Ask Matt: Finales ('Prodigal Son,' 'God Friended Me,' 'Homeland'), 'Zoey' & More
Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic — also known to some TV fans as their "TV therapist" — Matt Roush, who'll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today's vast TV landscape. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.)
One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won't be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it's already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.
[Editor's Note: This column includes discussions of season and series finales, so beware of spoilers if you haven't yet watched.]
Loved that Prodigal Shocker!
Question: Just watched the season finale of Fox's Prodigal Son. I've been watching TV a long time and this is by far the best season finale or best episode of network TV of any kind that I have ever seen. It's worthy of a Breaking Bad, Fargo or premium channel quality. The entire episode was great, but the last 20 minutes I was riveted to the edge of my seat. Now this is what we want to see more of: intelligent writing/storytelling, suspense and great acting, particularly by Michael Sheen. I had been wondering how they could make me want to watch another season, what would they do to make it interesting. Wonder no more! This must be renewed and I can't wait for Season 2! — Pat T, Venice, FL
Matt Roush: I always hesitate before conveying "all-time" status, but this was absolutely one of my favorite finales of the TV year. Just the right amount of shock, suspense and even humor. (Michael Sheen's "My girl!" upon Martin learning what daughter Ainsley had done is one for the ages.) I can't imagine that Fox won't renew Prodigal Son for a second season — we've all been let down before, but seriously, how much more buzz does a network want from a show? I was also fascinated to learn in interviews with the show-runners that even though production was cut two episodes short by the pandemic, they were able to film their intended finale on schedule — which meant jumping over the development of season-ending villain Nicholas Endicott (Dermot Mulroney) and his flirtation with Jessica (the invaluable Bellamy Young), but what a literally killer climax that was.
God Leaves Some Mysteries Unanswered
Question: I have enjoyed God Friended Me and I am happy they wrapped up the character storylines in the series finale since the show lasted two seasons. Sad that it got canceled. However, one question still lingers in the last scene on the mountain. Who was waiting for Miles? Who is she? — Gordon
Matt Roush: Even if there had been a third season, I'm not sure you'd get an answer to that. Shows like God Friended Me are essentially about faith, and in this case, that means believing without seeing. Eternal mysteries being much more interesting than the answers (just ask Lost).
Wrestling With God and Homeland Finales
Question: Two favorite shows ended their runs this week. God Friended Me too soon (IMO) and Homeland on time. Let me say up front, not all that thrilled with the endings of either. I'm fine with never finding out who produced the "God Account," but thought that the last "friend suggestion" being his sister Ali, as the ultimate way to get Miles back to church and regaining his faith (although for me, Ali surviving the surgery kind of put it in the hands of her doctors) was OK, but a bit of a forced shortcut. The rush forward with Miles and Cara's happy ending, and Rakesh's as well, I chalk up to the show's cancellation and the writers having to go into overdrive. The ending-ending, on the mountaintop with the child looking ready to lead Miles to some Dalai Lama type, was ridiculous and unnecessary. I'd sooner be left with the mystery.
As for Homeland: seriously? Glad Carrie didn't end up getting Saul killed, but her selling him out for the mole's name was absurd. I never understood why she and Saul couldn't get to the president to tell him what she'd heard on the black box instead of going through the ridiculously convoluted plot of having it stolen by Yevgeny (what kind of sick relationships does Carrie seem to relish?), flying to Israel to traumatize Saul's sister by telling her he's dead, getting the mole outed and causing her death (among other improbabilities), all so the Russians could take credit for the reason the U.S. President's chopper went down and halt the war with Pakistan? Totally ignoring the fact that she's a mother with a young daughter for what seemed like over a year. Longing looks at her bedroom and taking her picture with her and a lame dedication to her in her book at the end doesn't cut it. I doubt Frannie will EVER understand what her mother did, nor do I. I hated Carrie's guts by the end.
Carrie always played by her own rules, snowing some and not others, made BAD choices, got a lot of people killed (on both sides), went on and off her meds, looked like she was always on the verge of tears throughout the final season, not exactly what you want in a CIA agent going in harm's way 24/7. In short, she was a hot mess. — Michael
Matt Roush: Stream of consciousness aside, there are some interesting points to take from these strong opinions. Yes, God's finale was rushed for obvious reasons, but the desire to bestow happy endings is understandable, given the overall tone of the show (which isn't exactly high drama). And while it may be "forced" to use his sister's surgery as a plot device to lead Miles back to faith, complaining about it (which is any viewer's right) conveys a skepticism about the show's entire manipulative feel-good approach that makes me wonder why you'd be watching in the first place if that was bothersome. As for the final twist, I would consider that a sweet gesture, still conveying just enough mystery (see Gordon's question above).
