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Homeland – Game On Review: Tedious Episode, Promising Ending

The beginning of this season has tested the patience of many a Homeland fan. Opening with two incredibly dull episodes that did little to advance plot or even do anything interesting with the characters’ personal journeys. Any sympathy/care for the various characters featured quickly faded and in place grew an intense annoyance with their current storylines. An infuriating fascination with Dana and her love life, instantly made one of the most well developed and compelling characters into a soul-sucking drag, and the endless amount of time spent on Carrie amidst the throes of her bipolar disorder only highlighted the many reasons why she is such a liability and danger to the CIA and overall irritating presence at times, making it difficult to be on her side.

A brief interlude in the third episode gave us a new setting and insight into Brody’s story and while superficially interesting, the lack of narrative progression in the episode is undeniable and the general sense of hopelessness was depressing. “Game On” as the title suggests, sets up the beginning of a new plan/mission now that it is revealed that Saul and Carrie had been running a long (and questionable?) con on everybody. After a few false starts throughout the first few episodes of the season, it seems that the narrative wheels are indeed turning and that we can finally jump into an actually intriguing storyline. It took three very long episodes to get here, but hopefully the series can build an entertaining pace from here on out.

Last week I asked what was in store for the show’s problematic protagonists. “Tower of David” showcased the seemingly impossible situations in which both Brody and Carrie were caught in, Brody held hostage in Venezuela, Carrie trapped in a psych ward. Even though the characters found themselves in these unmanageable circumstances, the writers’ affection and interest in their stories is undeniable, and there was no question that they would contrive routes of escape for both of them. So, this week we are treated to Carrie’s inevitable release. Though it isn’t entirely surprising that Saul would maneuver something like this with Carrie, given that the strength of Saul and Carrie’s relationship and bond has been so well established, though the logistics of their plan are quite mystifying and uncertain.

When exactly did they strike up this deal? Why was Carrie such a basket case in moments where it didn’t seem necessary to “fool” anyone around her? For the sake of the show, I’m willing to just go with it and overlook troubling details, forget most of the previous episodes of the season and continue with the hopefully improved storyline. Also, the prospect of having the two characters at complete odds was slightly intriguing, but if that meant having Carrie running around like a mad woman all the time, then I embrace this plot reveal wholeheartedly. Hopefully Carrie’s inclusion to the terrorist storyline will add some kind of intrigue and excitement to the as of yet uneventful and dull narrative.

As Carrie begins to crawl her way out of the hellhole that was her life for the past weeks (months?), there is no mention/glimpses of Brody’s status in the episode. While it was relatively easy to engineer a way for Carrie to ease back into her normal life, it still seems dauntingly impossible to do the same for Brody. I’m left questioning whether he is still truly relevant in this story. Again, in lieu of Nicholas Brody presence, we get some Dana and Jessica drama. Yeesh is this storyline bad. Why the writers are so adamant that we care about Dana and her love life and her and Leo’s Bonnie and Clyde-lite escapades escapes me. The eye-roll inducing revelation that Leo was shadily involved/responsible for his brother’s death was painfully predictable and probably elicited the undesired reaction from most viewers.

You know that a majority of viewers are just hoping that Leo takes care of Dana like he did his brother and that will be the end of them both. It is difficult to see how this storyline, which could easily fit into the plot of a Lifetime movie, fits into the grand scheme of the series. If the writers are willing to pursue material that is so disjointed and separate from the core of the show, couldn’t they at least try to make it actually good? Despite the horribleness of all that was Dana’s storyline this episode, it was hard not to feels for her as she recalls her fathers last “truthful” words to her. It was a very well acted by Morgan Saylor and for a very, very brief moment her presence wasn’t entirely maddening. It is clear to see why the writers keep throwing material at her, much like they do with Damian Lewis, but their desire to hold on to these talented actors ultimately hinders the show dramatically.

“Game On” follows in the steps of the season three predecessors, slow moving, slightly uneventful, tedious and distracted by absurd storylines, but its last moments provide a glimmer of hope for the drama.

Closing Thoughts:

- Didn’t mind at all the absence of Brody, this show can definitely work without him, if only the writers could realize that.

- I know this is the second time I compare the show to a Lifetime movie, but it is difficult not to. It was all I could think about during the whole Dana/Leo fiasco, that and CW teen drama.

- Thank God Carrie is finally out of that god-forsaken hospital because that was becoming increasingly tiresome. I’d usually infer that it was the writers’ intention to make us feel as trapped as Carrie, but I wouldn’t give them so much credit.



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