Monday, October 15, 2012

Some Thoughts on Homeland and more TV


As you might have guessed from the lack of posts, I'm having some pretty busy weeks. So even if I still have to catch up with a lot of tv, here are some thoughts on a few shows. 

When I reviewed Homeland's second season premiere, "The Smile", I mentioned I expected the show to start focusing more on character now that it was in its sophomore season. "State of Independence" was clear proof of that. 

'Homeland' has had strong characterization and some terrific character moments in the past, but its first season was so tightly plotted it always seemed to me like the suspense came first. But the show has done a great job of strengthening the lead characters to the point where we can get an episode like the one we got last night. Saul finding a tape of Brody revealing his true nature at the end of the previous episode was one that will undoubtedly have a great impact on the show's overarching plot, but the show-runners have decided to follow the revelation with an episode based purely on our familiarity with Carrie's character. In her conversation last week with Saul, we were reminded how much the dismissal of her theory about Brody affected her and so we can have a scene as fantastic as the prolonged silent sequence in which she nearly kills herself when she realizes she is not being reaccepted into the CIA. Not to mention the incredibly emotional payoff to the episode in her last scene with Saul: "I was right", like the smile in the first episode, is as much an appropriate as a powerful close to an episode of television as we can get. 

We also get strong character dynamics in the Jessica/Brody storyline. Especially on Jessica's side, since she has to get up and give a speech about helping veterans just like her husband at the same time she thinks he is out sleeping with someone else. I expect more tension in the dynamic between Brody, his wife and his daughter going forward through the season. And while Brody was off doing what seemed like a very mission-of-the-week story, 'Homeland' remains as thrilling and exciting as it was in season one, just this time around we are anxiously expecting the characters' reactions more than the plot developments. 

What Else Did I Watch?

Like I said, I still have to catch up on a lot of stuff, but here are some shows I did have stuff to say about:

Modern Family: "Schooled" and "Snip"
After a so-so season opener, 'Modern Family' seems to be strongly getting back on track with two very good episodes. 'Schooled' was the best of the two, because it had Phil's hilarious wisdom book and a very well-earned emotional payoff to Hailey's departure to attend college. A focus into more deserved emotions instead of the auto-pilot of last season could bring 'MF' to the heights of its first year. 

The Mindy Project: "In The Club"
The best episode so far of 'The Mindy Project'. It seems like the show is finding itself better as an effective workplace comedy more than as the romantic comedy I was expecting based on Kaling's writing and the pilot. The episode didn't have much plot, but it had the characters doing fun stuff on a night out and proved to me I do want to spend time with these people every week.

How I Met Your Mother: "Who wants to be a Godparent?"
Probably the best 'HIMYM' this season, but also a very frustrating one. It did have a nice ending and there were some very funny jokes, but the whole game show shenanigans were way too similar to one of the best ever sitcom episodes: Friends' 'The One with the Embryos'. That episode was so effective because how what we knew about the characters informed the new things we learned about them during the game. In tonight's HIMYM, I didn't feel like I learned anything about the gang, it was just a fun way to throw in some jokes about their clearest characteristics. 

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