Showtime's Dexter and Homeland offer two different visions on how to close a big series' season
I admit: Producers of Showtime's Homeland snookered me, but good.
Halfway through Sunday's season finale for the terrorism-centered drama, as I was tweeting my boredom with an episode which seemed about cautiously tying up loose ends after the death of terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir, a well-placed bomb blew apart any notions of a complacent series finale.
The bomb, which killed dozens of CIA agents gathered for a memorial to the slain vice president (including David Harewood's magnificently butt-covering director David Estes), was planted in the car of Damien Lewis' Nick Brody, a reformed war-hero-turned terrorist agent who swore he had nothing to do with the bombing.
Fans like me had wondered how Homeland would deal with the end of its terrorist plot, given that the CIA seemed intent on killing Brody once he'd delivered Nazir to them. As it turns out, Brody's salvation came from another of the show's patented plausibility-stretching plot twists; the black ops agent tasked with killing Brody decided on his own it wasn't necessary anymore. As if.
At any rate, the bomb coupled with the public release of a video Brody made back in the show's first season, when he strapped on a suicide vest and nearly blew up the vice president himself, seems to have convinced the world he was behind the bombing.
Which sets the table for a rollicking third season. Will the CIA agent Brody romanced, Claire Danes' bipolar wonder Carrie Mathison, find herself under suspicion for his disappearance? How will she explain not being inside the memorial where all the other agents got killed (she and Brody had briefly left the service to declare their love for each other.) Can she hide the fact that she helped him leave the country?
Will anyone explain why the CIA is allowed to violate law and operate inside the U.S.?
(Frankly, I'm looking forward to seeing Mandy Patinkin's no-nonsense analyst Saul Berenstein turn into the new Estes. His moment Sunday where he tells Carrie she is "the smarter and the dumbest f---ing person I've ever known" pretty much sums up every frustration every viewer might have had with her character's inconsistencies.)
More importantly, Homeland's game changing season finale stood in contrast to the season finale Sunday of another signature Showtime series, Dexter.
While Homeland's finale opened up a world of possibilities with a single blast, Dexter's last act -- which saw police Lt. Debra Morgan shoot and kill her superior officer to keep Dexter's identity as a serial killer from being revealed -- closed down possibilities in a cluster of implausible turns.
Much as people complained about Homeland's plot twists, I've found Dexter's turns to be less believable, as Debra struggled to cope with discovering at the start of this season that her adopted brother -- who she once admitted loving in a romantic way -- was a serial killer of murderers.
On Sunday, their bizarre bond took another step, as Debra killed Lauren Velez's dogged Capt. Maria LaGuerta, in an odd standoff where she had to choose between killing her brother or killing her boss. Nevermind that Debra had fought Dexter over his desire to kill criminals who supposedly "deserved" to die, including the person who ordered the death of his mother 40 years ago; in a moment, Debra moves all the way to killing a woman whose only crime was figuring out that Dexter is a serial killer.
For me, this heralds a season of increasingly implausible situations, leading to the series finale, tentatively planned for the end of next season. Whether the show ends with Debra and Dexter in handcuffs or on the lam, I'm going to feel like I'm watching a series which has flown off the rails in too many ways.
Still, I remain hopeful. After all, they could be snookering me just as smoothly as the Homeland crew.
Below, check out my NPR story previewing Homeland's problems with Persistent Disbelief Syndrome: