Homeland: ‘The Weekend’
by Staff | The Independent | April 8, 2023
Television shows are, inevitably, made up of parts. On the surface, there’s the great, overarching story that begins with the first shot and ends with the last. But, within that narrative, there are small parts: the series, and the episode. It is the smallest of these sub-divisions, the episode, that is most intriguing. A truly brilliant episode can bridge the gap between cinema and TV. It can refine the essence of the best shows into a single, self-contained moment. At its most potent, a perfect episode is like mainlining all the myriad ingredients of prestige television in a single sitting.
But great TV shows do not necessarily beget great episodes and, conversely, great episodes are not always the sign of a great show. The start of 2023 has been dominated by discussions about The Last of Us, a perfectly good series including one stunning episode. In it, two supporting characters tell us the story of humanity’s endurance at the end of the world. It is an episode that any show would be proud of. This list contains lots of excellent shows and a few mediocre ones, but what matters here is how they tell a story over one single broadcast. Whether that’s an hour of prestige drama or a 20-minute sitcom, these are the moments when television transcends its format and becomes an art form.
A brilliant episode can refine the essence of the best shows into a single, self-contained moment. Here are our favourites from over the decades.
50. Homeland – Series 1, Episode 7: ‘The Weekend’
In Homeland’s seventh episode, the show went from just another prestige espionage thriller to something more profound and substantial. ‘The Weekend’ followed Claire Danes’s CIA agent Carrie and recently rescued marine Brody (Damian Lewis), who may or may not have been turned by al-Qaeda, as they head away on a countryside retreat. Homeland’s later seasons were much, much better than many gave them credit for, but, truthfully, the many action-packed set-pieces that ensued never matched the high-stakes showdown featured in the final 10 minutes of this instalment. Proof, if ever it was needed, that two people simply talking in a room can be just as thrilling as any action scene. – Chosen by Staff Jacob Stolworthy
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