Homeland is one of Showtime’s most successful shows, but it went south on more than one occasion. Here’s how it could have been better.
Homeland came to an end on April 26th after eight inconsistent seasons. The Showtime spy thriller was initially based on Israeli spy series Prisoners Of War, but later seasons had their own unique storylines. Perhaps the show ought to have stuck to its source material?
The series began with a bang, with the first season winning the Primetime Emmy Award For Outstanding Drama Series. That first season also had an impressive 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. By Season 6, the score had sunk to 78%. Homeland kept getting worse and worse. But what really went wrong? How was the series ruined? And how could it have been better?
Ruined: Nicholas Brody’s Death
The decision to kill off one of the two best characters was a misinformed one. Part of what made the first three seasons so great was the presence of the radicalized Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). His interactions with CIA agent Carrie Mathison were amazing. She was doing her best to bring him down yet she couldn’t help but grow emotionally attached to him.
Sadly, in the third season, he was sacrificed to give viewers a shocking death. Shocking indeed as he was hanged from a crane courtesy of a death sentence in Iran. Movie and TV deaths can make the plot even better, but Damian Lewis was too good as Brody (he won an Emmy) and the void he left was always felt.
Better: Vice President Brody
Vice President William Walden was so obsessed with Brody that he was willing to make him his running mate when he ran for president. Unfortunately, Brody got captured by the CIA before all this could happen. And the war veteran turned congressman was just never interesting again.
It would have been far much better if Walden won the election and Brody got to be vice president while continuing to work for Abu Nazir. He could have pulled strings and influenced the president to replace the bosses at the CIA with terrorist sympathizers, eventually coming close to pulling off a major attack before being discovered.
Ruined: Doing Away With The Drama And Thrills
Homeland was edge-of-your-seat dramatic in its earlier seasons. It was created by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon after all, who had previously worked on 24. The two imported constant 24 themes such as terrorism and espionage and planted them on Homeland.
But in order to prevent Homeland from being another 24, they limited the action. This was okay until the drama and thrills were discarded too. Everything became too slow and too serious. In recent episodes, all that was happening was talking and surveilling. Carrie once followed a van for thirty minutes. Come on!
Better: Turn Carrie Into An Action Hero
There has also been a shortage of female ass-kicking spies/secret agents. It’s surprising that Hollywood has never really bothered to add many more. Perhaps Brody’s death could have been made so hurtful to Carrie that she turned into a cold-blooded killer, ready to take down everyone who was responsible.
This doesn’t necessarily mean she would have to go rogue. She could still do it by the book. If Jack Ryan can easily morph from desk duties at Langley to a super-agent in the field, why can’t Carrie? This could have been better for her than just following targets around, wouldn’t it?
Ruined: The Character Inconsistencies
The first signs that the show was about to go south occurred in the second season when ridiculous sub-plots began popping up. After Brody initially made the right call of not blowing himself and killing the vice president (because he was a good man at heart), he still went ahead and did it later on for a reason that was less concrete.
Worse still, audiences were forced to believe that the competent secret service could not protect the vice president. Brody just went to his office and murdered him? What’s even worse is that Carrie decided to keep this a secret and not tell anyone at the CIA. The same Carrie who put the CIA above even her own health?
Better: Improve The Dialogue
In all the TV shows or movies that achieved legendary status, there was almost a smart-talking character or two. But even when Homeland was at its best, the dialogue was a bit too wooden. Apart from the usual statements in spy dialogue like “I have eyes on the target,” there were no quotables.
Even a serious person like Jack Bauer in 24 would occasionally make witty statements such as: “The only reason that you’re conscious right now is because I don’t want to carry you.” And there was the ever so hilarious “Damnit Chloe!”
Ruined: Peter Quinn’s Death
There was at least an effort by the showrunners to try and fill the void left by Brody. Peter Quinn rose from being a supporting character to a key character. He even had a relationship with Carrie, just like Brody. The message kinda was: we are sorry for taking away your favorite character but here’s another good one.
But then Peter Quinn was also killed off in a brutal manner. He drove a Chevy Suburban through a hail of bullets and died with his head on the wheel. Fans were so angered by the death that a group named #NotOurHomeland wrote a long letter to the showrunner, lamenting about the turn of events, and paid the Hollywood Reporter to publish it.
Better: Stop Imitating Real-Life Events… And Other Shows
Whether it was intentional or accidental, Homeland imitated real-life events too much. Even the president had ties to Russia at some point. The attempted terror attack on a European city in Season 5 mirrored the real-life 2015 Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks too. ISIS and Putin have been subjects of the plot as well.
And while the show’s creators tried not to copy their former show, they eventually did just that. Carrie was captured by the Russians the same way Jack Bauer was captured by the Russians. There was a mole in the CIA too, the same way there was always a mole in CTU. The secret agent subplots were also too similar to those in The Americans.
Ruined: Recycling Storylines
In an attempt to make the show an Emmy contender once again, the screenwriting team decided to copy themselves. Just as Brody had been a suspect after being held captive by the Al Qaeda, Carrie was suspected to have become a double-agent after being held captive by the Russians for seven months.
This storyline didn’t work because for almost a decade, the audience had known Carrie to be a good, loyal, and competent agent. Her morality was clear. As for Brody, audiences didn’t know much about him before he came back from captivity, so his decision to become a terrorist was a believable one.
Better: Promote Saul, Then Kill Him Off
Carrie’s mentor was kept alive until the very end, yet he was never really a fan-favorite character. But since he was the person that Carrie cared about the most, his death would have been more fitting. It would have brought more emotional trauma to Carrie, setting her on a path for revenge that would maybe lead to her becoming an action hero.
And since Saul was a by-the-books person who was generally good at his job, he should have risen up the ranks to probably become CIA director before getting killed by an enemy of the United States. Or by the secret Russian operative that he was in love with. The death of a CIA director would have raised the stakes and pumped up the drama.