Monday, December 3, 2012

Has "Homeland" Become Incoherent?

[Spoiler alert: if you not seen the last episode of Homeland and would rather not know what happened, read no further. This post contains spoilers.]

As a rule, I like Homeland. It’s good, engaging television. The acting and the directing are normally excellent.

Of late, however, the show’s plotting has become incoherent, to the point where it is about to become a joke.

Apparently, the writers and producers have gotten lazy and sloppy. If you want to see what happens when the writers and producers fail to work hard enough, last night’s episode of Homeland is exemplary.

Good plotting often seems effortless. Bad plotting shows you how much work goes into making something feel effortless.

When the writers get sloppy the viewer will constantly be asking himself: how could that be happening? He will become so distracted by the discrepancies and incongruities that he will disconnect from the story.

In terms of plotting, last night’s episode of Homeland was a calamity.

The episode itself had many redeeming features, but there were so many incongruities that I did not even try to chronicle them.

Thankfully, Michael Hogan has done it for us. We owe him a debt of gratitude for offering an exhaustive run-down of all the errors in last night’s episode. As he puts it, the show’s writers are asking us to suspend too much disbelief too often. I would add that it’s never fun to be forced to compensate for someone else’s sloth.

In Hogan’s words:

 Somehow, the world's-most-wanted terrorist, working alone but for the remote assistance of a hacker who specializes in medical devices, managed to crash his SUV into Carrie's car without injuring her or leaving any trace of his own vehicle. Because there couldn't be any easier way of kidnapping her. And only by kidnapping the woman Brody loves could Nazir force him to carry out a chore so preposterous that Diddy wouldn't have dared to propose it on Making of the Band. (Meanwhile, when did Nazir find out that Brody loves Carrie? Is that what they discussed during their secret prayer session?)

Yes, after failing to kill Vice President Walden on two previous occasions -- the first having been foiled when Brody chickened out and the second when Brody snitched to the CIA -- Nazir has decided to pursue the Plan Z of all Plan Z's: get Brody to steal the serial number to Walden's pacemaker so the aforementioned hacker can access the device and fatally fibrillate the old bastard. And how exactly does Nazir know that Walden keeps this information on a bookshelf next to the treadmill in his home office at the Naval Observatory? "The New York Times, believe it or not," the wily old terrorist says. The writers are just laughing at us now, aren't they? (Oh, my mistake: Nazir is actually crediting the Times with teaching him how to hack a pacemaker.)

Yes, there was a lot to disbelieve in this episode of "Homeland." Why does Dar Udal, a man who is so secretive that his missions don't exist, he changes addresses every few weeks and he holds business meetings on the bus, eat waffles at the same diner every Tuesday? Why isn't the CIA tapping Brody's cell phone and instead leaving him free to conduct heart-to-heart FaceTime conversations with Abu Nazir? Why do Jess and Mike insist on making out by the light of the aquarium in the middle of the safe condo where Dana is liable to materialize at any moment like the Ghost of Christmas Past? Why have I seen scenes of "Scooby Doo" that were more plausible than the one where Galvez returns to help find Carrie? Why does the greatest terror mastermind in the world use plastic zip ties to constrain his prisoners? And does Carrie really think she can take him down with a crowbar?

Allow me also to express my gratitude to Hogan for also pointing out the pure inanity of the subplot involving Nick Brody's daughter, Dana. I am happy to know that I am not alone in finding Dana to be profoundly annoying.

In Hogan's words:

Dana got another chance to remind viewers why they don't willingly spend time with 17 year olds this week.... 


Nick said...

I was reading articles last week about how the writers should kill Brody off, and the main reasoning was that there was no where left to go - especially with his family.

Chris has been relegated to yelling about flat screen TVs and Dana just pouts. She pouts even though she knows that her father is working for the CIA. You'd think she'd get past herself to realize that everything with her father isn't "bullshit". (I don't know how many times she's said that, but it is really annoying.)

Anonymous said...

Debbie Schlussel has it right in these 2 articles

Sam L. said...

I will not watch this. I don't know when it is on, or what channel.

Anonymous said...

I think the shift from concern about Nazir to concern about Brody just doesn't work very well... Granted nobody deserves an assassin on his tail, but he just had a major part in killing Walden... His hands are far from clean, and after all his dithering in switching sides he just isn't a very sympathetic character right now.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree with you... and the latest notion... that he killed Walden because he loved Carrie more doesn't quite work for me.

Anonymous said...

Exactly! That he goes along with Nazir to save Carrie, ok, I can buy that. But then in the room, as Walden is dying, he actively denies him any help, that's the key moment for Brody as a moral person - he's helping Nazir out of his own free will and taking his revenge for the death of Issa. A plot arc that really should have gotten a bit more closure imho

But I see things pretty bleakly for Brody - he is out of powerful friends in politics or at the CIA, and Estes wants his hide.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Of course, Carrie knows what happened and I haven't seen her informing her superiors either.

Unfortunately, Brody's fate will have more to do with whether the show is coming back for another season.