Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Dexter' & 'Homeland' Season Finales...

TV Talk for Sunday, December 18th 2011 - Perhaps I should have live-blogged these. Not only were they huge episodes for the series, but they are some of the last new original programming I will get to watch until the new year. I should have taken my time and relished the moments, right? Well, that's exactly what I did, and for me, that means sitting back and watching intently rather than splitting my attention by writing as I watch.

Dexter (SHO, 9pm) - S6, Ep12: "This is the Way the World Ends" - Can one really tight episode make up for the previous, in this case, eleven sloppy, redundant, off-character ones? That seems to be the question reviewers and fans alike are left with after Dexter came to an end, at least for the time being, tonight. Tonight was by far the best episode from this series that we've seen in a long time, but that isn't really saying much lately, unfortunately. You could call it commentary on Dexter (Michael C. Hall)'s mental state or level of distractions that this time around it took him as long to come to the truth about Travis (Colin Hanks), let alone actually getting to him, as long as he did, but to me it just felt like lazy writing this whole season. An arc that should have been explained and wrapped up by episode five or six was dragged out all season. Travis, not as written but thanks to Hanks' chilling performance, was certainly one of the best super villains this show has ever seen, yet there was never any sense of urgency in Dexter about actually capturing him. Getting tossed into the lake of fire was a nice wake-up call for him in remembering what really mattered at the end of the day-- not his Dark Passenger after all but the one light in his life, baby Harrison, but again, it was too little too late. Motivations didn't match the speed of action. By the time Travis ended up on the table, I was bored. I knew it was going to happen and felt like I could have done it faster-- better-- at this point, simply being a student of Dexter. His seemingly complacency worries me. Also, the size of the cast of characters assembled weren't justified. Why bring in Billy Brown to basically bench him as a featured background extra? Why promote LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) if it means a bump to business off-screen? Why turn Quinn (Desmond Harrington) into a buffoon or relegate Masuka (C.S. Lee) back to just comic relief commentary? And why drag them back in for the season finale to scoop up screen time that really needed to be devoted to Dexter "taking care of business"? As much as I don't want the show to continuously be a cat-and-mouse between Dexter and his next victim, always ultimately having his family at risk because he shows himself before the guy is on his table, I won't lie: I was happy to see Harrison featured as promentantly as he was in this episode. That little boy has become my only light in this increasingly spotty show. But as tightly written as the action and reasoning in this episode were, the religion was wrong. There are supposed to be two witnesses. That only worked when Dexter showed up on the rooftop, a fact Travis never thought could be. Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) assumes the officer was a sacrifice? Absolutely nothing about police say innocent or lamb-like. It's the little details, the little holes, that are sinking this ship faster than the Slice of Life. It's unfortunate that in an hour of amazing performances, filled with emotional nuances that proved each of these seasoned veterans pushed themselves to show us something new for their equally veteran characters, what will be remembered are those extremely distracting pitfalls. Of course, Dexter is always known for amazingly powerful endings, and this one was surely one that will be remembered, discussed, and dissected ad nauseum until the series returns next year. After all, it took the show six seasons to get to a place the first book explored. So let me put my thoughts about it out there now: I believe Dexter truly does love his sister, but as a sister, and therefore he won't be able to kill her. But I believe Deb, as much as she cares for him-- enough to not turn him in and not even try to connect him to cases of the past-- is going to learn that even if she has feelings for her brother, it's not true love after all because true love wouldn't look at him the way she did in those final few seconds.

If all we could look forward to next season was the exploration and evolution of Deb and Dexter, admittedly, I wouldn't be back for more after Sara Colleton's romantic curve ball, but the show did throw us a thin little bone in Louis (Josh Cooke). He wants to stick around Miami Metro, certainly to keep an eye on, and perhaps even taunt or get some kind of twisted revenge on, Dexter for crushing his geek-boy dreams. He's been the most interesting one to watch all season-- he's the freshest and most exciting-- and whether it's merely with a bigger arc next year or an eventual spin-off, I will tune in for him.

