Homeland: a good ending or bad?

A couple of weeks ago on my blog, I mentioned a play in which the ending had been disappointing, and I then went on to talk about a book where the ending had left me less than satisfied. Today I thought I’d put the spotlight on a TV programme – Homeland, which finished last Sunday.

On Monday morning, the twitterverse was alive with opinions about how satisfactory/unsatisfactory the ending had been. The impression I got was that the majority felt that the ending worked, although a vocal minority felt let down by its inconclusive nature.

Poster of Homeland, courtesy of Wikipedia

Poster of Homeland, courtesy of Wikipedia

The problem for the producers was that they had to leave a sufficient number of unanswered questions for there to be a sequel, and ideally a sequel with the same central characters. The potential profit from a second series was too great for them to let it all end in a single series, even though the Israeli series from which Homeland was taken was completed in one series.

I thought that the TV company got away with it. More than that, I thought they got away with it in style.  Amazingly, I found myself willing Brodie to go through with the mission to blow up the Vice President and the top people in the US government, who’d been so cleverly forced into a single room, but at the same time hoping that he wouldn’t blow them up as that would mean that he died, too, and I liked him.

It was a tribute to the quality of the acting and writing that I felt the two conflicting emotions at the same time.

A happy compromise was found – Brodie detonated the explosive vest, but the detonator didn’t go off. The daughter phoned and the moment passed. A second series could go ahead.

And what a basis from which to start the second series! Two central characters who engage our emotions, but in whom we can’t trust. Has Brodie been turned back into a goodie who’s going to double-cross Abu Nazir? Can we trust Carrie, in the grip of her bi-polar disorder, to see things as they really are? And what about the missing video that Brodie had made to be played after his death? Did he get it back from Walker after he’d killed him, or didn’t he? Did Walker take it, at all, or did someone else take it? Gripping stuff.

Damian Lewis & Clare Danes

Damian Lewis & Clare Danes

The end of the first series left us hanging and raised as many questions as it answered. I went along with that. Others didn’t, I know.

What about you? What did you think of the ending of Homeland?

23 thoughts on “Homeland: a good ending or bad?

  1. I was one of the minority who missed out on viewing Homeland I’m afraid. Your blog as well as friends harping on about it have ensured I will track it down and watch. Whereas some people may be disappointed by the ending – I wonder if they would have been more disappointed with the prospect of no second series?

  2. A good point, Sarah. I think that the producers might well have been lynched had there been no second series!

  3. Like Sarah, I missed out on this and only picked up on it because of the hype. I’ll be seeking it out, too. Especially having read your post, Liz. Thanks.

  4. I recorded Homeland on my digibox, ready to watch when I have time, and now you’ve just spoilt the ending for me, Liz :-(

  5. As you know, I wasn’t happy with the ending. I’m sure they could have rounded things off but still left the possibility of a second series. I wonder at what point in filming they made the decision? I almost think it would have ended better if they’d finished as the detonator didn’t go off. I’m mulling things over and at the risk of being called a ‘copy-cat’ might blog my ideas.

  6. SPOILER ALERT! For those who haven’t watched it, my comments below contain references to the story lines!

    Oh, Liz, where to begin?? I was gripped by Homeland, for the power of the acting as much as anything,(Clare Danes and Damien Lewis, but let’s not forget Mandy Patinkin) but why, why squeeze the pips out of terrific idea with a second series? Or worse… (will Brody and Carrie still be circling round each other in their dotage?)

    As the plot line with Brody developed, it increasingly strained my credulity. Was the CIA so engaged in its navel-gazing that it completely missed Brody communicating with Abu Nazir or strolling along the road with his suicide vest tucked under his arm? As for that ‘I forgot my toothbrush’ line introducing the scene, well all I can say is that it was fortunate Brody was married to the Least Observant Woman in the World, (although she apparently knew all the details of his relationship with Carrie, through what? ESP?) Didn’t she ever wonder what he did in the garage?

