Homeland, Season 2

Homeland 2.2: Can We Suspend Our Disbelief Any Further? 
Talking television.
Oct. 8 2012 11:04 AM

Homeland, Season 2

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Great characters, but can we suspend our disbelief any further?

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland, Season 2, Episode 2.
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland

Photo by Ronen Akerman/Showtime.

For commenters and critics alike, the overwhelming response to this week’s episode of Homeland was that its creators are pushing the limits of plausibility. Commenter WhereIsSHE posted, “Love this show for the characters, but a little miffed at the obvious and rather large absurdities,” while naxself agrees with Fred Kaplan that the text from the Pentagon was a step too far, saying, “I can let most things slide, but that's just ridiculous.”

A couple of critics compared Homeland with Breaking Bad, whose most recent season was also dinged by the plausibility police. Writing in Vulture, New York’s Matt Zoller Seitz wished that Homeland “would take a cue from the more knowingly preposterous Breaking Bad, which at least had the grace to play scenes of Walter White mucking about in his DEA agent brother-in-law’s office with a wink that said, ‘We know this is a couple of steps up from a Pink Panther movie, but what the hell, it’s fun.’ ” Salon’s Willa Paskin also explored the comparison between those two shows:

[I]t’s not whether the storylines could really happen (because none of them could really happen), but whether the storylines seem like they could really happen in the totally fake world we’ve already bought into. … [H]ere are two series founded on myriad, bedrock implausibilities that only set off audience bullshit alarms with the misuse of relatively small-time coincidences. And yet, they sure do. With the suspension of disbelief stretched to the limit, every request for further suspension better be on point.

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Writing in Esquire.com, Alex Berenson pointed out a goof that does seem sloppy:

[W]hat time did that op against Nazir take place? Homeland didn't seem entirely sure. The clock on the wall in the situation room told us the time in D.C. was 23:22, past 11 p.m. But Brody and Walden were supposed to meet the Secretary of Defense during the day. And Beirut is seven hours ahead of D.C., so it would have been 6 a.m. in Beirut. But as far as I could tell from the scenes in Beirut, it was afternoon. This complaint may sound picayune and nitty, but going for realism means getting the details right. Including the timeline. Homeland can certainly afford someone to figure out that the scene in Beirut could have happened at 4 p.m. local, 1600. That would be 0900 in D.C., with Brody and Walden scheduled to meet the Defense Secretary over breakfast.

But the TV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff came back to what makes those dramatic stretches work. After acknowledging that the episode “nudges up against the point” of overusing coincidence, he flashed to the moment when Saul Berenson found Brody’s martyrdom video: “The second that tape started to play, I wasn’t thinking about coincidence or plot convenience … or anything like that. I was giddy. This was a show I loved, revealing that it wasn’t going to play safe this season.”

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

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