[This post contains info about last night’s Homeland. Read on only if you already know or don’t care about what happened on “There’s Something Else Going On.”]
Last night’s Homeland was the highlight of the season thus far — as tense and exciting as the show has been in ages. And then, in the closing sequence of the episode, as Carrie and Saul’s convoy came under attack, I thought, Oh, great, the show is finally going to be gutsy enough to kill those two. Because while Homeland has demonstrated that it can still deliver a tense political thriller, I’m not sure why we need Carrie and Saul to be the ones experiencing it.
We’ve journeyed with Carrie and Saul though a lot. An awful lot, really, and last night, as Carrie pleaded with Saul during the hostage exchange, I wondered if there was anything left for us to see from these two. I would watch them dance together. That’s the only thing left on my Carrie-and-Saul bucket list. Their profound bond, while lovely, is not a unique relationship: It’s a tortured (literally) mentor/mentee relationship, which is something TV excels at. Hell, Mandy Patinkin himself portrayed a very similar dynamic on Dead Like Me. The unique part of Homeland isn’t Carrie’s mental illness or Saul’s inner turmoil: It was Brody, and without him — particularly without Carrie trying to contextualize him — Homeland’s just an espionage show. It’s a pretty damn good espionage show when it wants to be, but it’s not good on account of its characters. This season’s plot mechanics have been solid (though I had a more secure lock on my seventh-grade gym locker than the embassy apparently has for its tunnel), but the more character-specific the twist, the worse it was. Someone switched Carrie’s pills! Oy.
Season one and the good parts of season two made it clear that Carrie was the only one who saw Brody for what he was, but Carrie’s perspective no longer feels unique. Sure, she likes to do things her way, but so does every single law-enforcement character on TV. The most Carrie-specific parts of the show, like her sleeping with Aayan, are the least compelling parts of this season. The essential Carrie-ness that shaped the first three seasons aren’t essential anymore. Someone else could be doing just as good a job as she is. Is next season of Homeland just going to send Carrie and Saul back out to a conflict zone to do this all over again? Boy, I hope not. That became part of the joke of 24 — that Jack Bauer sure has some bad days! — and the alternative, of following Carrie and Saul through what would have to be very intensive therapy, doesn’t seem like a real Homeland-y thing to do.
Instead, I hope they change gears completely. If they want to keep Quinn, I could learn to live with that, but I’d rather see a whole different CIA outfit with different characters and a different set of personal and personnel conflicts. Otherwise we’re treading the same territory: Is Carrie not going to want her baby again? Is Saul going to be unavailable to his long-suffering wife again? Who will be kicked out of the CIA again and begrudgingly readmitted, again? Start over. Give me a new sage and a new grasshopper and a new squad of capable but emotionally wounded experts, and let them try to save America this time. Surely Carrie and Saul have earned some time off.