Homeland, Season 2

What the Critics Said About "In Memoriam"
Talking television.
Dec. 10 2012 11:43 AM

Homeland, Season 2

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

This show treats plot the way Kobayashi treats hot dogs.

Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody

Photograph by Kent Smith/Showtime.

As we close in on the final episode of Season 2, the critics are split between Team Action and Team Emotion. On one side are folks like Vulture’s Ben Williams, who tweeted, “Homeland could have been a great show about post-9/11 surveillance state. Instead it's about star-crossed lovers.” Esquire’s Alex Berenson also complained about the way Season 2 did to storylines what Kobayashi does to hot dogs:

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

Viewers of premium cable have grown to expect long, drawn-out plots, episodes that milk maximum drama with a minimum of forward movement. Homeland went a different route this year, blowing up viable storylines for seemingly no reason. In theory, the show's writers might deserve kudos for choosing to run at a higher metabolism. In fact, though, Homeland flailed wildly this season, showing why cable is paced the way it is. Tossing a story that's working only makes sense if you can replace it with something better, and Homeland couldn't.

The pro-character position is best summarized by Time’s James Poniewozik who said:

Advertisement

Right now, Homeland is a show that I feel deeply and have a hard time taking seriously. It’s a show that has a fantastic sense of who its characters are, but all that gets undermined by the outlandish things it needs its characters to do. Its impulses to tell a great human story are feeling more and more at war with the need to keep those humans on TV for many seasons, if possible.

Several writers praised the scenes Fred Kaplan and I focused on last night: Carrie’s interrogation of Roya and Brody and Jess’ front-seat heart-to-heart. HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall highlighted a few of the great moments:

It gave us Brody's complicated reaction to the news of Nazir's death, and his family's uncertain reaction to him. And it gave us that perfect moment in Carrie's interrogation with Roya where Roya forced Carrie to recognize that anyone who can ascend to this level of importance in Nazir's organization isn't going to be reduced to tears by a few minutes of empathetic conversation. Again and again, when Homeland takes a break from moving from one thing to the next to the next and simply stops to think about how these people would actually feel about what's happening around them, it's a great show. But when it's creating the events for them to react to, it's ... Nazir as Michael Myers.

The episode’s other great sequence was Saul’s interrogation, which—like Carrie’s scuffle in the dark with Nazir—played like a horror movie, but this one directed by Kafka. Here is Saul—who we know from season one has a history of failing polygraphs—hooked up to a machine, trapped into telling truths that will empower David Estes to make him look like a liar. Saul’s abject, righteous fury … was impeccable and bracing. The injustice and claustrophobia of his circumstance is so much more terrible and oppressive and so much more genuinely frightening than Carrie’s stabby exchange with Nazir.

Finally, a word about the title of last night’s episode. It was originally listed as “The Mother… With the Turban*,” but it was changed to “In Memoriam.” (So that’s why there was no Chris Rock cameo.) I’m with James Poniewozik on this: “[T]hat’s the most insane decision Homeland has made all year.”

*Correction Dec. 10, 2012: The original title of this episode was "The Mother... With the Turban," as I wrote last night, not "The Mother... With the Hat," as I mistakenly wrote earlier this morning.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.