… which is, in a way, both Homeland’s greatest strength and greatest (potential) weakness. It excels where 24 was generally weakest: in the complex and nuanced development of its characters’ psychological states. Particularly in the first half of the first season, the writers very rarely took any steps to explaining to the viewers why the characters were doing the things they were doing; it was up to us to figure out what certain lines, expressions, and decisions signified. Brody and Carrie are both fascinating, rich characters, and the show’s greatest triumph is its success in making them emotionally sympathetic even while their actions are morally dubious or outright indefensible.
The careening plot was also thrilling, but you get the sense, watching that first season, that it’s perpetually on the verge of running off the rails. Gansa and Gordon have spoken publicly about the fact that they don’t plan the entire season out before beginning to write episodes – a revelation that will come as no surprise whatsoever to viewers of 24, who grew used to increasingly ludicrous plot twists as each season passed the two-thirds mark. The plot of Homeland is not exactly believable – it’s isn’t entirely unbelievable, either – but it definitely worked to support the character arcs, and not the other way around.