I’ve stuck with Showtime’s Homeland through three seasons of thick and very thin. To highlight one of the shallower reasons for doing so, see exhibit A: brooding yet hot CIA black ops guy Peter Quinn, played by British actor Rupert Friend. Other reasons — especially on a Sunday night when it competed with AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire — wore thinner and thinner as this third season, which concluded last night, wore on. It seemed that the main purpose of Homeland this year was to discover the new Showtime series in the next time slot, the skillfully written and acted Masters of Sex dramatizing how William Masters and Virginia Johnson chose and pursued their field of research (and each other).
But the main storyline this season gave me a sliver of hope that if President Obama finds out things by reading the morning paper, maybe he’d learn a bit about the Iranian regime as portrayed in some of Homeland‘s episodes. Regime stooge Majid Javadi, played by Tehran native Shaun Toub, is a brutal man who arrives in America to track down his ex-wife and kill her with a broken bottle to the throat after shooting his daughter-in-law to death — justified, he coolly reasons, because she broke Islamic law and fled from him. Javadi is later recruited as a double agent by the CIA with the hopes that he can go back and become commander of the Revolutionary Guards.
When Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) crosses the border into Iran on a CIA mission, he is lauded and paraded by the regime. The Tehran government is portrayed as welcoming a character accused of committing a large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil — after knocking him around a little bit to ensure he’s loyal to jihad — and giving him asylum. The Iranian regime is also accurately portrayed in the show as giving safe haven to al-Qaeda — in this case, the widow of a fictional al-Qaeda commander. After Brody is caught he’s promptly executed, strung up on a crane before murals of the Ayatollah Khomeini and a desecrated American flag as crowds cheer on the death of the agent of the Great Satan. It’s a tense, cold, horrifying scene, and it left me hoping that it would make some viewers hit the Google — where they’d find at least two dozen, with likely many more unrecorded, have been hanged this year alone in Iran for the crime of moharebeh. This general law encompassing heresy, offense against Islam, subversion and cooperating with foreign governments has been used to dispose of those the regime finds inconvenient: government opponents, dissidents and protesters, gays, and ethnic and religious minorities.
The show fast-forwarded to four months later, where it went off the rails. Characters are gleefully reading headlines that Iran has allowed IAEA inspectors to come into the country and has agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. All the pain and suffering and heartache they went through had a purpose with peace on the horizon, they reason. This turn in attitude just four months after an American received a capital sentence after a 5-minute trial. Who was the showrunner, John Kerry? The abrupt ending was especially ridiculous considering the show had done a pretty good job of giving a glimpse into how brutal these state sponsors of terrorism can be.
Homeland watchers today are calling the hanging of Brody the big shocking twist, but the biggest twist may still be yet to come. If the writers are so fond of current events that they name-dropped the Drudge Report in an episode and worked Kerry’s Geneva deal into the finale, they’re likely aware that a 37-year-old accused drug trafficker recently survived his hanging in Iran — discovered only when the steam from his breath appeared on his plastic sheet at the morgue. And Carrie (Claire Danes), who was begged to not watch the hanging of Brody but did so anyway, walked away while he was still dangling from the crane.
The good news for everyone who might give season four a chance, though, is that whiny Dana won’t return as a series regular. And that’s reason enough.