Plotting Vs. Plodding

Posted on November 12, 2012 

I feel like this blog is turning into a weekly bashing of "Homeland," but watching the show is becoming a frustrating experience.

Maybe I'm holding it to a higher standard because it won some very deserved Emmys last year, and the acting is still top-notch, but the writing continues to devolve into "24" territory.

***WARNING: SPOILERS. SKIP TO THE END IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE LATEST HOMELAND OR WALKING DEAD.

STILL HERE?

OK.

Cable shows typically run 10-to-13-episode seasons, with longer prep time than regular network shows, so they are typically better plotted. With 10 episodes to tell the complete story, the writers have time to plan out all of the plot points and character-development arcs.

When it's done well, such as this season of "The Walking Dead," it shows, because the writing has been super-tight. We see character development, but the action moves along at a steady pace as well. The characters do thinks that make sense in their universe.

By contrast, "Homeland" has been all over the place, and much of the writing seems like filler.

Last night, for example:

--The ridiculous Dana hit-and-run subplot continues, and little Miss Morality decides that because there's never a good time to let your parents know you accidentally killed someone, the most convenient time is a weekend with powerful bigwigs who are deciding whether they want your dad to run for Vice President.

--The CIA decides that they need to send Brody's mistress to confront Brody in front of his daughter at the police station, thereby letting everyone know that Brody is still involved with the CIA, which was supposed to be a secret. And since Dana, who is physically incapable of keeping a secret, sees Carrie, that should make for an interesting blabbing to her mother that Carrie is still in the picture.

--Saul is the No. 2 guy at the CIA, yet it takes almost a whole day to go over the head of that moronic warden, who has decided he'd rather be the big man in his prison rather than prevent the next 9/11. So we have a whole day of Saul hanging out with the terrorist girl, only to have her feed them wrong information in order to kill herself. So, what was the point?

Let's compare it for a moment to the tight plotting of "The Walking Dead:"

--After leading the survivors in the zombie apocalypse for months, the stress finally causes Rick to snap after his wife and two other friends die last week. (At this point, we're presuming Carol is dead, though no one knows). Rick has a nervous breakdown and goes medieval on the walkers in the prison. Perhaps not the most logical action, but we certainly understand his pain at that point, so much so that many of us would probably react like Rick does.

--The group decides to accept the two convicts, albeit with severe reservations, but it takes an extreme act -- shooting Andrew rather than Rick -- to earn that trust.

--Andrea and Michonne split on whether they should trust the Governor. Andrea points out that they seem to have found a safe haven, and living in his community is a lot better than scavenging on the countryside. Yet Michonne also is correct in having her suspicions that the Governor is insane and cruel, and we later see that borne out. But the writers skillfully set the situation so that each character has a legitimate point of view that we the viewers can identify with.

"The Walking Dead" drew some criticism last year for the action grinding to a halt when the group reached Herschel's farm in the first half of Season 2. But the writers made up for that in the second half, and paid particular attention to keeping things moving this season.

By contrast, it seems as if the writers on "Homeland" are simply throwing out roadblocks just to throw out roadblocks -- the same way they did on "24." That, to me, is a waste.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Terrence Howard guest stars on "Hawaii Five-0," (CBS, 10 p.m.) which follows new installments of the networks sitcoms.

"Bones" and "The Mob Doctor" are new on Fox from 8-10 p.m., while "90210" and "Gossip Girl" are new on The CW.

"Castle" (ABC, 10 p.m.) follows a new "Dancing With The Stars," while "Revolution" (NBC, 10 p.m.) follows "The Voice."

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