Homeland: Season 3 developed by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (Teakwood Lane Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet Broadcasting)

Starring Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Morena Baccarin, Morgan Saylor, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend, F. Murray Abraham, and Tracy Letts.

*Spoiler alert for previous seasons in effect*

Utilitarianism

Noted in the ethics world, utilitarianism is a system devoted to the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. It means if 99 people earn 5 “utils”—the metric for happiness created by the system’s founder, Jeremy Bentham—and 3 people receive -3 utils, then the action is valid and worth pursuing.

The system is pretty popular. It seeps into everyday language—like when someone rationalizes an action because it limits harm, or the consequences carry enough benefit.

Or, if letting go a few workers means long-term viability in a business, then it’s the ethical choice.

The theme of utilitarianism underpins the Season 3 narrative of Homeland.

Aftermath

The season begins in the aftermath of the Langley bombing. Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) finds herself positioned as the scapegoat for the disaster. The shadow of Brody (Damien Lewis) hangs over the narrative, but the character is absent.

Saul (Mandy Patinkin) holds the C.I.A. tenuously, hoping to cut toward the heart of terrorism but has hands tied in government bureaucracy.

Thematically, Homeland exhibits a heavy hand, pointing the narrative in a direction that suggests the United States squeezes every ounce of usefulness from its people.  Every character teeters at a breaking point as a nation expects everything they can offer and more. The idea behind such activity is utilitarianism. If the character’s actions benefit the whole at the expense of the individual, then the action is good. But we get to see the consequences of such decisions and the drama is certainly compelling.

Is it Good?

Is Season 3 good television, however?

That’s a more difficult question. The motifs that made the seminal season of Homeland great have taken a backseat to more outrageous scenarios. The writers have been pushing the envelope for three seasons now and the returns are diminishing. There are only so many times you can cozen an audience before such jolts hold no influence.

Season 3 entertained and its focus on painting America in a utilitarian light intrigued. But I often found myself expressing disbelief over unrealistic turn of events.

I’ll keep watching Homeland, but my B.S. detector has activated.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

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  • Jessie

    Agreed. By far Season 2 has been my favorite. Season 3 started to remind me of Alias, which was intended to be a bit off reality. Homeland started out super grounded… but what happened?! (Watching Season 4 now).

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