The Carrie conundrum: How to save Homeland from itself

The thriller’s second series was a mess. Now, as it returns, Hugh Montgomery suggests a rescue plan

It’s autumn’s most anticipated TV show, and yet not entirely for the right reasons. Yes, Homeland returns for a third series next Sunday, and regular viewers may well be perched on the edge of their sofas, less desperate to know what happens next, and more desperate to know whether what happens next is any cop.

When it launched in early 2012, this paranoid thriller was catnip to the vast British demographic who believe television drama is great so long as it’s American. The premise was a peach: a bipolar CIA agent, Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison, tails an Iraq War hero, Damian Lewis’s Sgt Nicholas Brody, whom she suspects may be an al-Qaida convert. And for most of the first series, it was masterfully suspenseful, politically trenchant and emotionally wired.

But then it stopped off at a town called Rubbish. First, Brody was revealed to be a terrorist after all – nixing the subversive alternative that Carrie was both deluded and emblematic of the whole, ludicrous War on Terror. Then Brody’s attempt at a suicide bombing failed thanks to a faulty vest, nixing what would have been a truly daring season finale. And finally, when it returned for a second series, it came back safer, soapier and plain more stoopid. Suddenly it was a few digital-clock shots away from being a sequel to showrunners Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa’s previous terrorism-and-torture fest 24.

So now, with critical love lost and new shows snapping at its heels (see conspiracy thriller Hostages, also due to air on Channel 4) it’s make-or-break time. And while we wait to see what machinations the writers can muster, here we offer our own suggestions as to how Homeland can hit a home run once more.

Let Claire Danes off the leash

Danes’s jagged, jittery performance is easily the show’s most scintillating aspect. And so, in the second series, it was a fault of the narrative rather than the acting that Carrie seemed to transform into a  more standard-issue maverick: you know the type, always right, never listened to by her superiors, ready to take on a terrorist overlord with a bit of scrap metal. And that’s not to mention the excruciating contrivance of her romance with Brody. It’s perversely promising to note that she’s off her meds as Season 3 begins. Now let’s just hope she’s off relationships to boot.

Get Rid of Brody...

Damian Lewis is, broadly, a good thing. He gives charming interview. He is a tireless ambassador for the pulchritude of red-headed men. And he was brilliant in that film nobody saw about a schizophrenic man in a bus terminal. But enough is enough: as tentative turncoat Brody, we have seen him exercise one tortuously constipated face too many. Brody was always more of a plot catalyst than a character and, now that his double life’s been unveiled to the world, he’s surplus even to narrative requirements. If Lewis is looking for a decent small-screen transfer, may we suggest that his macho inscrutability would work just swell in the final series of Mad Men?

... or at the very least Brody’s family

Did I call Homeland a “paranoid thriller”? What I meant to say was that Homeland is a paranoid thriller spliced with clips from Channel 5 midweek matinée movies – which is the only way to explain the narcotic levels of suburban angst that we are exposed to week on week, in between all the spy shenanigans. When the US is going to hell in a handcart, I do not care that Brody’s daughter, Dana, is hanging with the wrong boy, or that military Ken Doll Mike is confused about his surrogate father/husband role. But most of all I feel sorry for Morena Baccarin, whose character, Mrs Jessica Brody, is the most underwritten female role on television since Sooty’s Soo, seguing as she does between nagging, nakedness and the indescribably annoying habit of calling her husband by his surname. The dispatch to a safe house in the Alaskan tundra can’t come soon enough.

Make Saul the mole

There’s a reason we choose Homeland over Downton of a Sunday: we want to be tortured, OK? And the way to do that is to make a bad guy out of our favourite intonation-shy, grizzly bear of a spook. We’ve long known that someone in the CIA has been leaking info, and it seems likely that their identity will be one of this series’s big reveals. So, who better for this treachery than the newly installed CIA director Saul (Mandy Patinkin)? Remember that failed polygraph test? This would bring Homeland’s greatest relationship – between Carrie and her mentor – into terrible focus, and might even stop people talking about the end of Breaking Bad for a minute.

Just end it

We maintain the distant hope that the writers will blow any carefully constructed narrative arcs to smithereens and make this series the last. If they do, they’ll be remembered for their dazzling creative chutzpah. If they don’t, you just know we’ll be watching Brody’s daughter saving the White House from a nuclear strike six years down the line.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015