Guaranteed Crowd Pleasers: Homeland and Fargo
Perhaps the most impressive trait of Homeland, beyond its enormous capacity for the well-executed, nail-biting cliffhanger, is how quickly it pivots each year. After making the well informed decision of abandoning its main storyline at the end of season three, Homeland has seamlessly morphed into a fictionalized, stand-alone seasons exploring hot button Middle East issues. Occasional accusations of racism aside, this strategy has generally worked: Iran, drone warfare, troops in Afghanistan, and now in the newly premiered season six, illegal surveillance. Currently out of the CIA, Carrie (Claire Danes) has settled in private-sector Berlin as the security chief of a multinational conglomerate. Saul (Mandy Patinkin) serves as the CIA head honcho of Europe, and Quinn (Rupert Friend) is in his element, hunting down terrorists and firing off some solid one liners. When the CIA-led spying of German citizens gets leaked, and when Carrie dodges a few well placed bombs in Lebanon, we’re off and running to yet another season with our favorite counter-terrorists. I expect this year to burn slow and burn bright. Homeland‘s continued achievement is its rich and interesting characters (as much as we all miss the red-headed sleeper cell Damien Lewis, he was a packaged deal with melodrama daughter Dana). No matter where the plot or setting takes us, its worth it each week just to see what Carrie has done to upset furry Saul this time.
Sometimes a film creates a world so rich and immersive, it begs to be stretched onto the television. Science fiction sagas are obvious: Star Wars, Stargate. The bloody, Coen Brothers dark-comedies? Not so obvious. But Fargo is the single best adaptation ever aired on the tube. Full stop (sorry, Teen Wolf). Few shows are as finely crafted as Fargo, and season two is no different. Taking us back to 1979 to explore the famed Sioux Falls incident alluded to last year, we are constantly drenched in a booming and ominous soundtrack that sets the mood immediately. A single sporadic drum set does wonders to raise your blood pressure. The show is shot beautifully, operating perfectly in the pitch-black darkness of the snow drenched countryside (where the bodies are most certainly buried). Then there’s the trademark accents from the Great White North that we all know and love. Patrick Wilson is exactly who you want playing the local sheriff, and Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, both fattened by grilled cheese and pizza, are the perfect oblivious-yet-sinister couple to drive the dead bodies home at night. The world that the Coen Brothers created, or maybe just the world we were already living in, shows us the decrepit, rotten reflection staring back at us out of our suburban, plastic lives; we are capable of far more than we ever let on. Its impossible to predict what will happen next, but will it be a hilarious, absurd, and deeply entertaining adventure? Oh, you betcha.
(If you haven’t caught season one of Fargo yet, it is available for your enjoyment on streaming.)
Up Next: Most Improved Award. Tune in tomorrow!