Seemingly every few months, a show makes us stop and consider how we watch television in this era. Few shows can cause an internet kerfuffle with a single episode regardless of the reason. It’s a point that gets beaten into the ground, but it is worth repeating once again: With so many shows to discuss and so many places to talk about them, it’s extremely difficult for a show to move the meter in the zeitgeist. In addition to the difficulty of moving the zeitgeist meter, it is growing exceedingly difficult to make truly great television on a week-to-week basis regardless of genre, structure, or channel. This is the intersection where we currently find Showtime’s Homeland.
Even the most ardent Homeland defender is going to struggle to defend this past Sunday’s episode. It went to a place that was profoundly silly at times, and managed to bring out the worst in Damian Lewis. The episode certainly had its moments (I’ll sign on for any scene involving F. Murray Abraham and Mandy Patinkin), but you would be hard pressed to find any metric that would rate the show as an A+ episode. Under normal circumstances, you and I would shrug at each other around the water cooler and chalk it up to a rough day at the office. Unfortunately, the prominent position in the zeitgeist that Homeland occupies turns a down episode into a cataclysmic event. Within this era of television, a show like Homeland has such a high degree of difficulty with the populace that it becomes nearly impossible to please the audience on a weekly basis. I won’t begin to defend last night’s episode as a great hour of television, but at a certain point we have to be willing to acknowledge that maybe we are overreacting a little bit. Time and again, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa have shown us that they know how to gracefully and artfully extricate themselves from these precarious positions. At a certain point, the show has to earn your trust.
In addition to the faith owed Gordon and Gansa, it’s important to remember that Homeland remains the same show it was five weeks ago when we were ready to crown Lewis and Danes with back-to-back Emmys. Perhaps that claim was premature, but so is the idea that the show has irrevocably careened off the rails. Have they made things more difficult for themselves? Yes. It is unsalvageable? Absolutely not. When call sheet reads Lewis, Danes, Patinkin, things are going just fine.
If you have been a Homeland fan for the better part of 20+ hours, don’t let yourself get sucked into the vortex of negativity. Accept the show for what it is and appreciate what it has to offer. With a show like Homeland, the plot is almost of no consequence. Sure, it drives our characters into action, but it’s the depth of these characters that truly defines the show. Homeland fans should stay confident knowing that regardless of what the outcome of this season is, they still get to spend two more episodes with these characters. Everything else is gravy.
Learn to embrace the madness and focus on the performances. If you can do that, then I think you’ll be pleased with the results.