OPINION: When a television show amasses a loyal, cult-like following straight out of the gate, the bar for every episode of each season is set incredibly high. This has certainly been the case with Showtime's “Homeland.”
During the first season, the day-after watercoolering of the show largely involved phrases such as, “Could you believe that?!” The plight of the show’s protagonist, Claire Danes’ rogue CIA agent Carrie, was sympathetic and surprising. The "is he or isn’t he a terrorist?" talk surrounding Damian Lewis’ war hero Sgt. Brody had viewers simultaneously guessing about and weirdly rooting for the guy. President Barack Obama even went on record as saying the show was among his must-sees.
The refrain during this sophomore season, however, has been more along the lines of “I just can’t believe that.”
Warning: If you aren’t caught up on “Homeland,” there are spoilers ahead. Hear that? BIG SPOILERS. READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Take these plotlines from season two, for example:
- A dozen terrorists storm and shoot up a tailor shop on a sleepy street in Gettysburg, Pa., and no one seems to notice? Not buying it.
- Brody's daughter Dana and the vice president's son Finn shake off the Secret Service, run over and kill a woman on a D.C. street, and again, no one seems to notice? COME ON.
- The world’s most dangerous terrorist has his life saved via text message. Really? (Almost as difficult to believe is Brody’s incredible cell phone service.)
Those are just some of the things that have drawn the ire of loyal “Homeland” viewers. For a vocal percentage of fans, the antics among the agents and double agents have become just too much to bear. “Homeland” has jumped the shark, they say. “Will it find its proper course again?” they ask.
And to those fans, I say: You can’t be serious. You can’t really be mad at or give up on a show because as it moves forward, you’re increasingly required to suspend disbelief.
The suspension of disbelief is what makes television fun. If that weren’t the case, Ken Burns' documentaries would make up the majority of the prime-time network lineup. And with all due respect to Burns and some truly wonderful filmmaking, it’s a statement of fact that most great television shows require significant suspensions of disbelief.
Take, for example, the numerous police procedurals as well as hospital and court dramas that require viewers to forget about reality for an hour. How many bizarre incidents (shooters, bombs in patients, plane crashes, sex with ghosts, to name a few) are going to befall the doctors and patients on "Grey's Anatomy"? (And before that, "ER.") Serial killer "Dexter" may be a smart guy, but the stunts he's been pulling the last few seasons would've led to his capture ages ago (and may finally on Sunday's season finale).
And to take things farther, consider the more fantastical programs. Did we really buy the idea that all those people in “Lost” were on a mysterious island where nothing made sense? And what about “The Walking Dead”? Folks: It’s a show about zombies. And that brings me to “Grimm.” It’s entirely implausible that wesen (part humans who can transform into fairy-tale creatures) live among us, but the show manages to be totally fun and engrossing anyway.
Ultimately, all of these shows are successful because the path between sharp left turns toward unbelievability is paved with great acting and real moments that raise common questions about human nature. Can you trust that people are who they say they are? Are things really how they seem? Will good win out in the end?
These themes are present in nearly every scene of “Homeland.” Getting the answers to the questions that arise from them is what moves the viewer from one place to the next, and sometimes an implausible twist is just part of the deal. That’s how television works.
So “Homeland” fans, I implore you: Stick it out. Go into the finale with a little trust that things will resolve in a way that’s true to the show. In this case, that doesn’t have to be perfectly believable, just believable enough. Because when there’s great acting, great writing and nearly flawless execution, there’s some wiggle room where plausibility is concerned. Just have a little faith.
The “Homeland” season finale airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime.
What's bugged you most about "Homeland" this season? What have you loved? Tell us on our Facebook page!
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