Homeland – Season 5 (Showtime)
There has probably never been a show that has lasted five seasons that has been as up and down as Homeland has been. The first season remains in the pantheon of all-time great seasons of television. Unfortunately the second season was so horrifically bad that the show has never really recovered. The middle seasons blend together a bit for me so I don't remember exactly what happened when, but obviously I am fully aware of what happened on the most recent season. There are many who are calling this the best Homeland season in a while (do they mean since season 1?) but I am really not sure that is saying a lot.
I am in the camp that the Carrie Mathieson character had run it's course and the show was better off just focusing on Saul, Quinn and Dar Adaul. Instead we get more of Carrie doing thinks that probably should land her jail, but she just keeps failing up. There are the usual twists and turns throughout this season that make this show watchable, but every episode has a cliffhanger that fails to pay off in the next episode. Some of the biggest plots of the season end with resounding "thuds" and there are points in the middle that drag on way too long. If binged all at once instead of week-by-week it might be more enjoyable since the payoffs will come quicker. This show might feel a lot better on Netflix or Amazon where it would be released all at once. By slogging along for three months it just didn't feel rewarding at the end. This show could be great, but at the moment I am questioning coming back for season six.
The Affair – Season 2 (Showtime)
I am not sure if this fits under the category of "guilty pleasure" or not, but maybe it should. I don't know anyone else who watches this show. The initial draw for me was the cast, Dominic West (McNulty from The Wire), Maura Tierney (from NewsRadio and ER) and Joshua Jackson (from a bunch of bad movies of my youth). Ruth Wilson is the fourth member of the ensemble and perhaps the best of the bunch. Adding her to the my love of the cast is still what keeps me coming back. The twists of the plot and the unique story telling method (basically showing every one hour episode in 30 minute halves each with the perspective of a different character involved in the same story) are hooks as well, but in some ways the main "mystery" has dragged on for far too long.
It would also be interesting to know of how much of this original plot was planned from the very beginning and what has been manufactured as things go. Because so much of the show is flashbacks it's easy to paint your way out of a corner. The fact that the show bounces so much between characters from week to week also makes it easier to watch. But I am not sure how much longer they can drag out the initial mystery, and once that concludes how is the the show structured going forward? The flashbacks are creeping dangerously close to present day, so will the show just be a regular old drama then? I am definitely far from giving up on this because I enjoy West, Wilson and Tierney too much, but I am having a hard time seeing the long game at this point.
Kingdom – Season 2 (Audience)
This show didn't move forward a whole lot in season 2. I like the characters, but a show about this topic should be more tense and gritty than it is. There are no lack of stunning moments throughout the season, but they often seem to come out of nowhere in a "shock value" kind of way as opposed to the conclusion of carefully crafted tension and drama. The only real tension shows up during the fight scenes, which are few and far between for the most part. This is understandable because they are probably costly and difficult to shoot, but there is something wrong when that is all you can do. The football scenes in Friday Night Lights were great, but they weren't the only part of the show to look forward to.
I haven't figured out if we are supposed to be rooting for Alvie or not. He isn't a total "anti-hero", but he is not a lovable guy most of the time either. The women in this show are vastly underutilized, and although I am sure the way new female fighter Alicia is treated is pretty true to life it just seems like more could have been done there. Definitely not the step up you hope for in season 2, but enough to get me back for at least one more.
Getting On – Season 3 (HBO)
I didn't realize going into this that this as the final season. This was a weird show that never got a lot of traction from most people. It was rarely mentioned by critics and I never saw anyone else I follow on social media mention it anywhere. This dark comedy has never had any all that interesting story arcs, and there are plenty of awkward moments, but there is also something endearing about the people that work in the extended care unit in a crappy California hospital. It seems like a dumping ground for both staff and patients, and feels almost believable in the way that all these emotionally damaged people could all end up together. Laurie Metcalf, who plays the ward's doctor, is easily the most famous person in the cast, but the three main nurses are the scene stealers.
It's not unusual to bounce between empathy and joy in the hard luck of this rag tag bunch. The third and final season did a good job of both wrapping up the journey of this crew while also making it feel like like the characters grew, at least a little bit. Part of the reason this show doesn't get noticed more is because it's different, and not for everyone. But it's consistent across the 20 or so episodes of it's existence. Therefore it is definitely one of those shows that if you like the first couple of episodes, you will like the whole thing. It's an easy watch too, so if you have HBO GO/Now, give it a shot sometime.