There's been a lot of talk this year about endings: what's a good ending, what's a bad ending, and when is it just time? Breaking Bad and Dexter have served as twin poles here, the former ending at the height of its run both creative- and ratings-wise, while latter limped toward the finish line after years of steadily declining quality. Homeland may only be three seasons in, but Showtime, having just renewed it for a fourth, should take note: some stories just aren't meant to go on indefinitely. Rather than stretch the show beyond all interest and credulity, the writers should start thinking about their eventual endgame.
From the start, Homeland was built on a fairly limited premise: CIA agent Carrie Mathison has a hunch that POW Nicholas Brody has been turned into a sleeper agent, and it's up to her to expose him before it's too late. It's the stuff of a two-hour movie, or maybe a Robert Ludlum novel, and the first season-and-a-half of Homeland is taut, suspenseful entertainment. Somewhere, though, things started going off the rails. The second season, with its emphasis on the Carrie/Brody romance, ended up feeling like a slightly-less-believable retread, and even when Brody started working for the CIA there was a sense that the show was spinning its wheels.
Now, with Damien Lewis returning in only limited capacity, the show has gone the Dexter route of emphasizing its supporting characters in an attempt to fill the void, and maybe become a slightly different kind of show--the kind that can go on and on forever as long as the ratings are up to spec. Here's the problem: we only care about these characters because of their connection to Brody. Without him, we have no reason to be invested in Dana's boyfriend problems, or Jessica's knitting circle, or whatever the writers are batting around this week. Twin Peaks fans will remember how the show atomized into a million side stories of varying interest levels after it solved its central mystery; they'll also remember that, by that point, almost nobody watched it.
So, what to do? Rolling Stone's Sean T. Collins espouses killing Brody, and there's something to that--killing him off would free the writers up to tell whatever kind of story they wanted, and at least temporarily give Homeland the appearance of being a show, like Game of Thrones, where no character is safe. But if we've learned anything this season, it's that the stories the writers come up with outside of the Brody-Carrie-Saul trinity just aren't very interesting. They'd be better off setting an end-date for the series a la Lost and writing toward a conclusion that pulls the series back into the focus as a thriller that's, you know, actually about something. Fall guy or not, we still need to see Brody answer for the havoc he's wreaked on both personal and geopolitical levels, and even the whole Carrie romance thing might start to feel as if it has actual consequences (as opposed to pretend consequences).
What do you think? Should Homeland start wrapping things up, or do you think it's good for another two, three...how many seasons did Dexter run, again? Tell us below.