I am pleased as punch that Homeland, which is the best new show of the year and may be the best show currently airing, is getting a second season on the air. To have a program that was good on the war on terror, on torture, on gender, or on workplace dynamics alone would be a excellent, but to have a show that is all of them at once makes me feel lucky. James Poniewozick, however, is worried that the show, which has set up a tense cat and mouse game between Carrie’s relentless CIA agent and Brody’s cagey former prisoner of war, is a mini-series rather than a multiple-season show.
As for Homeland, I could watch a show built around its characters endlessly. In particular, I love the dynamic between Carrie and Saul, who are meant to work together for the same reason everyone else has problems working with them: they can each be an incredible pain in the ass, in spite or because of their dedication. Terrorism aside, Homeland is one of the best workplace dramas I’ve seen in a while. (The last comparable one, maybe, being Rubicon, which was also partly about people damaged by the demanding job they do—or who are so well suited for that job because they are damaged.) And the two damaged terrorist-hunters are chasing an equally damaged quarry in Damian Lewis’ Brody.
But Homeland’s premise itself would seem to have a sell-by date. Brody is sort of like AHS’s house: at some point we must find out that he’s real or that he’s not. It doesn’t necessarily need to be at the end of the first season—I am willing to grant this show more time that The Killing—but if it’s the same cat-and-mouse game forever, it becomes Reverse Dexter.
I actually think this is a problem that’s quite easy to solve in a number of ways that would be creatively and politically rich. One option would be to have Brody be innocent, but to have Carrie’s investigation into him turn up actionable intelligence in another area, and to pull Brody into her team, creating an uneasy alliance that also forces the CIA to confront its prejudices around converts to Islam. Another could be to have Brody be guilty, and to have Carrie’s vindication propel her to a place of new responsibility and realigned tensions in the team, concentrating more closely on gender politics and the treatment of mentally ill employees in intelligence agencies. I didn’t really see it in their vibe, but some readers and friends have suggested the possibility of sexual frisson between Carrie and Brody, which could be interesting, if off in a totally different direction. We could see her build a team that involves Virgil and his cousin — Virgil may be my favorite supporting character of the new season, and their debates about the ethics of surveillance could be wonky and tense all at the same time. All of which is to say the great thing about Homeland is that both Damian Lewis and Claire Danes are fantastic, and the competition between them is nervy and beautifully acted. But it’s not the only first-class thing about the show, and I think not the only first-class the show and its fine actors are capable of telling.