Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Sunday, Sunday

A couple dramas just returned to cable, The Leftovers and Homeland.  Let's see how they're doing.

The Leftovers, based on Tom Perrotta's novel and created by Perrotta and Damon Lindelof, now starting its second season, is critically admired, even though it got no Emmy nominations.  The premise is simple--2% of all people on Earth mysteriously disappear.  The show is essentially about how people react to this event.

The first season concentrated on a small town in upstate New York, and centered on the Garvey family.  It featured good writing and solid performances, but had a serious flaw (which some supporters say is its strength)--there's no engine behind the show. It's all about people adjusting to loss.  There's no endgame, they're just living their lives, and for that matter there doesn't seem to be any headway on figuring out why those people disappeared, that's just a sad fact in the background.

The first season generally followed the novel, but apparently we're off book in the second.  We change setting to the renamed Texas city of Miracle, where no one disappeared.  To make it even more disorienting, we spend most of the show following an entirely new family, the Murphys, and don't even see any Garveys--who have just moved into town--until the second half.  (Actually, it's even weirder.  We start with a prehistoric prologue, where a woman loses her tribe, has a baby, gets bitten by a snake and dies.  Don't ask.)

The show once again features good, evocative writing.  The characters have their reasons--not always obvious--and their troubles, and things happen, including an earthquake at the end that causes a lot of pain.  But the show is still not going toward any goal.  Which is what makes The Leftovers more a mood piece than a mystery or a thriller.  It may be well done, but it doesn't feel first rank.

Homeland--a show that's won plenty of Emmys--is more familiar territory.  This is its fifth season and by now we know its tricks.  It's about CIA agent Carrie Bradshaw, along with boss Saul Berenson and special ops Peter Quinn, fighting terrorism. Sure, it's "sophisticated"--the terrorists are smart and allowed to make arguments for their side--but the fun stuff is the intrigue, the oversized emotions and the bursts of violence.

This season starts a couple years after the last.  Carrie is working for private security, which breaks Saul's heart.  She also seems better adjusted, and is raising her daughter. (The early hook of the show was her mentally instability, but apparently she's on her meds now and we've left that behind.) There's been a major leak and the CIA's work for the German government has been exposed.  So it looks like this season will spend most of its time in Germany.

In a way, Homeland has never recovered from its first season. It was fresh and new, and dealing with the specific story of a POW coming home and treated like a hero, while Carrie was the only one who could see he'd been turned. Maybe it would have worked better as a miniseries.  But the show has continued, and is a well-done thriller. There are a lot worse things.  This season looks pretty promising, actually, and I like the change of venue.  Now if only Carrie would rejoin the CIA we've got something.

web page hit counter