Over the past ten years or so I’ve read a number of articles, and in most cases agreed, that Showtime has a habit of keeping shown on past their prime, sometimes well past. Now I may not be the best person to posit this theory because the Showtime shows that I enjoy in general are few and far between. However Homeland is one show that I will rise to defend.
Homeland would have been an excellent mini-series if there had been only one season. Even the first two seasons combined would have still made for a strong showing. But life isn’t about strong showings and ever escalating violence. Life is a series of ups and downs, and to borrow from another excellent show, Low Winter Sun, morality is perhaps at best a flashing strobe light. These are the issues that Homeland chose to confront in its inexorable television march forward.
Homeland never did quite recapture the glory of its first two seasons but it’s writers and producers chose not to fade into obscurity either. Any casual viewer can find relations to modern day events within its themes. If people tuned out Homeland it was because it was indeed too relevant. Its themes strike just a little too close to home and remind us of the very flawed and very real world that we live in.
If I had to compare another show on TV to Homeland it might be Mr. Robot. The difference is that Mr. Robot was so wild and fantastical that it becomes exactly that – a work of fantasy. Homeland chose to stay in the real world. In the real world things don’t stop once the more exciting bits are over. Life keeps going. Vigilance against evil requires it to be a part of a national conversation. It deserves that.
Brace yourself, this is not going to be a negative review. It will, in point of fact, likely come close to being a glowing review. True Detective is an anthology series, a hurdle in and of itself for some people, something that is magnified by how the first season was received by most. Here is where my story begins to diverge from the norm. I found nothing spectacular in True Detective season one. Sure, the acting was good, the directing was great, yet somehow everything else was mediocre. Nothing that hadn’t been done before, here it had simply perhaps been perfected in a very commercial feeling sort of way. A sprawling story that centered around one simple ideal; two men who were indeed at heart – True Detectives. Yet it felt like it was being force fed to me, something that was a combination of so many elements that I simply couldn’t not watch. But that didn’t make it any better in my eyes, no credit is given there. Credit is only given for end quality, the end being me, the viewer.
Season two is a different beast with the same ideal behind it. Three characters who find themselves pushed to an extreme but who at heart remain detectives, attempting to solve a case long after they have all been reassigned. The characters in this season are even more damaged and in the end have more to lose, and do lose it. They fight a good fight and they make their enemies pay, but so do they. That is another key difference between the seasons, season 2’s protagonists don’t get to walk away with the relatively happy ending that the characters from season 1 enjoyed. We see them pay dearly for their choices and the ideals that they decide are important to them as individuals. Even more enjoyable, to me, was that I could see all the key moments that led them to make those decisions, rather than having them be recalled a la season 1.
I think that HBO and the creative team of True Detective got comfortable with the idea that they could make a smart show. Perhaps HBO forgot the sting that was actually airing The Wire, something I can understand because since that show went off the air it has received nothing but praise, from myself included. It is fans of The Wire who will find the most to enjoy in the second season of True Detective, its political intrigues and personal relationships are its driving force, accompanied by action, humor and everything else that comes along with a replication of life.
I also found the characters to be much more sympathetic and was able to relate to them as real people. I don’t know what that says about me but I know what I’m saying about the show. It touched me on an emotional level, something that a handful of other show have been able to do; The Wire, Mad Men, Ray Donovan and so on. Needless to say I hope that there is another season, but finding a storytelling medium between the two seasons. If anything my only true worry is that HBO will overreact and change directions too far and drive the fan base even further away.