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Welcome back to Homeland, where the first half of the season rarely resembles the second half, making posts like this one largely fall out of date in a matter of weeks. Still, let's walk through some frustrations from the last few seasons in particular and ponder where the show would be had they taken a different turn (or six).

Stick around for the poll at the bottom and start to form your opinion as you read - which mistake has hurt Homeland the most?

6) Allowing Brody to Flee the Country

"Tower of David" provided a complete and unexpected re-boot for Brody's character. I was 100% bought in on the idea of a Brody arc that would bring him some level of redemption - just imagine his thwarting an act of terrorism in Venezuela or providing a key piece of evidence to Carrie via her underground railroad to safety. Even if the plot never completely connected to the events in Washington, it could still provide an expansion to the currently very claustrophobic world of the show.

Then the pitch black ending to the episode saw Brody injecting heroin into his veins. Happy times. While the character has been far from consistent, he earned the audience's sympathy as he lost control of his own destiny. Holed up in high rise hell and shooting up, it's going to take some insane contortions to bring back a Brody we care about.

Imagine for a second those final scenes of Homeland's second season. What if Carrie had pulled a gun on Brody, and shot him in the street on the Canadian border? Now that's a twist I'd have preferred.

5) All Things Dana Brody After Season 1

The relationship between Brody and his daughter was one of the best written arcs during the show's excellent first season. It created perhaps the only reasonable escape for the writers to prevent Brody from exploding the vest in the secure bunker. Dana's call to her father was the most tense scene in a finale full of them and it's solely responsible for my sticking with the show to begin the second season.

So what happened? I hold no grudge against Morgan Saylor, who puts in a lot of effort playing one of TV's most annoying roles. But you have to question the writer's motivation for her character going forward. Season 2 brought teenage mistakes, all designed to squeeze Brody when it came to his political relationships. While the hit and run storyline felt soap opera-ish, it certainly aligned with the overall goals for Brody's descent. In season 3, however, Brody is unlikely to return to the United States and certainly not to a normal family life, so why are we still following the Brody family?

Dana's suicide attempt, surely meant to parallel her father, is heavy stuff in a show that has become TV's most depressing hour. Towards the end of "Tower of David," Dana pulled out Brody's prayer rug from the garage and I found myself cringing. While it's not unlikely that Dana would look for peace through religion, I don't trust that the show won't play with the possibility of turning her towards violence, which I can't imagine going well.

4) Bringing Abu Nazir to America

Abu Nazir was a perfect villain for Homeland. His invisibility overseas was a perfect parallel to more than a decade of uncertainty over Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Bringing him to America, however implausible, ruined this mystery. With a terrorist at large in America, you take a moment to brainstorm a few plots. He could lead a strike against America himself, finishing the job where Brody couldn't. He could recruit an organization of homegrown terrorists. He could go after the CIA where they live.

What did the Homeland writers choose? To squirrel Nazir away in an abandoned warehouse, where he kidnapped Carrie, forced Brody to murder via Blackberry video chat and eventually gave himself up, with no backup plan... hardly the evil genius that the show had led us to believe. What's worse is that with their villain disposed of, the show provided a shocking ending, a bombing of the CIA, which we have since learned had zero connection to Abu Nazir. Let's think about that for a second - after two seasons of building up Abu Nazir's backstory and intentions, the third season has decided that the "2nd 9/11" attacks were perpetrated by a different group, essentially wiping the slate clean. Surely, there was a much better way to bring two seasons worth of story to a close.

3) Failing to Elevate Peter Quinn

Given Homeland's tendency for fast forwarding plot, how do we still know so little about Peter Quinn?

What we know:
  1. He was assigned to kill Brody
  2. He was / is working with Dar Adal, who has taken up the position of Saul's right hand man
  3. Despite being a trained killer, he has enough of a heart to struggle with unintended casualties (especially children)
  4. He doesn't trust that Saul is making the right decisions for the CIA
  5. He has some level of respect for Carrie
With Brody MIA and Carrie making deals with nurses in the looney bin, whose show is this? With Saul playing politics, my answer is Peter Quinn. Homeland needs some cloak and dagger action to break up Congressional hearings and Carrie meltdowns and Quinn is the obvious antidote. Plus, with the future of its main characters in doubt, it's the perfect time to audition the character for the lead in future seasons, should they happen.

2) Destroying Saul's Credibility

Who do you root for on Homeland? If you answered Carrie or Brody, I struggle to understand your patience. Over two seasons, surely you've been frustrated by Carrie's self destructive decisions or Brody's wavering allegiances. With neither character reaching a trustworthy stasis, Saul has been the show's only reliably empathetic character. He could be trusted, we believed, to do what was best for Carrie, but more importantly for the country. And despite her insanity, Carrie's hunches often proved to be the right ones for the CIA to follow.

Yet here we are in season 3. As Saul trashes Carrie's name publicly it's hard to imagine how she'll recover any credibility as an agent, but equally difficult to see how we'll be able to trust Saul going forward. In Tim Surette's review of last week's "Tower of David," he called Saul an upper management dick. It's really hard to argue with that assessment right now.

1) Breaking Down Carrie (Again)

Season 1 Carrie was a refreshingly original character - a highly capable CIA agent with a history of mental illness, on the edge of losing everything. When she did, season 2's redemption was incredibly satisfying. Given the chance to stabilize Carrie for good, the writers chose instead to further explore the Brody relationship. I can't quibble with the decision as it certainly was a high point in the first season. Her season 3 meltdown, however, has not struck me as necessary. A strong Carrie, who fights against the accusations of Congress and the internal politics of the re-formed the CIA would have provided plenty of drama for a full season.

Yet, here we are, in another Carrie free-fall. She's back to making wildly irrational decisions, being dragged to the hospital, and being force fed pills. She's selling everyone who will listen on her sanity. Once novel, her mental health issues increasingly feel like a replacement for real character development. She's spent zero time learning from her mistakes to become more successful at her job when compared to her time spent spiraling out of control as a result of her failures. With plenty of season left and a mysterious visitor as the dangling carrot, I'll probably keep watching for a few episodes just to see where Carrie is headed, but I'm really not happy about re-watching the show's past arcs.

Let's vote! Which of the above mistakes have hurt Homeland the most? Or which mistake that I didn't even mention has irked you more than others.


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 12/15/2013

Season 3 : Episode 12

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