Part of what made Season 1 of “Homeland” so engaging was the big question mark over the head of Damian Lewis‘ character. Was he a terrorist like Carrie (Claire Danes) claimed? Was it all in her head? After a season’s worth of back-and-forth tension, the fact that the Season 1 finale showed Brody to be the man Carrie thought he was, though she wasn’t able to prove him guilty, was a perfect twist.
“Homeland” took its time resolving that storyline in Season 2, with Carrie starting to see the good in Brody after his capture and interrogation instead of the bad. She was crazy and she loved him, and we as an audience dug that. But Brody’s journey to being a hero should have happened in Season 2, and not been dragged out through the entirety of Season 3.
Sometimes it’s hard for a show to realize when a character or a premise has overstayed its welcome. But the biggest flaws in “Homeland’s” second and third season involve keeping Brody around — and thus keeping the criticized Jess and Dana around as well — far past his expiration date. As Lewis himself speculates, it feels like showrunners Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon wrote themselves into a corner with the character by making him too big to kill off and too powerful to keep around.
So why should Brody have been killed off in Season 2? Because there was no hope for him in Season 3. Though “Homeland” often delves into fantastical versions of what are supposed to be grounded stories, there was never any way Brody was going to come back from being named the man America thought was behind the Langley bombing. Only Carrie, in her often delusional state, could see that actually happening, as even Saul seemed resigned to the fact that Brody had no future in the United States.
Once that threshold of no coming back was crossed, it was too late for Brody. Maybe the writers realized that too late, or maybe they just wanted another season to let Lewis do his Emmy-winning thing (according to reports, Showtime did as well). After all, why kill of your main character who draws your show such critical acclaim?
For the sake of story, of course. What “Homeland” gained by keeping Brody around it lost in its plot. While Season 1 kept viewers glued to the television set with its question mark and Season 2 kept people interested with the Brody resolution, all Season 3 did was build up to Brody’s death. The build up to Brody’s sendoff, according to Gansa, was the entire point of Season 3. That was a mistake.
If this past season had been “Homeland’s” last, it would have been perfect. Many people felt that “The Star” acted more as a series finale than a season finale, with few loose ends left and the 20-minute epilogue acting as a fitting wrap up for the surviving characters. But “Homeland” will go on in a Season 4, and that’s what was messed up about keeping Brody alive only to kill him off.
Season 3 ground to a halt in its finale, and now the show will have a complete reboot in 2014. Even the writers don’t know what direction they’re going to take the show yet, which is a bit disconcerting. But it’s a pretty big gamble to bring your entire story to an end only to try to revitalize it the following year. Will “Homeland” ever be able to regain the momentum of Season 1? It’s going to take a lot of effort to get people revved up and invested again.
If Brody had been killed off in Season 2 — or even before that — then the momentum could have been kept alive. “Homeland’s” fatal flaw in Seasons 2 and 3 was the belief that the show needed to be about Brody to keep people interested. Now Brody is gone and the show will have to move on without him anyway, but only after proving to people that “Homeland” really did depend on its tormented Marine.
By keeping Brody around so long to the point that viewers were frustrated with the twists and turns needed to keep his character relevant, he long outstayed his welcome. Brody deserved the send off that he got, it just should have come ages ago.