Midway into its third season, “Homeland” is still one of the most talked about shows on television, and Showtime has already renewed the high-stakes spy thriller for a fourth season.
But while the first two seasons moved at a breakneck pace, this season started off as a slow exercise in consequences. Now, halfway through, it struggles to regain its momentum.
Some of this ebb of quality results from the disappearance of one of the series’s most important mainstays. Sgt. Brody — the character that incited so much of the show’s initial appeal — is conspicuously absent, with the soldier-turned-terrorist-turned-good guy hiding out in Venezuela. This seclusion makes sense considering he’s currently “America’s Most Wanted,” but squirreling him away has separated him from the major action.
The show thrives on the Carrie-Brody relationship — whether it’s their intense game of cat and mouse or their barely concealed mutual attraction. Without that dynamic, this season seems to be floundering. This is most apparent in Carrie’s storyline this season, as she finds herself committed to a mental institution with every secret she’s kept so far — her relationship with Brody as well as her bipolar disorder — leaked to the Senate subcommittee investigating the bombing at Langley.
In the past, Carrie’s goal was to expose Brody as a terrorist. Now it’s the opposite, as she works to convince everyone of his innocence. Much like Brody, Carrie seems unfocused with no one to play off of. That she might be carrying Brody’s child only complicates matters further. As of yet, it’s unclear where exactly this storyline might be heading, but so far Carrie seems to be living in denial.
Many critics also questioned whether Brody’s family should return, but their presences makes sense. The show used Brody’s relationship with his family to highlight just how big a lie he was living and it’s only fair we can see how much his betrayal affected them.
Unsurprisingly, it’s been tough. Jessica is broke with no real means of income — her government benefits were revoked and no one is willing to hire a terrorist’s wife. Dana, meanwhile, has been dealing with her problems by attempting suicide and running away with a boy she met in group therapy, only to return home upon discovering his lies. Already, her storyline is much more unwieldy than her father’s.
Despite being halfway through the season, it still feels like “Homeland” is setting up all its pieces, and that’s a problem. To make matters worse, the tension and drama present in previous seasons seems to be almost non-existent this year.
A quick fix would be to scale back on Dana and bring Brody back into the country as soon as possible. Not only would this instantly infuse the show with the tension and drama it’s been lacking, but it would also reunite him with Carrie. Playing up their chemistry will allow both of them to do what they do best — keep secrets.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 12 print edition. Nivea Serrao is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]