December 21, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Homeland”


If HOMELAND hadn’t once been so good, it wouldn’t be so painful now to see what it’s become.  Season 5 was by no means terrible:  it was crisply produced, Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin remain enviable leads, and the plotting was no sillier than that of many other TV action-adventures, which could also have accommodated the season’s Idiot Plot Twist whereby a senior CIA agent who had clearly been revealed as a decade-long Russian spy was allowed to walk around barely under surveillance so that she could wreak more havoc. What Homeland is these days is ordinary, and that’s a big comedown for a series that once touched greatness.

Tonight’s season finale, written by series co-creator Alex Gansa, Co-Executive Producer Ron Nyswaner and Consulting Producer Liz Flahive, and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, was anticlimactic in the extreme.  The poison gas attack on a German railroad station at rush hour that had been built up as the season’s big climax for the past several episodes ended up foiled 7 minutes into the episode, mostly by Carrie Mathison (Danes) firing blindly at the terrorist and managing to hit him.  Everything after that was epilogue.  Crusading reporter Laura Sutton (Sarah Sokolovic) made a deal with the German government so that her source Numan (Atheer Adel) wouldn’t be sent back to Turkey for execution, renouncing her mostly-accurate conspiracy theories in public.  Saul Berenson (Patinkin) made his own deal with senior Russian agent Krupin (Mark Ivanir), who gave up the location of traitor Allison Carr (Miranda Otto) in exchange for sanctuary, permitting Saul and his team to riddle Allison’s car with bullets as she tried to make her escape to Russia.  Carrie received a potential Season 6 job offer from billionaire Otto During (Sebastian Koch), to partner with his (shady?) foundation to help foster world peace.  Finally, Carrie stood over the bed of comatose Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) and seemed about to euthanize him when some pseudo-religious white light filled his hospital room (or a leftover glow from the season finale of Manhattan) and the season faded out.

Homeland gets credit from some for being “timely,” but really at this point it uses subjects like terrorism more in a Dick Wolf way, as a pretext for melodrama and suspense rather than because it has anything to say on the subject.  The characters have long since ceased to act in any kind of realistic manner.  We had not only the senior CIA staff allowing Allison to remain on the anti-terrorism team after her crazy excuse that while it looked like she was a Russian agent, actually for a decade she’d been running her own agent without ever telling anyone, but also Carrie deliberately going off her bipolar meds so that she could be brilliant and intuitive again (an idea that lasted one episode and never returned), not to mention Quinn being treated all season as the show’s crash test dummy (shot, stabbed, beaten, poisoned, and finally led into a possibly fatal blood clot by Carrie and Saul so they could question him), so that death would probably be a relief.

The series is watchable, but it’s no longer particularly good.  Danes spent most of the season looking frantic and distraught (the attempt to suggest a real relationship between Carrie and a nice-guy German lawyer was hopeless), and only Saul was given any layers for Patinkin to play.  Otto was quite good, even as the twists of Allison’s character went into the ether, and Nina Hoss stood out as a businesslike German intelligence officer who seemed to be the smartest person around.

Despite its flaws, Homeland remains Showtime’s highest-rated original series, so of course it’s been renewed for a sixth season.  Its glory days may be gone, but it would be nice to see any kind of return to something resembling the special, emotionally complex spy and human drama it used to be.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."