The fourth season of Homeland is in the books and here are five things we took away from it…
They Don’t Need Brody: When Nicholas Brody was hung at the end of last season, there was a lot of doubt Homeland could carry on without him. On the surface you thought Brody was Homeland. Like a Peyton Manning offense, everything in this series revolved around and ran through him. He was the catalyst for everything that happened to countless characters. How can you just remove a character with such a massive impact like this? Plus, outside of the narrative hole left by Brody’s absence, the show would also lack Damian Lewis’ consistently brilliant and emotional performances.
Season 4 proved our worries to be foolish. Why did anyone worry when the answer was right in front of us? Carrie Matheson, not Nicholas Brody, is the lifeblood of of this series. In Season 4, the show smartly shifted all the series’ focus to the queen of the cry face because she has been, in many respects, the emotional core Homeland since Day 1. Everything runs through her now and with the creative decisions the writers made this season, it was the logical choice.
From a narrative standpoint, the show has always been about the War on Terror, but now instead of using a hypothetical situation (a P.O.W. returns home and is he a terrorist?) they’re basing the series on real life and potential situations. By employing elements of the tragic Benghazi situation as well as traces of other real-life events, the show became more dangerous, more emotionally charged than ever before. Also, there was no way the show could go on if Brody survived – how much more could they put this character through? Making Homeland about the now was the way to go.
They Created One of The Best Episodes of the Series: “13 Hours in Islamabad” was hands down one of the most visceral, tense and exciting episodes this series. First off, it’s utterly frightening because let’s face it, it’s not out of the realm of possibility this could happen again. Second, it was told in a pure white knuckle manner that was able to tell multiple stories. Can Carrie and Saul make it out of being pinned down in the middle of the street? Can Quinn battle his way through and survive? Will Lockhart give up important assets in order to save the lives of his co-workers? Words can’t describe this episode properly, so just go find it and re-watch it.
But This Season Was Far From Perfect: While it was a vast improvement over Season 3, there was a number of of plot holes and more than few groan inducing, eye rolling moments.
The whole Carrie/Aayan (Suraj Sharma) “sexy time” storyline was such a drawn-out incident. Real talk for a second guys, that was just creepy. You felt gross watching Carrie seduce and then sleep with Aayan multiple times. How many of you threw up your hands and said, “Great, Carrie sleeps with another (suspected) terrorist!” Of course, Aayan gets killed, but the retribution wasn’t there. He was just killed and we all seemed to move on after a brief cry. This should’ve been more of a scar that Carrie would wear throughout the season, but it was quickly swept under the carpet.
Fara (Nazanin Boniadi), who was starting to come into her own, was killed off rather quickly, sacrificed in an amazingly emotional scene. But they really cut a promising character off before they got any traction with her. The whole Carrie/Khan (Raza Jaffrey) romance came off a bit forced and they really never went anywhere with it.
And Then There Was the Finale: Hands down the worst finale in the show’s history and probably one of the worst, non-Dana Brody centric episodes in the series. In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong the episode at all. It’s well-acted, there’s some narrative developments, but this was a mid-season table-setting episode not a finale. Oh, and that table setting happens in the last five minutes.
The episode is a bit out of left field. Everything with the ISI and Haqqani is relegated to literal background noise. The main focus of the season doesn’t get any resolution and is relegated to a mention in the season finale. Yeah, that’s pretty bad right there. There’s no real political intrigue here, it’s mostly focused on Carrie dealing with the death of her father (James Rebhorn who sadly died in real life before Season 4) and the reappearance of her estranged mom. While the funeral for Mr. Matheson was touching, the whole Carrie’s mom thing was just poorly timed, the writing (particularly the mom’s dialogue) was stilted and the pacing was agonizing. The result of this confrontation was interesting, but this came off like a Lifetime movie.
Every season finale on this show has been huge – Brody doesn’t detonate the bomb, the CIA is attacked, Brody’s hung. This was – Saul’s running the CIA and is okay with being allied with Haqqani, Carrie’s pissed and Quinn, being seemingly shunned by Carrie, goes a surefire suicide mission. It was very whatever television. Also, they completed made Peter Quinn look like a wimp. Carrie doesn’t say she cares for him right away, so he decides to go on a suicide mission in the Middle East? Peter Quinn is officially a bitch now.
This Season Was Strong, But Relied on the Long Ball a Bit Too Much It’s hard not to let the finale taint the overall quality of the fourth season of Homeland. When you look back on Season 4, it was a really strong season. They were able to overcome the loss of the main character, shift the setting of the entire series, make the show a one-woman series and keep it intriguing week in and week out.
However, in baseball speak, they relied on the long ball a little too much. Episodes were far too dependent on big, shocking plot twists or action sequences to make them enjoyable. In the beginning of the season especially the episodes were rather dull and boring, only to be bolstered by a last minute twist of fate or an outburst of violence. It worked, but it also felt a bit hollow. Season 1 and the majority of Season 2 were some of the most wall-to-wall thrilling episodes of television. Every moment was dynamite and filled with implications (except the Dana Brody stuff). This season felt like a whole bunch of filler leading up to a big punch in the mouth in the final minutes. Trust me, those twists and outbursts were absolutely amazing, but it wasn’t as complete a season as the first two.
Also, we got left on a really, really weak note. Even as bad as last season was we were left on the promise of Carrie leading the way and the series taking a new direction. This ending was kinda “meh.” There’s no thrill going into next season. There’s no agonizing cry of “Why is it going to take 9-10 months to come back on television, we could have a baby before it returns!” It’s just, “Ugh, I hope this works out in the end.” And that’s sad. This was once a must-see series that is dangerously walking the line of, “You can DVR it and catch it later.” Let’s hope Season 5 absolves Season 4’s sins much like Season 4 did for Season 3.
Homeland will return in Fall 2015 on Showtime.
Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is officially a Dad! He also officially never sleeps. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom