Every once in a while, Homeland can draw comparisons to certain seasons of 24 – for better and for worse. The series’ creators, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, previously worked on the FOX serial thriller. (The former acted as the showrunner when 24 won an Emmy for Best Drama Series in 2006.) Some even described Homeland as a more “mature,” less kinetically exciting variation of the Emmy-winning drama when the Showtime series first aired.
The parallels are clear: both shows deal with the world of political espionage and the efforts of gutsy, risk-taking counter-terrorist agents. (Further, both shows have been criticized for simplistic representations of Muslims.) They are closely related in their connections to current political issues. The taut, tense FOX thriller was tied to Bush-era politics, while Homeland wrestles with issues surrounding the fallout of American involvement in the Middle East in the age of Obama.
The differences, aside from the one episode per hour structure of the network drama, lies in the plotting: 24 is a full-throttled thriller, while Homeland is more of a slow burn. 24 will have at least one major action setpiece per episode, while Homeland is a bit more reticent in spirit for big showdowns. When Homeland started sliding into more farfetched story events in the second half of its second season – Nazir’s arrival in the United States, the tense shootout in the Gettysburg tailor show getting little news coverage – viewers complained that these plot turns were something that 24’s writers would be more accustomed to commit to.
I bring up 24 here because “Iron in the Fire” feels, at several points, to be a close creative comrade to the real-time drama. In certain scenes, one almost expected the screen to split into quarters, showing how Carrie, Quinn and other characters were responding to a bit of well-timed espionage. In other moments, the story developments are a bit wild to accept, although writer Patrick Harbinson keeps the tension high to the extent that the story turns seem reasonable enough. This episode may not make that much sense if you scrutinize it too closely, but it is an exciting espionage-fueled hour that creates greater intrigue.
There are some big moves forward in Homeland this week. In the first scene, we find out that Farhad Ghazi was the man who had an earpiece at the scene of Sandy’s death. The good news is, Farhad is not far, and several agents – including Carrie and Quinn – camp out in an abandoned room overlooking his apartment. Meanwhile, Saul seeks the help of an old Pakistani friend for intelligence, hoping the man – who others call “Bunny” – can give him access to documents or people who can fill him in on who was behind the premeditated attack on Sandy.