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Not The Best Way To End A Season

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As the year draws to a close, network shows suspend their programming for the coming new year, while some cable shows end their seasons altogether. Since this is the time that critics reflect on which shows they consider among the best of the year, I think it would also be fit to assess how some series are doing--- those that are firing on all cylinder, and those that have broken down almost completely. This column will consider two series--- one cable, one broadcast--- from each.
Last night, Homeland ended what can only be considered a fundamentally uneven third season. It was a daring move to take Nick Brody out of play for almost the entire first half of the season. One wishes they had been able to reward them for the risk they took. But the fact is, for the better part of two-thirds of the season, the show all but collapsed.
It is now clear that show producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa have no idea how to write domestic life, particularly when it comes to teenage girls. Their problems writing for the character of Kim Bauer in the second and third season of 24 are now legendary, and they had the exact same problems with Dana Brody. Having her try to kill herself? Daring. Having her then go on a road trip with a possibly homicidal boy? Not quite as bad as getting caught in a bear trap, but pretty terrible. I was relieved when her character disappeared halfway through the season.. It saved the writers a lot of embarrassment.
Unfortunately, what was going on in the main plotlines was not much better. Carrie's meltdown and institutionalization were actually part of a daring plan to lure this seasons central villain out of hiding wasn't quite as bad as some of the plot twists we got on 24, but it was creaking. Getting him onto American soil was even more embarrassing considering Abu Nazer got into the country just as easily, and then having him kill his former wife before capture just seemed pointless and advanced nothing.
Things only got marginally better when Brody reentered the storyline. After going through elaborate means to get him out of the country, it seemed to take next to no effort for Saul to find him, by the seasons second half. We never got any explanation for how he did that, either, but then the show doesn't seem to be interested in resolving any of the mysteries it set him in earlier seasons. Trying to find the actual Langley bomber was interesting, but he was dispatched and forgotten so quickly, it seemed pointless. Don't even get me started on how they seem to have no interest in finding the mole that has been causing the characters so much problems since the series began. I know in intelligence, you're only as good as your last mission, but a major security leak in government after what the show considered the greatest attack on American soil since 9/11? There was no interest in solving this at all, which gives me little hope for the series future.
Having said all this, the last three episodes did give a sense that the series might be able to regain some resolution. Brody's mission back to Iran was brilliantly executed in the first, and recalibrated well in the second. And Brody's capture and subsequent execution finally gave us the sense that he might have earned some kind of peace in his final act. More than the fact of the rightness of Brody's death is that the show finally can move on to other things, and leave the messy third season behind us. When 24 managed to shed Nina Myers and Sherry Palmer, it forced the series to take new direction. Day 4 and 5 were not only the best of the series, but some of the best TV I've ever seen. The fact that Brody's family will play a much smaller role next year means the series is finally ready to try new things--- and hopefully, leave this (mostly) mediocre year behind them.


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