'Homeland' Survives Improbable Plot Twists


In my late September preview of the second season of "Homeland," I expressed some concern that Showtime's Emmy-winning political thriller might start resorting to improbable plot twists in order to keep our pulses racing. There was a fear that it could become more like "24," a show that constantly forced us to suspend disbelief, if not completely double over in laughter.

As it turns out, those fears were legitimate -- to an extent.

"Homeland," which was developed in part by former "24" producer Howard Gordon, still features much more psychological texture than its action-oriented spy show predecessor. But lately it seems to be adopting some odd "24"-like traits.

For example, this season's subplot involving Nicholas Brody's (Damian Lewis) daughter in a hit-and-run accident recalls the sadly comical Kim Bauer-in-trouble plot twists that constantly fueled the fire of "24" critics. The "Homeland" development isn't so nearly out there as the "24" episode that had Kim running into a cougar in the forest, but anything that even reminds us of that absurd twist can't be good.

This season "Homeland" has had its share of implausible plot contrivances as its writers strain to keep all of their plates in the air. At first they amounted to mainly slight annoyances -- that is, until last Sunday's pacemaker development, which just felt terribly wrong and had us rolling our eyes the whole time.

I won't go into any detail about this twist because, Lord knows, I'll have a few latecomers slam me for spoiling the episode for them. I'll just say that, fthings I read, the development was, indeed, technically possible. But the way it was carried out seemed preposterous for a series that gets so much credit for being intelligent and mature.

That's not to say that "Homeland," which airs its season finale Dec. 16, hasn't been an enjoyable ride. It will surely be included in my Top 10 list that I'll issue at the end of the year.

It's just that the show is usually better when it focuses on its character moments -- the twisted romance between Brody and Carrie (Claire Danes), the psychological chess games, the philosophical disagreements. Along those lines, it was fascinating to watch Carrie's face-to-face interplay with terrorist leader Abu Nazir, a man who had mostly lurked in the dark shadows up until now.

It's when "Homeland" tries to ramp up the spy-game action sequences that it begins to develop a "24"-like limp.

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