At the beginning of the second season of Homeland we predicted that the show, having been just lauded at the Emmys, would face major backlash. We were basically right. As the plot zigged and zagged with a bunch of implausibilities, the Showtime hit's dedicated band of watchers grew frustrated. So did last night's season finale save the series from itself? If the reactions from the TV pundit class are to be believed, we're going to say yes, tentatively, but we're also going to wait, eagerly, for season three.
Spoilers from here on out: The final episode of the hair-brained season saw our heroes admitting their love for one another, a major terrorist attack that killed about 200 people including some of our maybe protagonists, and al Qaeda framing that attack on now good guy (?) Nicholas Brody. Carrie Mathison helps her true love, Brody, escape to Canada before returning to the suddenly devastated CIA. We assume the third season will be, at least in part, about Carrie trying to clear Brody's name. It just might work, and it will probably keep people watching — if not totally redeem a show that has always had its problems anyway. It's recappers, at least, will be watching.
In his recap of the penultimate episode New York's Matt Zoller Seitz answered his rhetorical question about whether or not the show could continue with the statement: "I don't think it can — not in a satisfying way, anyhow." Now, he thinks it might have a chance:
I have to give “The Choice” credit for chutzpah and tactical smarts. It flipped the show upside down and may have given it a new lease on life. Nazir’s death, the subsequent terrorist attack, and the framing of Brody all negated Brody’s previous mission. He’s now free to be a true and honest person once again, and attempt to (partly) redeem himself for the awful things he’s done. Now that Saul is running the show back at the CIA, he’ll presumably have the authority to employ and protect Carrie, a woman he described as “the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I’ve ever known,” and turn her loose on other threats against the U.S.
So does one explosive finale make up for a few episodes of disappointing ticking? I'd say yes. It was a breathless season marred by a few egregious flights of fancy — the pacemaker, the magic Blackberry, the Wizards beating the Heat (maybe scratch that last one). But from this vantage point, many of the more manic episodes now seem to me to have been intentionally outrageous, a comment on the silly myopia of Carrie's hero act.
The Huffington Post's Michael Hogan admits that the episode's title "The Choice" could be referring to the choice viewers will be making to stick with the show. He says he will. So will Salon's Willa Paskin, a critic who was unforgiving when it came to perhaps the series most implausible episode:
And I will be obsessing about it next season. Obviously, I think “Homeland” can be completely banana-go-nuts. I think it ended this season weakly, and much more seriously, has consistently sacrificed complicated, thorny, knotty issues and perspectives for romance and action-thrills. But this season’s middle four episodes were some of the most riveting, fun television I’ve ever watched and, damn, if that Claire Danes can’t act.
Perhaps Todd VanDerWerff at the A.V. Club made the best point, one that fits with our Richard Lawson's assessment — that there are a lot of things about this show that don't make sense, but gosh darn if it isn't a complicated and riveting hour of entertainment every week. VanDerWerff sees the show going two ways it either "presages a great creative upswing for the show" or "presages the show descending into gibbering madness."
No matter how season three goes down — a premiere date hasn't been announced yet — Homeland will have a captive curious audience, in our case at least to see Mandy Patinkin take back top billing from Damian Lewis, because, man, is that guy good.