Chris Philpott 's Opinion

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

Chris Philpott: Is Homeland making a comeback?

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Chris Philpott says Homeland's third season shows signs it's moving in the right direction.
Mandy Patinkin, Claire Danes, Rupert Friend and Damian Lewis star in Season 3 of 'Homeland'. Photo / Showtime
Mandy Patinkin, Claire Danes, Rupert Friend and Damian Lewis star in Season 3 of 'Homeland'. Photo / Showtime

If I was forced to pick one favourite scene from the season two finale of Homeland, I think I would go with the moment when Saul (Mandy Patinkin) realises that his mentally unstable analyst Carrie (Claire Danes) is having an affair with admitted terrorist, and budding politician, Brody (Damien Lewis).

Saul takes a moment to let this new information sink in, before his face screws up in sheer horror and disbelief. "You are the smartest and the dumbest f****** person I've ever known," he barks at Carrie, before storming off up a random hallway and leaving the poor girl in the middle of a nervous breakdown.

He is right, of course. Carrie is clever and insanely intelligent, but she is also incredibly stupid. And while her behaviour rang true of what we knew of the character, I couldn't help but shake my head every time she did or said something that involved her relationship with Brody, up to and including providing him with an escape route.

But as we go into the third season of Homeland - which returned tonight on SoHo - Saul's opinion of Carrie is also strangely true of the entire show. I'm finding it hard to take Homeland too seriously in season three because I think it might be the smartest and the dumbest f****** television show I've ever seen.

Let's be honest: season one of Homeland was one of the smartest, most exciting and most inventive seasons of television ever made, right up until the final 10 minutes of the finale when it fell right off the wagon.

A season of Carrie suspecting Brody of having turned, their ensuing affair, the revelation that she suffered from bipolar disorder, Walker's sniper attacks in Washington, the near bombing of the vice-president - it was exciting hour after exciting hour, and only undone by Brody's breakdown after his failed attack and Carrie being given shock treatment to treat her mental condition, both of which were terrible developments that enraged viewers and fans.

Sadly, season two picked up right where season one left off. And even though there were embers of hope that the show could improve - the interrogation episode with its electrifying scenes between Carrie and Brody, for example - the season turned into a how-to on destroying all suspension of disbelief and turning off your returning audience.

Far too much of the season revolved around Dana, Brody's daughter, and played like a teen melodrama. The political thriller machinations of Brody's storyline was yawn-worthy. Then there was that laughable episode where Carrie chased Abu Nazir around an abandoned factory in a scene that would have been at home in a Hostel sequel.

It was dumb, dumb, dumb. And when we'd spent the previous season being shown just how much potential was in the premise of the show, being shown just how good Homeland could be, it made for a frustrating viewing experience.

No wonder I came to the third season with a healthy dollop of skepticism clouding my view of the telly.

In fairness, the third season premiere was a marked improvement on most of the second season. Focusing the action on the fallout from the season two-ending attack on the CIA has brought back the spy thriller element that was so sorely lacking last year, while the investigation into Carrie - and her scathing rant at Saul in the restaurant - was a decent enough plot device, though probably not a good long-term strategy.

The final scene, with Carrie breaking down as she watched Saul destroy her reputation on national television, was heartbreaking. And I thought the operation to take down associates of new terror suspect Javadi was pretty slick, a really well made sequence for the show, especially where Quinn accidentally shooting a child was concerned. We can thank experienced television director Lesli Linka Glatter (Twin Peaks, NYPD Blue) for that.

And surprisingly, there was no sign of Brody, which is a welcome change. Like most viewers, I'd grown tired of him by the end of season two and wondered if Carrie should have shot him in the face in the wake of the CIA-decimating explosion. But perhaps my biggest disappointment in the premiere was the focus on the rest of the Brody family.

I know attempted suicide is serious and I'm sure there are emotional stories to be told with The Brodys, but I just don't care.

All in all, I thought this was a good start for the third season. I think the Carrie-Saul stuff could develop moving forward, and Quinn is turning into a multi-faceted character. And the longer Brody, and the rest of his family, stay out of the way, the better.

Don't call it a comeback just yet, but this was a really good first step.

* What did you think of S03E01 of Homeland? Post your comments below.</strong>

Chris Philpott

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

In a strange way, Chris Philpott has grown up with television: his first big addiction was The X Files, which he watched as a teenager, enthralled by what was possible with the form. Chris’ love of TV grew over the years, parallel to the popularity and quality of serial dramas like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He began writing about TV professionally in 2010, before joining the NZ Herald in late 2013, and considers writing about TV more than a passing interest or hobby: he genuinely loves sharing new series and discussing the big shows with readers. Chris is based in Whangarei, and lives with his wife and daughter. When he isn’t watching television … just kidding, he’s always watching television.

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