Friday 24 November 2017

TV Review: Bringing it all back to a troubled Homeland

Homeland - RTÉ 2 The Leftovers - Sky Atlantic

Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

There comes a time in every relationship where you have to simply call it quits.

Sure, the other party may have been an important part of your life for a while, and maybe you can still remember the initial thrill and excitement you felt when you first got together. But, eventually, that thrill slowly sinks into a sea of boredom, resentment and the horrible realisation that you've wasted some of the best hours of your life on something which just wasn't worth the effort.

No, I haven't been reading the wife's diaries again, I'm talking about Homeland.

What had started out as a truly original and topical drama about the lives, loves and deaths of spies, traitors and terrorists in the first season soon descended into second season silliness. In fact, perhaps the most charitable thing that can be said about Season 2 was that it became a weird sort of domestic drama which managed to be both stultifyingly boring and remarkably irritating at the same time.

We're well used to seeing shows rely on the old 'ripped from the headlines' approach to coming up with storylines (just look at the last season of Law And Order: SVU, where virtually every episode was a clumsy rehash of everything from Gamergate to the fake Virginia rape case). But there were times when Homeland's supposed verisimilitude seemed lazy and tacked on - although Brody's public execution was an undeniably arresting scene.

Last season saw Carrie become even more barking mad than usual, which is saying something, but it was also a return to form of sorts.

Frankly, in a TV culture which is positively homicidal towards any show which suffers even a minor fall in the ratings, it's quite remarkable that they were renewed for another run, although on the basis of this week's first episode on RTÉ (you have to wait until Sunday to watch it on Channel 4), we should probably be grateful they live to spook another day.

Following last year's FUBAR in Pakistan, which saw Carrie go all Mata Hari as she seduced a naive young native before ordering a disastrous drone strike, she has left the company of, erm, The Company, and is now a well paid security analyst in the private sector in Berlin.

Now working for a 'benevolent billionaire' (is there any other kind? I hear you cry), she has a nice, stable German boyfriend and having decided not to drown her kid in the bath a few seasons ago, she seems to have even become a devoted mother.

But the past has a habit of grabbing you by the scruff of your neck and forcing you to confront your own misdeeds, and before long she has managed to enrage her former colleagues, provoke her new colleagues into thinking she is spying on them and... what was the other thing?

Oh yes, she gets kidnapped. Again.

Frankly, for a super bad-ass spook who will shag you or shoot you depending on the job that needs doing, I'd worry about letting her go to shops on her own without being picked up and bundled into the back of an SUV. I reckon she's spent more time in the boot of those cars than the average spare tyre.

The reason why expectations were so remarkably low for this season was simple - the producers had said they didn't want to include ISIS in their plot lines because 'they didn't want to humanise them.'

Of course, everybody else translated that as 'we don't want to be killed by these nutters.' But their relocation from the Middle East to Berlin accidentally mirrors the migration of ISIS into Europe and so they were given little choice but to bite the bullet and include them.

But as those late night TV ads say - wait, there's more.

Because not only are ISIS poking their delightful little heads into the mix, we've also got a plot so evidently based on Edward Snowden that he should have received a writing credit. Oh, and the cuddly billionaire only has his oodles of money because his daddy was a Nazi industrialist and he may or may not share some of his father's views. All that is good - very good, in fact.

But the stand-out character remains the existentially troubled hit man, Quinn.

Having spent two years in Syria 'blowing shit up and killing people', he has the thousand-yard stare of a man who looked into the void and then jumped into it.

His angry speech to the JCIS about how the Yanks are simply stepping into a 700-year-old civil war between barbarians was certainly well rendered, and it would appear that accusations that the producers had gone soft (mainly made by dopes like me, in fairness) were wide of the mark.

If Season 5 maintains its strong opener - and that's a big 'if' - this could be one of the TV events of the year.

When The Leftovers first appeared, I was hooked from the start.

Two per cent of the world's population just disappeared and the remaining global population promptly went into a collective meltdown.

But what was initially brooding and brave enough to allow long periods of silence soon became grating and predictable.

However, there was always enough in each episode to keep you tuning in for more - what is commonly known as Lost Syndrome, where the viewer remains out of stubbornness as much as anything else.

Having moved his family to a seemingly idyllic town in Texas, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) soon suspects something is amiss and there are some intriguing set pieces.

Lost creator Damon Lindelhof has control of this season and it tells.

Because as enjoyable as the show is, it tries so hard it might as well be wearing a man bun and cycling around George's Street on a vintage bike.

Irish Independent

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