Thursday, December 22, 2011

homeland finale's insanity

Okay, so I've been hooked on this show. Best thing on since Caprica got axed. Why am I hanging on every word, every scene? Because it's about the larger picture.  Sure, it's got good story, good characters, and a good time slot. But I've never been swayed by good characters. In fact, the more the focus on them, the more annoyed I seem to get.

I don't care about characters, really. I don't care what happens to them. Their petty little lives. I think this why I can't watch a show like Nurse Jackie or the one with Laura Linney about cancer, or that other one with William H. Macy.  Or, god forbid, Dexter. See. I remember the names, but the shows are close to unbearable to me.

They're just not important enough.

Then there are the shows that focus on character, but pretend to have a longer arc. That would be stuff like Bones or the Mentalist or Warehouse 13. Maybe Eureka (that pretends to be about science). I'm embarrassed to say that I check in with these shows to see if maybe this time they're worth the bother.  And no. They're just bleeping not.

They're entertainment, you say.  Right. Exactly. And I want them to be important. Treme important. But even Treme isn't large enough for me. I want the larger picture. La longue durĂ©e.  I mean, isn't there enough large going on in the world to ask TV to contemplate it with us, rather than hand us escape?

Maybe nobody else wants what I want out of scripted TV. Fiction lets us imagine possibilities that the news just can't provide. Lets us think about the real world in new ways. BSG and Caprica did this. And Homeland does it now.

But the season finale, and last scenes thereof, just pissed me off.

I am sick to death of the strong-woman-turns-to-blithering-needy-idiot scenario in movies and TV. And sure, I know, they'll revive Claire Danes character and make her strong again or else have no show at all. But still. Electric shock treatment?

I'm not even against it. I know it works. It doesn't Cuckoo Nest me at all. It can indeed jolt the recipient back into functionality.

And I'm not strictly speaking against the Cassandra storyline, as frustrating as it is.

Partly, it's that I remember the weeks before what we now call 9/11. I remember being at the CDG, wondering what all the security was about. And asking. In my nicest French.

"Is this about the Israelis?"

"Non," the gendarme with the bayonet said. "This is about you. You Americans."

He didn't say, you con Americans, but I heard it in his voice. Con is a very French vote of disapproval.

"We have gotten warnings all summer of an attack on your planes..."

All summer. Before 9/11.

And that's what Claire Danes' character deals with in Homeland. Episode after episode. Knowing. And having no effect at all. And not being able to stop the march of history. Or, not much, anyway. Or, having an effect (season finale) and never knowing that she's made a difference.

It works. The Cassandra thing. It makes for good TV. It makes for good real-life, too, I guess. Thinking or pretending that somewhere someone gets it.  Someone like Lawrence Wright, who got so much flack for writing The Siege. Read everything he writes that you can get your hands on.  Or Greg Palast. Cassandra indeed. With next to nobody listening who can make a difference.

Homeland's first season is filled with that frustration of knowing, or trying to know. Of doing one's homework. Of (quite literally) banging one's head against the wall. Of insights that are ignored. And (yet another) tough female character who's blithering and raving and helpless in her final scene.


  1. Hmm. Rereading this, I guess I DO care about what happens to characters!

  2. Well at least those with no Y chromosome.

  3. OUCH!

    And probably correct. I'll think about it. Let's see. Do I care what happens to Baltar...??

  4. Carrie didn't become an idiot. Her condition was told to us in the pilot. The bomb, the affair and her lack of medication. I love how imperfect she is, how brilliant at her job she can be and completely ineffective at anything not having to do with work. She's one of the more complex characters on television, probably THE most complex woman on TV.

    I adore her and I enjoyed the finale quite a bit as well.

  5. I completely agree with you on all grounds. Really, I do. And in part, it's her illness that allows her to see patterns that others can't see. And as I said—I'm also not at all opposed to EST, Ken Kesey notwithstanding. I also love that she's the one opting for electroshock therapy and that it's not being imposed on her from the outside. She's actually not blithering—she's suffering. And still making the right decisions. It's another example of her good instincts and unwavering bravery.

    So. You're right on all counts. I just can't stand watching it. And I'm also not turning away.

  6. I watched this show in 3 days (I downloaded it) and oh man am I pissed at the last episode. Your points are outstanding, but there is something in me that feels betrayed. Like nothing really happened. Am I going to watch season 2? I don't know. While this was a brilliant show, I don't know if I can do it again. I was already screwed with by the writers of Lost. Im apprehensive to give someone else another chance at stringing me along.

  7. It's not where I would have wanted them to leave off—but they have some interesting places they can go. A Muslim Marine congressman? A CIA agent fighting to get her job back despite meds issues? Homegrown terrorism vs freedom fighters/protest? What constitutes patriotism?

    But will the show be willing to go to that harder place—the decline of American hegemony?