By all accounts I didn’t think I would like Homeland. A POW returning home is deemed a war hero by everyone except one crazy CIA agent who suspects he’s a terrorist. Shows entirely set around such a delicate premise usually cannot sustain a drama like this, especially on American television where this thing will be into season 5 before you know it. As is too often in television story arcs, success breeds failure and the inevitable jumping of the shark as the producer’s try to squeeze every last penny out of the IP that they can.
But Homeland is a bit of an oddity. A friend of mine is catching up on the first season and reminded me how slow it was. Indeed, I remember not really being into the story and I may have even quit watching the show if my now-fiancé didn’t like it so much. Thinking about it, there are many things to be annoyed at by that season: the plot developments that prolong the mystery, the fact that the entire CIA is inept except for the heroine, even the pretentious jazzy episode intro sequence.
But somewhere along the way the hooks sunk in. Carrie with her mania, Brody with his stalwart sense of duty, Saul with his fatherly guidance- these were strong characters that were easy to invest in. And even though the season finale didn’t come to a fully satisfying conclusion, and even though I didn’t believe season 2 could do anything remotely believable, I was left wanting more.
Queue one year and several television awards later and season 2 was set up for spectacular failure. But I was surprised. A few episodes in, a bombshell drops that I thought the writers would’ve waited for the season finale for. A couple more episodes, another bomb. For Homeland, success made the writers really dig deep and make sure that the plot wasn’t just a series of events to prolong the inevitable conclusion. The story was winding and twisting and still mostly believable. I’d even go so far as to say, despite being a high concept show that plays out most of its mystery in year 1, that the second was the much better season.
By the recent season 2 finale, the writers found a great way to essentially reset the series. Next season can be anything the producers want while most of the storylines thus far have been tied up to satisfaction. It is something rare in American television- actual closure, tangible progress. Instead of lazily continuing within the comfortable confines established 2 years ago, Homeland is forcing itself to evolve into something exciting and different. Can’t wait for the next go.