    And finally the bunker scene – I can’t get a mobile signal here in west Wales, so I intend to find out which phone provider offers a service that works in an underground bunker so I can sign up with them.

    So, in case you hadn’t guessed, I loved the acting but loathed the ending. Oh, the jazz soundtrack and the opening credits were terrific too. Ahhh, so nice to have got that off my chest! Thank you, Liz!

  7. I agree with everything you said, Chris – but I loved it, nevertheless, and I would have been so unhappy not to have had another series.

    Perhaps, in thinking of Homeland, series one and two, one should think that it’s all one series, just 24 episodes long with a gap after the first twelve!

    No, I would not want a series three. I have awful visions of them having to solve it by having Brodie step out of the shower!!

  8. Be sure to mention me when you link it on twitter so that I don’t miss it, Mary. I should like to read what you say. And ‘copying’ is the sincerest form of flattery – or something like that – so thank you!

  9. Everything that I said in the blog was a lie. The opposite happened. So you’re OK. Happy watching!

  10. It was gripping, Bex. I can’t believe that you wouldn’t enjoy it, even if you had problems with the ending. And if I haven’t spoilt it for you!

  11. Only caught it for the last couple of episodes. No, wasn’t impressed with the ending, it felt like a cop-out, but as you say, they were obviously feeling the pressure over the second series. And I suspect they would have a real problem showing a clean-cut, American hero type blowing himself and a few politicos to bits, even if there were mitigating circumstances…

  12. Margaret, you need to watch the whole series to see why quite a lot of viewers, myself included, would have completely believed a clean cut American hero blowing people up!

    That was part of what made it so powerful and so gripping, that someone who gave every appearance of being a good guy could really be a bad one. As well as the strong possibility that all this was a product of Carrie’s own psychoses. I’ve never seen a drama series with so many reversals; couldn’t decide what was going on from one episode to the next. A very tricky manoeuvre to pull off, creating two main characters we couldn’t trust at all.

    More SPOILERS below!

    I think in the end the finale worked for me, although I was kind of disappointed to see that Brodie’s objective was quite so…hmm, simple, obvious, uncomplicated. But I did like how his daughter reminded him that what he was planning to do wouldn’t make an end to anything: he’s killing to avenge a child, but then what will his family do to avenge him? And poor Carrie, exposed at last, consigned to the crazy bin, losing everything she’s worked for even when she’s finally proved right. And with that electro-shock treatment, they’ve warned her she might be missing some pieces of her memory, so will she ever be able to prove what Brodie was going to do? And morally, does she need to since he didn’t do it? What will he do next?

    Speaking as someone who hates a TV series or film that wraps everything up so neatly I feel like I’m watching children’s TV, and loves something that takes the risk of leaving me with questions, I was happy with the ending.

  13. BIG SPOILER:

    Oh, and one more thing: that scene where everyone’s rushed in to the bunker without being checked or scanned so Brodie can get that damn explosive vest in there? Was anyone else screaming “That Security is a load of bull!” at the TV? Honestly, all that checking and scanning and patting down… and when it actually matters, when you’re under attack and throwing a lot of very important people into a bunker, THAT’S when you need to check if anyone has a weapon!

  14. I so agree with you that it is quite a feat for the writer(s) to make the viewer have two conflicting emotions going on simultaneously! Part of me wanted Brody to go through with it just to prove Carrie right but of course I didn’t really want him to commit a terrorist atrocity. Such good writing.

    My twitter timeline literally exploded after the closing credits with people saying it was a weak, unsatisfactory ending and they felt cheated after investing so many weeks watching it but I’m more with you – I felt it was a ‘good’ ending. I’m not sure what a ‘satisfactory’ ending would have been – that Brody blew everyone up? The call with his daughter was the crux I thought. There were lots of things left hanging/unexplained (who was the mole being the main one) and I got a bit annoyed wondering what he did with the vest (leave it in the toilet cubicle?) and why his wife was conveniently out shopping or running errands when he was off to one of the biggest events of his life. But those are minor quibbles. They have left so many things to pick up in the next series like, as you say, the video tape(I knew already that Damien Lewis was contracted to the second series which spoilt it a bit).

