Up until the last minutes of last night's episode of Homeland, today's morning-after conversation was headed in a completely different direction than the one we're about to have. Last week's "Weekend" put our foreheads on the end of a baseball bat, spun us around a few times, and made us chug a beer before running an obstacle course, as Brody's former Marine-mate was discovered alive and in cahoots with Abu Nazir. It was a twist no one saw coming, and it shamed us for thinking Brody was a terrorist all along. "Achilles Heel" un-twisted things so that we ended up back where we started, but spinning us around in the opposite direction doesn't negate the effects of the first turns, it only compounds them. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Now please bear with me while I express a concern with my favorite new show.
For some fans, there's going to be some justified apprehension moving forward with Homeland. You're forgiven if, when Brody turned up in the living room of the diplomat's house and admitted (to us) that he's been working with Abu Nazir all along, you said, "Oh it's one of these shows." Trust is a bond formed between a show and its viewers, and when one week is spent intentionally throwing us off the scent of one plot only to put us right back on it the next week, a bit of that trust is broken.
In Homeland's first half-dozen episodes, it was the ambiguity of the situation that had us all riveted. Is Brody a sleeper agent? Why is he doing [insert suspicious activity here]? Maybe he's doing it for [insert reason here]. We tortured ourselves with these questions because there were no definitive answers. In "The Weekend," we got one: It wasn't Brody who was turned. But that was misinformation, and there's a huge difference between misinformation and ambiguity.
It's a slippery slope for a television show like Homeland to navigate. We're at the mercy of what we're presented with, and a lot of what we're being presented with is purposefully cloudy and incorrect. I've compared this show to FX's and DirecTV's Damages in the past, and when that show was great, it trickled out details and made us oscillate between looking at the show under a microscope and looking at it through a telescope. When the show wasn't that great, it told us one thing one week and then said, "Ha ha, J/K!" the next week.
Homeland isn't in dangerous territory yet (please don't take the above paragraphs as negative critique of Homeland, they're not), and subsequent episodes are what will really dictate whether the series is going to rely too heavily on the twist/not-a-twist format that can debilitate a program. What I think works in Homeland's favor is that it's a show about a complex terrorism cover-up, so leads will be misleading, intelligence will be unintelligent, and twists will be twisted, untwisted, and re-twisted at will. I still adore the show, but wanted to open up the forum to others who may be feeling a little concern over a possible twist-o-rama. Until Homeland makes fake-outs a regular thing, it will remain a fantastic show that's a must-see each week.
To its credit, Homeland did a good job of handling its double-cross, because we got confirmation that Brody has been working with the terrorists at the same time he got pissed off at them. Brody is now in a really foggy position with his secret employers. He didn't know Walker was still alive, and now he feels like a pawn in a greater plan instead of its central star. Does he now help the CIA against Abu Nazir, or does he get back in bed with them? And will Brody take the opportunity to run for office? I'm also not so convinced he's in with Al Qaeda with both feet in the first place. Heck, this is Homeland, I'm not convinced of anything right now except that it's been a fantastic show so far.
– Pre-twisty ending, I was already planning this write up and thought Homeland was doing a pretty bang-up job of taking itself in a direction where the mystery of "is he/isn't he?" was no longer the driving force. That's a credit to the characters on the show, who I've come to really like. The relationships between Saul, Carrie, and Brody (as well as their own individual relationships with their friends and family) are some of the best on TV right now, and that alone is enough to keep the show going. The doubt about Brody and the threat of domestic terrorism only adds to the experience.
– Did anyone really think Brody was in the clear after "The Weekend" told us he wasn't turned?
– Saul is a really slow typist. That amuses me.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom