Why the Season 2 Finale of Homeland is both Awesome and a Cop-out
Homeland has been all the craze for the last year or two. For good reason – I loved it despite and because the speed of the story development from episode to episode has been utterly glacial. The very slow development from one episode to another makes this the perfect show for lovers of cliffhangers.
But leaving that aside, I both loved the last season 2 episode and abhorred it. What I loved:
- The twist of how the hunter becomes the hunted. It turns the mechanic of the entire show around. Carrie vs Brody (which in season 2 became Carrie and the system vs Brody and then Carrie, the system and Brody vs the terrorists) is now the system vs Carrie and Brody (what about the terrorists?).
- How all the open loops were tied up neatly. The main villain is dead. Carrie and Brody live happily ever after in her cabin. The assassin’s hit on Brody is called off (by the assassin no less!). Mike and Brody’s family can move in together at last.
However the big explosion at the CIA is a cop-out. Why? Because it does not fit thematically with the rest of the show… at all. The entire show is built around a cat-and-mouse game of the good guys vs the bad guys. The CIA and Carrie (and on occasion Brody) are always a step behind the terrorists (and on occasion Brody). They never have the full picture, but they have some information. They are always close on the heels of the terrorists.
The explosion at the CIA was never hinted at. They had no information about it. But it was necessary to propel the story onward onto the new track of the Brody-manhunt. Without it, the series could have ended there, and it would have been fine.
In other words…. the attack on the CIA is a use of deus ex machina. (Note that this does not mean literally “A god from the machine” in the sense of intelligent machines or the like. It refers to Greek plays in which, when the protagonist is faced with an unsolvable situation, that situation is resolved with a contrived and somewhat alien intervention from outside the established play universe. In other words, by the use of an act of god. Which in ancient Greek times required a type of machine to make possible.)
The fact that the attack on the CIA was completely unforeseen can of course be chalked up to lacking intelligence efforts. Shit happens, and even the most sophisticated intelligence agency might overlook not just hints but an entire attack. Except… that has not been established in the Homeland universe. In the show that we have been watching, the CIA always has some idea of what has been going on. As the film critic HULK has pointed out, a plot hole is “when there is a crucial gap or inconsistency in a storyline (as presented) that prevents the proper functioning of the plot or central characterization (as presented)”. The “clueless” CIA caught with their pants down is a clear inconsistency with the established normality of the CIA being hot on the terrorists’ toes at all times.