“Tin Man is Down,” the season three premiere of Homeland, is a long way from the best episode of the series. Nonetheless, it makes me very happy.
Homeland began with a simple, but instantly engaging premise – could this war hero actually be a terrorist? – and built and built upon this premise (and its central relationship), piling on tension until everything fell apart, until all the questions were answered. Unfortunately, the show then shifted from a tense, high-stakes character study to a silly terrorism melodrama. The back half of season two did more things wrong than right, culminating in a genuinely surprising explosion that could’ve easily accelerated the show’s descent into mediocrity.
Except the premiere uses the terrorist event that ended season two to return to a more thoughtful show, a show that could reattain the quality of its excellent first season. The episode replaces the tension of that season with a stunned, shell-shocked sense of loss, a grey winter after a festive spring. The CIA aren’t superheroes, but a fundamentally compromised agency interested in their own survival – even if that’s at the expense of one erratic agent.
“Tin Man is Down” promises an intelligent season; I’m looking forward to it.