‘Homeland’: A Compelling Con or A Simple Course Correction?

Published 1 year ago by

Claire Danes and Martin Donovan in Homeland Game On Homeland: A Compelling Con or A Simple Course Correction?

[This is a review of Homeland Season 3, Episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]


Whether one is perpetrated on the characters within the story, the show’s audience, or both, people seem to enjoy when a long con is revealed to have come to fruition. That enjoyment is one of the reasons movies like The Sting and The Usual Suspects (among many others) became such a part of the pop-culture landscape at the time of their release (the decades between said releases indicates something about the enduring popularity of the long con as a story element).

The thing is: When it’s revealed that the proverbial wool has been pulled over the audiences’ eyes, it generally then becomes a game of retracing the steps to see when and where things happened and how well they fit together. And sometimes the viewer needs to check and see how much of what came before is negated by the reveal, in terms of rendering important narrative moments somewhat pointless.

In the case of Homeland revealing Carrie and Saul had been collaborating in order to draw out the Iranian terrorist who ordered the hit on Langley, the further back you go, the more it strains credulity and the more of the season it seems to negate. The writers (i.e., Alex Gansa) may be able to point out certain dramatic moments early on (like the end of episode 2) and say how they can now be reinterpreted, but if it’s not clear without the aid of their commentary – or, in this case, entirely convincing with it – then it’s probably a good idea to question the strength of what has transpired.

So, the question, then, may be: How much does the actual con walk the line between being truly captivating and being a cut-rate bit of course correction? It’s safe to say that depending on your feelings on Homeland season 3, and your concern as to when and how the details of the con occurred, your acceptance of it will vary dramatically. As mentioned above, the further back it goes, the more it seems to become troublesome. (Again, your mileage on that may vary.)

Nazanin Boniadi and Mandy Patinkin in Homeland Game On Homeland: A Compelling Con or A Simple Course Correction?

That’s not to say that in the course of ‘Game On’ the elements of the con were executed poorly, because there was a great deal of tension early on with regard to the rather desperate situation Carrie found herself in, after being suddenly released on furlough from the mental hospital at the behest of Bennett (Martin Donovan). Additionally, when the reveal happened and Carrie was standing in front of Saul, tearfully accepting his praise on a job well done, there was a flash of the relationship between the two that had gone missing this season and it was a terrific moment to have it back.

Regardless any questions that might stem from the specifics of the game Carrie and Saul were playing, in terms of dramatic moments, ‘Game On’ delivered some terrific bits about their characters that will likely reinforce them for some time to come. Carrie’s warning to Saul about leaving her in the institution was handled wonderfully by Danes, but the most compelling part of the episode belongs to Saul. Although it’s clear he cares about Carrie and trusts her a great deal, we definitely get the sense that there is nothing and no one he wouldn’t sacrifice in order to get closer to the people he’s trying to hunt down.

If this is the kind of elaborate ruse Saul is able to pull off, then no terrorist in the world is safe.


Homeland continues next Sunday with ‘The Yoga Play’ @9pm on Showtime. Check out a preview below:

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  1. I am enjoying this season actually. I thought the con was a good idea.

    • Same here.

  2. I’ve been pretty disappointed with this season so far, not to say this show isn’t still very watchable, but it’s getting to the point for me personally where I’m no longer as excited to see it as i was in the previous two seasons. They have way over played their Dana card to the point where I actually role my eyes at her scenes. While the first couple of episodes did a good job of fooling me i saw the set up coming last episode when the lawyer came to see her, as well as the Venezuela connection. they need to get back to the basics with Brody, Carrie, Etc.

  3. Hm… I think it just about got away with it. It is something we are seeing a lot of in movies recently, mainly pertaining to the bad guy and the dramatic revelation he has allowed himself to get caught. Yet to see a coherent example of it not utterly wrecking the logic of the movie (‘Skyfall’ could not be rescued after such nonsense. But then, I wasn’t enjoying it greatly to begin with).

    The truth about ‘Homeland’ is this. It needed it. All 4 episodes have tried to erase S2 from our heads and present the memory of S1 as a gesture of goodwill on the part of the audience. The last 5 minutes last night was as close as they have got. I did not see it coming. I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that was even possible (when considering Carrie’s past). Yes, there is now a number of scenes that do not lend themselves to reinterpretation from whatever angle. But…

    Considering Carrie’s primary motivation here is not that of Saul and the CIA, you can just about conclude enough sense and reason for it to work. Just. But as I said, the show needed it. Badly. An episode of drift to complement the previous 3 episodes of drift. Fingers crossed then we are moving on to something better.

