I really should know better. I keep getting sucked back into Showtime’s “Homeland,” just as I repeatedly got sucked back into “24.” The seasons always begin with a bang, sweeping me into terror-related story lines that appear to have been sensibly mapped out in advance. Just get on, The Promise whispers, and you’ll get a hell of a ride, with a few good curves and shocking betrayals to keep you guessing. Remember brilliant season one? We can be a quality TV act that digs into the ambiguities of the national soul, The Promise continues with persuasive logic. Let’s do it again.
And then “Homeland” gets lost — and gets “Lost” — along the way. It’s part of the routine at this point: After an arresting setup, the tension falls apart midseason, the actors — particularly Claire Danes — begin to irritate with their predictability, and the destination on that plot map turns out to be a little place called Pandemonium. Those riveting opening episodes each year — as every season reboots plot-wise — are like TV clickbait at this point, luring us in before ultimately and inevitably disappointing us. Instead of aiming to be a carefully paced spy drama like “The Americans,” “Homeland” insists on taking the Chicken Little approach, going way overboard to keep us interested, delivering so many giant punches in each season arc that they all ultimately lose potency. The more the writers strain to keep us on edge, the more indifferent I get.
Eight episodes in, the sixth season of “Homeland” has passed the annual quality Rubicon, having squandered its early potential and become remarkably, and perhaps unfixably, dull. I’m beginning to feel like Peter Quinn, dragging myself through the story in a stupor, trying to remain interested in something, anything, unable to talk about it all clearly because it seems so disjointed. Simultaneously, I’m beginning to regret ever having wanted Quinn to survive those chemical weapons at the end of last season, now that he has become such a drag on the story. Kudos to the writers for nodding to PTSD, but the monotony of the Quinn plot is painful.
And don’t get me started on that sequence last Sunday night when, to avoid getting shot, Quinn jumped into the lake and waited underwater for seemingly ever until the shooter left. Are we supposed to believe that Quinn, so physically compromised, could have pulled that off? Obviously the old Quinn could have done that because he could do everything and anything, but the new Quinn? Nah. And now, we will have to deal with even more Quinn-sanity, as he copes with his responsibility for the death of Astrid, who was brought back to the show simply to die, to goose bored viewers who may be getting tired of what might now be TV’s most used location, Brooklyn. See, I told you not to get me started.
It has become too easy to make fun of these characters. I’d been hoping that, with Carrie starting off as a responsible mother, we’d be free of The Cry Face, The Hyperventilation Huff, and The Shout Mouth for the season. She was on her meds, and in responsible caretaker mode as the custodian of both Franny and Quinn. OK, so she might not have been the super-spy she once was when her life was a mess, but she was solid. Quinn was the muddled one. Her groundedness was a welcome change in the progress of the series. Ah, but then Franny had to be put in the foster-care system, so that Carrie could fall apart all over again, linger in Franny’s empty bedroom, fall off the wagon, and in a funk, dial the president-elect. Was the slip backward so that Claire Danes could have a few Emmy-submission scenes?
And at this point, every time Dar Adal opens his mouth, I just hear, “BWAHAHAHA.” He was always creepy, a grim reaper with a goatee, but now that he has had Franny dispensed with, conspired against the United States, worked to discredit the president-elect’s dead son, and possibly promoted a fake terror attack in New York, he’s Boris Badenov. Oh, and since he had his way with Quinn after he’d taken the young Quinn under his wing, he’s also a “[expletive] dirty old man,” as Quinn put it. There’s almost nothing evil in this season of “Homeland” that isn’t somehow linked to Dar, it seems. It was a needed shift in the series when Nicholas Brody finally died, long after his plot line had died; perhaps this season will similarly take Dar out of the equation. Maybe ever-suffering Saul will pull the trigger? Maybe I can help him?
Yup, it’s my own fault for getting on board in the first place back in January. Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in, then put me to sleep.