Showtime is known for letting its programs run their course, and then do a victory lap, and then keep on running until they drop dead of exhaustion. “Dexter” is the most recent example, but they’ve been doing it for years. “Weeds” suffered the same fate as “Dexter,” so did “Californication” and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl.” Unfortunately after “Gerontion” it looks like “Homeland” is headed towards the same fate (which we all knew since the pilot, since “Homeland” is on Showtime).
Everything this week follows the fallout of Javadi brutally stabbing his ex-wife at the end of “Still Positive,” and how Saul and Carrie’s plan is going to work. A lot of the early season was fairly scattered, but this episode is quite focused, with every story beat belonging to the CIA operations. That focus doesn’t translate into a lean or riveting episode however, as “Gerontion” falls prey to some classic “Homeland” mistakes.
“Have you ever done anything that didn’t make it worse?”
The first problem is the lazy plotting. Carrie’s pregnancy makes one quick appearance when she has morning sickness, even though the timing of her pregnancy is noticeably off, as I mentioned last week. The writers don’t seem to care though; as long as they get where they want to be they don’t care how they got there. Quinn is now the moral compass of the show, even though last season he was a cold CIA killer. Now he’s spouting off about how he doesn’t believe in what the CIA is doing anymore, and bluntly states every issue with the CIA the writers have. Instead of investing in Quinn and showing us his journey to disenchantment the writers fast track Quinn’s plot so that they can really hammer home the main point of the episode. It’s lazy plotting, and everything about it seems false.
The second problem is with the character of Senator Lockhart, who is soon to be the next CIA director. He was pitched as Saul’s antagonist, a man who doesn’t believe in spies and intelligence, and finds human operations obsolete. He could have been a real foil to Saul, and he raised some serious points about the large margin of error in spy work, but now he is nothing more than a cartoon. Since everything operations-wise is coming up Saul, Lockhart doesn’t have any ground to stand on and he doesn’t pose a threat anymore.
Saul is easily the best part of this episode. He turns Javadi into a mole far too fast for my liking, but the scenes between Saul and Javadi (Shaun Toub) were excellent as the two opponents sparred and tried to break each other. Likewise Saul’s scenes with his wife Mira were heartfelt, and filled with sadness. Though “Homeland” hasn’t done well with picking apart and analyzing the spy lifestyle and the problems with the CIA they have done an excellent job at examining what makes Saul tick, and how he justifies his cruelty.
“Every time you answer a question with a big gaping nothing it reminds me of what a problem we have.”
Mandy Patinkin and Shaun Toub’s great acting can’t save the episode though. Aside from the lazy plotting and Lockhart, the greatest problem with this episode, and with “Homeland” as a whole this season, is that it is turning into just another spy show. Without the Carrie/Brody dynamic “Homeland” has lost it’s spark. After “Gerontion” I can easily imagine following seasons focusing on one particular terrorist big bad and Saul and Carrie on the hunt. It might not be a terrible show, but it’s not unique. Unfortunately since “Homeland” is on Showtime, it looks like that’s the kind of okay-but-not-great show we’ll be watching for many seasons to come.
My Rating: 6/10