  4. Season 1 of Homeland was one of the most compelling seasons of any show I’d ever seen. Then, season 2 came and was a major letdown. Not to say it was awful or anything, but compared to season 1 it just couldn’t live up. Now, into season 3, I feel they have recaptured the magic from S1. I was definitely shocked by that twist and it got me thinking about the scheme they hatched after the explosion.

    Simply put; welcome back Homeland!!!

    • I don’t see S3 to have quite captured the magic of S1. Dana’s storyline is the major issue holding this season back.

      • Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this season is as good as season 1, but it’s still one of the best shows on TV. I remember how excited I was each Sun. during the first season and now I’m getting back to that point. I also think the Dana story is the weak link, but I have faith they will go somewhere with it. I mean, the kid may have killed his brother. There is a mystery similar to whether Brody was a terrorist in season 1.

    • I”m happy you specifically didn’t say S2 was awful or anything, because A LOT of people were severely let down by last season, i thoroughly enjoyed it, was it as good as S1? No, but that Season was so godly it’s almost unfair to compare.

      I’ve really enjoyed this season so far, and I TOTALLY understand everyone’s disgust with the Dana storyline, I was actually fine with it up until this episode, because there was actual story prgression and it didn’t feel aimless,it also made sense with her character, but this particular episode i felt like for how little actual story was given (just the tidbit of him possibly? maybe? sorta? killed his brother) there was virtually no story progression, and they were given major screen time, far too many shows have a hard time (especially ones like these with SO many storylines to juggle) distributing appropriate screentime for certain frankly secondary storylines. Basically if they would of simply showed Dana breaking him out, swapping the car, and shown simply that cemetery scene (albeit edited down, was too long) and totally removed the final scene together in the car, i would of appreciated their storyline A LOT more.

  5. I won’t say I saw it coming but I also won’t say I’m surprised. One thing that I kinda call BS on was the whole “Fúck you, Saul.” in the hospital. If she were really under the influence of the kind of drugs she was given could she have really acted that out so well? Also, when she was watching Saul talking to that committee she seemed genuinely upset. Was that for our benefit, the audience, or did she believe she was under surveillance? I’d like to hear an explaniation from the writers, producers, or somebody who had something to do with it just to see…

    • And precisely… The F You Saul, whose benefit was that for.

      No consistency.

      I say F You Homeland

      And no interview covering their huge fake twist will be believed by anyone with a 3 digit IQ

  6. That was intense. Also, it seems like the con was planned way before the first ep and now that I think about it, the whole Carrie gone ballistic in the restaurant scene seem like it was staged.

    And the kid from Dexter and Dana’s storyline…uggh. They should just keep his name from Dexter since it’s the same character.

  7. Oh Homeland, you tricky little devils you. I have to admit though that I loved the twist.
    Personally I didn’t see it coming. Heck even after the plan was revealed I thought it was maybe a dream or something Carrie was imagining even the way Saul was talking to her made me think something was up.
    Since watching the episode I’ve been trying to poke holes in the plot and so far I think it stands up. Even when you think about the things Carrie did when she was alone with no one watching when you think about her disease and how this plan would effect someone in her condition it makes sense.

    A bit off topic but I also want to mention something else.
    I bashed the show pretty hard last season when it came to the plan to kill the VP via his pacemaker. I thought it was silly and a pretty lame route to go.
    Well low and behold I was watching 60 Minutes Sunday night and they were doing a story about Dick Cheney and all his health problems and sure enough they talk about how when he had his pacemaker implanted a very real concern was somebody doing exactly what happened on Homeland and the doctors had to modify his pacemaker to make sure no one can hack into it and cause a heart attack.
    The whole idea still sounds pretty nuts but I was bashing the show pretty hard because I thought the whole thing was the dumbest idea I ever heard.
    So oooops, my bad. ;)

    • The show’s creators did an interview with EW and they were saying that Carrie did and does still think the meds effect her job performance too much. It was a good interview and went into how Saul and Carrie began planning this in the days after the bombing in secret. They knew that it was the perfect way to play all of the events in their favor. The link is below. I recommend it to any Homeland fan.


  8. A total insult and a mockery the 4th episode was.

    Why was Carrie banging her head against the mirror if she knew it was a ruse and was collaborating with Saul all the time.

    Why did her car disappear.

    Why the phonecall finding out she was being listened to., when looking for the van.

    A total pile of dirt and a clear indication the writers foot know what’s happening with last minute rewrites.

    Biggest failure I’ve watched in a series that I enjoyed.