Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why Homeland Haters Should Watch Tonight

Claire Danes, Homeland Didier Baverel/SHOWTIME

There was a point midway through the third season of Homeland where I felt I would suffer permanent vision loss if I continued to watch, because clearly I couldn't possibly roll my eyes back any farther without severing an optic nerve.
For me, Homeland had jumped the shark way harder than The Fonz ever could, thanks to some sloppy, slow and misguided storytelling, that ultimately led to the death of my number one reason for watching: Brody (Damien Lewis).  I frankly could not imagine a way that the show's writers could possibly get me to care about Carrie (Claire Danes) and the rest of the characters on this show.
I. Was. Done.
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Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Homeland's fourth season (which premieres tonight), because, not only was I hearing whispers about a creative resurgence for the one-time awe-inspiring Emmy juggernaut, I had a real come-to-Jesus moment while talking to Lost producer Damon Lindelof about the nature of TV fandoms in the era of social media, and how quickly we can spiral into knee-jerk rage. "I'm still a guy that says I love Homeland," he told me, "and I'm going to love the show Homeland until they don't make the show any more. And there are going to be great seasons and there are going to be seasons that are less than great. Because you can't be great unless less than great is part of the equation."
Hmmm....So maybe, just maybe, one sucky season isn't cause to swear it off for all eternity?
And then the whispers turned into shouts, that Homeland's first two episodes were truly great. Other reporters who'd seen it started asking me with wide eyes, "OH MY GOD. HAVE YOU SEEN IT?"
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Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Homeland Jackson Lee Davis/SHOWTIME
So I finally did. And I watched the first three episodes all in one night because I couldn't stop.
So now it has to be said: Homeland is pretty great again
The writers have breathed new life into the series in the most genius way possible: They've taken the audience's indifference, frustration and anger, and used it for their own benefit, because now we aren't supposed to care about Carrie any more. She has lost her grip on morality, proving to be an insensitive bomb-dropping maniac and perhaps the worst mother we've ever seen on television (not kidding).
Carrie is the new villain.
Seriously, when you see how she behaves, especially in episode two, you'll have a hard time rooting for her. And not punching your fist through the screen.
It's this newfound hatred of Carrie (and a well-crafted empathy for the enemy) that actually fuels an overwhelming desire to see what happens next, because you want her to either realize what a despicable person she has become, or get her comeuppance.
My favorite line so far is served from Quinn to Carrie: "It's not all about you."
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The writers also have found a story arc that moves, with real emotional gravitas, when it comes to the highly hostile war zone (Islamabad) where Carrie is stationed, and fights to stay stationed, so she doesn't ever have to see her baby. (Toldja, she's a real peach.)
Homeland is back, and made us haters care again—by showing it's OK, even encouraged, to not care about Carrie.
Nicely played.
Watch Homeland's fifth season premiere tonight, and let me know what you think (you can tweet me @kristindsantos or Facebook me), especially after seeing the horribly horrible things she does in episode two.
 "There is no diagnosis for you," Carrie's sister says. True. Dat.
But I have one for the show: In remission.