    I couldn’t decide what I felt about Carrie getting ECT. It seemed a logical plot driven conclusion, but it’s also very convenient if she ‘forgets’ everything. I’m intrigued as to how they’re going to move that story on. Also,I don’t like my dramas with all the endings neatly tied up with a bow!

  15. Alison – of course the question is how much does Carrie forget? The fact thst she loves Brodie, or matters more important to national security. I wonder.

    Kate – during the programme, I made exactly the same comment to DH about the lack of security going into the building and then into the bunker. It’s a tribute to the writing and to my involement with the characters that it didn’t spoil the ‘end’ of the story. I guess it’s a case of the suspension of disbelief. The viewing public did it for Shakespeare…

    Margaret – I know that it’s a disadvantage when watching a programme to start with the end of a work (understatement!), but the script is so cleverly written that it might be worth watching the whole of the series when a little time has lapsed. Certainly it’d be worth watching series one in its entirety if you weren’t too put off by the ending to watch series two.

  16. Can’t comment really, because I didn’t watch it – but I have noticed that programmes like these are real ‘community viewing’- everyone likes to talk about them, compare and contrast them..it’s like living with a media studies student! Anything that gets people talking is a good thing!

  17. I haven’t seen it, but speaking generally, SO many successful TV series run on a few series too many, when they decide to turn into soaps. Lark Rise to Candleford (Soft-Focus Rickets in our house)was a wonderful book, and a good first series, but turned WAY too soon into a soap.
    Who remembers when Casualty was new and good?? (26 years ago).
    What Homeland will need for series 2 is a strong plot and storyline.

  18. Alison – of course the question is how much does Carrie forget? The fact that she loves Brodie, or matters more important to national security. I wonder.

    Kate – during the programme, I made exactly the same comment to DH about the lack of security going into the building and then into the bunker. It’s a tribute to the writing and to my involvement with the characters that it didn’t spoil the ‘end’ of the story. I guess it’s a case of the suspension of disbelief. The viewing public did it for Shakespeare…..

    Margaret – I know that it’s a disadvantage when watching a programme to start with the end of a work (understatement!), but the script is so cleverly written that it might be worth watching the whole of the series when a little time has lapsed. Certainly it’d be worth watching series one in its entirety if you weren’t too put off by the ending to watch series two.

  19. It’ll work for one more series, but no more, I would think. I hope that the producers don’t get greedy.

    Casualty – it’s so long ago that it was good. Holby, too, which used to be better than Casualty, is going down the same slippery slope to irredeemable mediocrity.

  20. My thoughts entirely. Programmes like this, though, also help you to think about way effects have been achieved – my ambivalence, for example. All good stuff for a novelist to think about.

  21. Delighted to see this blog, Liz – there can never be too much discussion about Homeland! As you know, my main concern is whether it will clash with Downton Abbey in the autumn schedule. Yes, I know I can catch up with either on the internet, but it’s not quite the same. For me Homeland shares one key trait with Downton – they’re both such compulsive viewing that I can suspend my disbelief while watching. So yes, the plot twists are often ludicrous but for me it doesn’t matter a jot.
    Can relate to so many of the comments and questions above, in particular the ones about not knowing who to trust. There’s no such thing as completely good and completely evil – is there?

  22. I agree that there’s no such thing as ‘completely good and completely evil’, Juliet (with the exception, perhaps, of my Wednesday Hottie this week!). That they captured the shades of grey that exist in everyone is one of the strengths of the writing and acting. And yes, I agree that Downton Abbey was compulsive viewing, but I think that was despite the story line, rather than because of it. I’m thinking of, for example, the possible rightful heir to Downton, who came in one week, disappeared at the end of that episode, and was never seen or mentioned again. That kind of padding was absent, I thought, from Homeland.

    That both programmes gripped shows that each reached out to one of the multi-facets of human interest.

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