâs Got a Sight On Their Head.
The audacity of the first season lay in keeping us divorced from the thought processes of the protagonist. Brody might still blow someone up, but the uncertainty lies with him not the audience. Damien Lewis is a fine actor, but with the question mark removed, Brodyâs not proving to be a very interesting character.
Like its jazz soundtrack, Homeland is happy to hit you on the offbeat. The twists donât always come at the dramatic high points you might expect, but with this episode the show delivered a fantastic sideswipe. Many of the characters seemed to have become locked in stasis since the end of last season. Saul and Carrie were in danger of becoming a pair of Lois Lanes, defined by their ignorance. Now somebodyâs just found a cape in the closet.
Where the show goes from here is impossible to say. Given Gordonâs comments, Saul might take a bullet to the head before telling anyone, but letâs hope not. Homeland trades on its uncertainty and it needed to regain it. Whether it fulfils on this cliff-hanger is another matter, but you donât make a series as smart as the first if youâre thick. This may be the point at which Homeland reminds us exactly how clever it is.
Or they could just take a leaf out of Mad Menâs book and throw in a lawnmower.