There was a point early on in last night's Homeland, around the time when Carrie was getting her request for release denied, that I realized something: I just didn't care. Whatever happened to Carrie, Brody, and the others (except Saul. I love Saul) was fine by me. They could be tortured or rescued, heartbroken or lovestruck, and I simply wouldn't care. Somewhere along the way, I realized, I'd lost my patience with Homeland, and was merely tolerating each episode, watching the season go by with bemused, half-hearted interest. Even when this Sunday's episode ended with a clever, game-changing twist that's sure to raise the show's stakes, I barely gave it notice. Homeland had stopped making me care.
When I first started watching Homeland in early 2012, a few months after the show premiered, I became immediately hooked. I loved everything about the show, from the fast-paced plots to the intelligent dialogue to even Claire Danes' ugly cry. Some nights were better than others, but when Homeland was on its game, it was fantastic. Episodes like "The Weekend" and "Q&A" blew me away with their originality, and I found myself happily comparing Homeland to another show I'd just recently started watching: Breaking Bad.
After a few years of hearing how Breaking Bad was the show I needed to be watching, I'd finally given in and begun a Netflix binge. Fast forward 47 episodes and one month later, and I was a Breaking Bad fanatic, in love with the show and desperate for the new season. Each episode was bold and brilliant, filled with powerful acting, heart-stopping action and emotionally potent storytelling. And when I started watching Homeland, I immediately saw the connections. These were the two bravest, most innovative shows on TV, and I couldn't wait to see where they went next.
Yet while, as we all know, Breaking Bad went on to two incredible half-seasons and a spot in the record books, Homeland faltered. Its second season had a handful of outstanding moments, but mostly, viewers spent the months wondering what had happened to the Homeland of season one. And when season three premiered earlier this fall to ridiculous plots and middling reviews, it became clear that original Homeland was likely never making a return. The two shows, both equally promising at their beginnings, had gone down very different paths, and it was clear which one had made the better choice.
It's not entirely fair to compare Homeland to Breaking Bad. The latter series epitomized everything that's wonderful about television, and it will go down in history as one of the best shows of all time. Any show would seem lesser in comparison. Yet I can't help but let my love for Breaking Bad cloud my judgment of Homeland. The just-ended series showed what a great drama should be like - whip-smart, bravely acted, and provocative - and when I see Homeland, with its laughable dialogue and far-fetched plots, all I can focus on are the flaws. It's not right, but in the post-Bad world, it's the truth. Practically every drama, no matter how good it strives to be, will never achieve the level of greatness that Breaking Bad did for six amazing years.
I'll keep watching, of course. I have a notoriously difficult time giving up on series that have jumped the shark long ago (I plan on watching Grey's Anatomy until the bitter end, thank you very much), and Homeland is far from terrible. In fact, parts of it are pretty good; I'm sure plenty of viewers could go on for hours about how smart Sunday's twist was or why the lack of Brody this season is actually a brilliant move by the series' writers. Yet for me, Homeland, no matter how good, will never fully capture my interest again the way it did back in season one. Blame it on the Breaking Bad effect.
I wish this weren't the case, because, like I said, Homeland can actually be great when it wants to be. The twist at the end of Sunday's episode is sure to make for an interesting rest of the season, and I don't doubt that the series is capable of being just as good as it was back at the beginning. Yet no matter how much progress it makes, I don't know if I'll care enough to find out. Breaking Bad changed TV forever, and for the first time, I'm starting to realize that that might not always be a good thing.