Monday, October 7, 2013

Homeland Review: I Feel Like a Crazy Person, But not the Mental Hospital Kind

Dana Brody searches for spiritual guidance in "Homeland"

I can honestly say that I have never felt like more of a crazy person than I do right now, watching Homeland.  I’m sitting here watching the incredible story of a family torn apart by the actions of their hero patriarch turned Congressman turned international fugitive terrorist.  It is really riveting drama, as the daughter Dana tries to commit suicide in an attempt to reconcile her guilt over having once talked him out of a terrorist attack only to have him apparently succeed later.  The mother, Jessica, tries to hold the family together through pure strength of will and denial, unwilling to admit to the wreckage her husband has left behind.  And the son, Chris…well, Chris isn’t the best developed of characters, so we’ll just assume he’s adequately coping with karate and X-Box.

In another universe, this is the show Homeland.  There’s no CIA, there’s no foreign terrorists.  It’s just one family trying to cope with the wrecking ball that’s been swung through their lives.  Hell, this could well have been the second season in this universe, had Brody gone through with the first terrorist attack.

Now, we’re probably not seeing the best version of this story, since so much of each Homeland episode has to revolve around Carrie and the CIA, but I still find it to be great television anyway, and not just in a “Oh, I’m liking this ironically,” kind of way.  I think there is legitimate artistic merit to this storyline.  I mean, the scene late in Sunday’s episode should be enough to prove that, as Dana attempts to convince her mother that her suicide attempt wasn’t just a cry for help but was based in her very real desire to just be done with it all.  Dana’s plaintive cries that she isn’t crazy and that her mom isn’t crazy, but that it was her father who was crazy just cut me to the core.

And yet, the critical reaction to this storyline has been largely lukewarm.  Mo Ryan described the storyline as “vague and tentative,” Alan Sepinwall as “problematic.”  Andy Greenwald reacted to the inclusion of more Dana Brody by commenting that “I honestly don't think anyone outside the walls of the writers' room left last year thinking the solution to what ailed Homeland was more Dana Brody.”  And that’s not even digging in to the comments and said reviews.  Dear God, never read the comments.

And Greenwald’s right.  A season ago, the last thing I would have wanted was more time with the Brodys.  But this is different.  This is a storyline that’s engaging and makes me interested in Dana as a person.  Like I said, it’s not perfect.  Her decision to send her new boyfriend (who’s still in the psychiatric hospital) topless selfies can only backfire on her.  And there’s bound to be an inevitable spiral of shame and guilt following their inevitable breakup and the leaking of said photographs.  It’s being telegraphed a bit obviously, but the raw emotions on display between Morgan Saylor and Morena Baccarin are just electric.

I can understand how the relationship between Dana and her new boyfriend can be boring for some viewers, but it’s such a perfect manifestation of the disconnect she feels from everybody else in her “real” life.  Nobody knows what she’s going through (and not in a “nobody gets me” kind of way), so it’s not surprising that she would find common ground with somebody who has shared at least one of her experiences.  The relationship between Dana and Nicholas was one of the strongest emotional bonds on the show and I feel like Dana and Jessica are forming a similar relationship.  It’s not there yet, but I really want to see where it goes.

I don’t think this is a perfect story and I don’t think it’s a perfect presentation of this story.  But Homeland is a show that’s currently struggling to find its identity and Dana Brody seems to be the only character who has found hers.  I want to watch that show, even if nobody else does.

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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