(SHO, 10pm) - S1, Ep12: "Marine One" - I went into this episode scared to death that Brody (Damian Lewis) wasn't going to have any breath left at the end of it. Lewis kept making jokes, even to me, that he might not be around in season two, and the episodes leading up to this finale certainly seemed to show him planning to be a good little soldier and follow through with his plan. Certainly I was hoping for him to find time and a way to manipulate the plan so he didn't have to be a casualty in it, but this is not the kind of show that does cheap tricks like that. When you're uncomfortable, the show is doing its job. I wasn't uncomfortable watching Brody's explanatory video-- a video I am sure the CIA would never let get out. I was cheering along with him. His Vice President is fictional; his Isa is fictional; his whole military experience is fictional. But his sentiment is true. There are parts of our government, conspiracy theories about 9/11 being an inside job aside, that are tearing apart this country from within. Our threats are not just those we don't know, but those of whom we have been given a false image. Honestly, I know most of the buzz has been for Claire Danes, and don't get me wrong, she is amazing; her work playing "pushing through the depression for the bigger picture" was unparalleled tonight. But for me, this show has been all about Lewis, and watching him spend what he assumed to be his final moments with his family, praying for their safety, lingering on a look, a touch, a smell, my heart completely broke. I also saw the potential that it was Lewis saying good-bye to the show, and in all honesty, that made me even sadder. Why a vest, Brody? Use a drone! You know first-hand how effective those can be! I was seriously so conflicted; I wanted Brody to do it, but I didn't want him to die. Naturally, the vest has to malfunction, but that in itself causes its own conflict. For Brody-- sure, with the what to do next aspect-- but also for me. Because I seriously can't figure out what the show will be when it comes back from this. And that is what is so brilliant.

Those a-holes in the government should have been much more attentive, or at least aware, of Brody's situation. Of course he looks like shit; he should have been having POW flashbacks in that stupid basement bunker! I loved that the show used Brody's kids (even if I was bummed it had to be the kid I liked least, if barely at all) to get him to rethink this plan but not for the obvious "they would be in the line of fire" reasoning. He was deeply, emotionally attached to Isa and that is what spurred everything, but Isa was really just a substitute, a replacement for his own that were lost to him. Now, he has his back, and he needs them more than they need him. But he still has to follow out his mission or there will be consequences-- probably for those kids, too. I cannot express how glad I am that after he had been "talked down," someone didn't jostle him on the way out of the bunker to allow it to "accidentally" detonate. That's something cheap movies do when they want to make the bad guy a martyr in the end. He was changed, but he still had hate in his heart, so though he had to die, he had to be killed, not to be the one responsible for killing. But that's an easy out. You know what is complex-- complex enough to be worthy of this show? Using Brody as an inside man. I thought that was Nazir's plan all along. I even asked Lewis as much. He wouldn't confirm, and I'm glad to see that it was Brody's idea after all. Brody is the true brains here-- the big picture guy. I hate to say it, but that's the benefit of being an American sometimes, raised among so much excess.

Brody can still deny, deny, deny and blame crazy Carrie if you have to. He can only say he's not what Carrie thinks he is so many times before his tape is shown (even if just to a few who will bury it from the masses). Because then it won't just be Carrie who thinks it. As crazy as Carrie is, there was something equally desperate in his attempt to get a truth told. There is something just so beautiful in Carrie's mind, though, and it broke my heart to see her turn her back on it. I don't care what year this is, that surgery would never be a safe or viable option, and her sister is a doctor and allowing her to go through with it? She's the real terrorist! What I loved about Carrie was how she trusted her instinct above everything, even to a fault, even when she was in her disease, some might say, and now she suddenly questioned all she knew. But even if all she knew was only her reality, that didn't make it less real. For her. And all that matters in the end is what's real for you. Suddenly the issue of no longer having clearance seemed kind of trivial. Being a rogue renegade out in a shack on her own, perhaps even presumed to be the new, real terrorist threat, is nothing when facing down not even being yourself.
Prepare for a major power shift in season two.

An interesting detail: Tom Walker (Chris Chalk) cut a hole in the silver tape across his hostage's mouth. I have never seen a kidnapper on any show (or heard of any real life one) do that. To me that indicated immediately that he, too, is much more complicated than we have been led to believe; he isn't just a heartless bastard, brainwashed into believing it's okay to kill the innocent. He could have let her suffer way more if he was. Somehow, it was comforting to know he had others' backs besides the terrorists within whom he is aligned. I had hoped it was going to turn out that he was supposed to work in tandem with Brody, even if unbeknownst to Brody at the time. I'd like to believe he could have his friend back-- he's been through a lot in that regard-- but I understand why he had to finish the job Nazir gave him years earlier. A good soldier always does. And a good show's attention to detail does as well. Homeland is so on-point it's making every other one on-air pale in comparison.

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