Monday, December 24, 2012

Jumping the shark or selling a pup?

What was it that Johnny Rotten said at the end of the Pistols last gig in San Francisco (that's pre-reform) "Ever felt like you've been had?" I felt I'd been had to some extent by the second half of the second season of Homeland. The writers it seemed couldn't bear to say 'goodbye' to either of the main characters so we had enough climaxes and anti-climaxes to keep a team of tantric sex specialists happy for a year.

Having got Carrie (the excellent Claire Danes) through the other side of the closing episode of Season One reasonably intact, apart from the boggle eyed stare that would have looked more at home in an episode of Dr. Who we sat down all those weeks ago believing, or at least buying into, the idea that Season Two would see a sort of revelation. Of course the act of belief suspension was partially snagged on the red carpet at the Emmy's when Damian Lewis, replying to a question about Season Two, happened to mention that in his opinion there was no reason why this idea, so brilliantly realised in that first award winning season, couldn't be stretched to four of five seasons. This was, as young people would say, a facepalm moment, the cat was out of the bag down the road and sitting in an armchair smoking a cigar rolled on the backs of small Cuban mice.

Despite all the best efforts from journalists previewing the second season there was less tension than in the waistband of a pair of old pants. What we had to endure was decidedly stage school acting from Morgan Saylor as Brody's dippy, idealistic, bottom lip quivering, daughter Dana and even poorer quality acting from Morena Baccarin as his wife Jessica.

The acting plaudits were, or should be, for Mandy Patinkin playing Saul Berenson. Berenson had sold his devil to the CIA, not literally of course, believing in the greater good but also showing the 'human' side of Homeland security, his was the one character whose moral compass never wavered, unlike all the other characters who seemed to flip flop from episode to episode, or in Carrie's case depending on whether or not she was a) taking her 'meds' or b) close enough to Brody to shag him.

Damian Lewis was excellent in the first season, even allowing for the constraints of an hours episode for twelve weeks, he managed to convey some of the emotion you would expect from somebody who had spent most of eight years in a hole in Afghanistan. In the second season we knew that he would be required to play more than simply a possible running mate for a future President and the early signs were good, unfortunately his part became less defind by acting and more defined by acting cliches as the series developed. This is not a criticism of Lewis, more one the writers who seemed to have lost their way.

The ending of Season Two was a cop out when all that happened before is considered. The explosive finale was visually and dramatically spectacular, no problems with that, but the aftermath fell somewhere between an episode of 24 and a Jack Reacher novel. Of course the writers/director couldn't help resorting to emotional cliche at the end as we saw Saul Berenson standing in a gym/make shift morgue, surrounded by the corpses of over 200 dead Americans, it was a stunning shot, ruined by a backlit shot of Carrie entering the hall and calling out Saul's name before the fade to black.


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