When the first series of Homeland ended last year I was exhausted. Every week, after every episode, I felt like I’d been rolling rocks up a mountainside. I was worn out, but a good worn out. It was a pleasant feeling: I had been taxed and challenged, I had been toyed with and teased, rugs had been laid on the slippery floors of my perceptions only to be pulled away when I least expected. So yes, I loved Homeland – it was wonderful and I never, ever wanted to set eyes on any of the characters again.
This was, on the face of it, a strange reaction, I can see that. But that first series of Homeland was the perfect story; though it dealt with huge, pressing, worldwide issues of politics and terrorism, it was really at its heart a doomed romance. Obsessed, driven and, as we have discussed before on this page, damaged CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) fell heavily and hard for marine Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). But was he good or was he bad? He had been returned to the US after being held captive by al-Qaeda for eight years. But had he been turned by those very captors? Was he now a sleeper terrorist planning an atrocity? Week by week Homeland teased us; he was a good guy, surely. Oh, no he wasn’t. Or perhaps, yes, he was. And so it went on, thrillingly and enjoyably.
Meanwhile, Carrie was thrown and torn; she loved him but in her heart she knew he wished to do evil things to her beloved country. She wanted to believe the best of him, but she couldn’t. Yet she still loved him. Despite a cop-out ending, I thought Homeland was the most perfectly tooled and the most exquisite of thrillers/romances. It didn’t need a second series.
Of course, that second series is now on Channel 4 (Sundays, 9:00pm). I like it, I watch every week and enjoy it, but it’s not Homeland. It might have the same characters, but let me say again it’s not Homeland. Homeland was a small, painfully intimate story about two people in a chaotic world. It was about trust, betrayal and love.
This Homeland is bigger, Brody is involved in US politics at the highest level. But, no, it’s not Homeland; for a start Carrie and Brody didn’t set eyes on each other until episode four.
Of course it was inevitable that Homeland would become caught in the trap of its own success and it would be a brave network indeed that would say, “OK, that was brilliant and was a huge hit but we won’t do any more because that first series was the perfect story.” But unnecessary second series always dilute what you loved. Now that we know Brody is a thorough meanie we also know we can’t trust a word he says, while Carrie is just becoming annoying. Turn it down a notch, love. You’ve been proved right so put your feet up.
Much of the tension has gone. Series one made us walk a tightrope because so much was at stake; we didn’t know exactly what, but we knew it was big. Second time around it’s becoming too exhausting to get worked up into any kind of heightened state about the outcome. We’ve been through that before and it felt too good.