As for Homeland, a show I followed through thick and thin, let me keep it succinct by saying that while I enjoyed the clever final twist greatly (spoiler: Carrie becomes Saul's new mole within Russia), I found the path to the ending incredibly clumsy. I'm glad as well that Carrie didn't have Saul killed — as if! — but keeping him hostage while she jetted to Israel (which felt like it took as much time as going from D.C. to Maryland) and duping his sister was an eye-roller, though I disagree that Carrie sacrificing the mole to save the world was in any way absurd — in her mind, going to unfortunate extremes is part of the job‚ and having lost Max on this final mission, what's another tragedy if it gets the truth out and averts war. (Do you think this new and insecure president would ever have believed Carrie's story without actual evidence?) Her separation from her daughter might have been better developed, but the personal loss was implied and I'm OK with that.
For me, the bigger issue with Homeland overall is that while the last few seasons regained much of the mojo of the earlier years, it never made sense to me why, even with Saul's loyal backing, the intelligence community and government would put up with someone as unstable as Carrie in any position of responsibility and authority. I enjoyed the show because I'm a fan of the genre, and the writers, directors and cast always sold it. But this was without question the right time to end it, and the show's reputation would be enhanced if it had reached this endpoint years earlier.
Is Zoey's Playlist Becoming Ordinary?
Question: Is it me, or have the last two weeks of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist seemed, forgive me, ordinary? I've been a huge fan of this show and I love its ambition. I certainly don't expect every episode to be of Emmy caliber. But there are only 12 or 13 episodes in this, its first season. Seems a little early for a slump. — Kirsten
Matt Roush: You're forgiven, but I wish you'd gone into a bit more detail about why these episodes disappointed you. Each week, when I get an advance look at Zoey a few days before it airs (I hope to get to Sunday's finale after posting this column), it's a highlight of what can sometimes feel like dreary weeks of confinement. I can see that as Zoey has gotten somewhat darker lately, with her dad's condition deteriorating along with her work relationships, the show is missing some of its early exuberance, and no series can sustain the sense of discovery and surprise of Zoey's early episodes. Also, Leif pining for his boss hasn't been my favorite subplot. Maybe the season peaked in the episode where Zoey (the wonderful Jane Levy) did all of the singing.
Still, even a so-so episode of a show like this feels special to me, and pulling off 12 episodes of something so demanding is no small achievement. My main concern isn't the level of sustained quality, which fair-weather fans can debate, but that a show this creative sees a second season — and isn't critically hobbled by the shutdown, the way Pushing Daisies' momentum was halted by the 2007-2008 writers' strike. If Zoey isn't renewed, I'll be crushed.
Has Mac Gone Too Dark?
Question: The rebooted version of MacGyver was enjoyable until this season. This season's storylines are convoluted and dark. I know shows need to shake things up every now and then to keep viewers interested, but the changes here seem like overkill: Phoenix having a new owner, time jump, Codex, Oversight's death, etc. It feels as though the writers are trying to kill off the show by making it unwatchable. Does the fact it was given only a 13-episode order have anything to do with it? — Shelby
Matt Roush: Seems to me that the impulse here, and the shorter season may have been an influence, was to raise the stakes for everyone and to move away from the purely procedural format which wraps everything up in an hour. Too much change on shows like these often meet with resistance, so your reaction is no surprise.
Question: My husband and I love Spy Wars with Damian Lewis on the Smithsonian Channel. A huge thanks to TV Guide Magazine for highlighting this excellent program. I find the true stories often unbelievable. My friends often ask why I don't watch much on Hulu and Netflix. I don't have time because there are so many good programs on regular TV (IFC, Sundance, AMC, FX, etc.) but I only know how/where to find them because of TV Guide Magazine. I'd be lost without it!!!! — Lorna
Matt Roush: OK, very much not a question, but since I enjoy ending these columns on an upbeat note when possible, this testimonial to a type of show that could easily get lost in the glut of programming (not to mention a welcome plug for the magazine) made my day. I also love how Lorna considers channels like IFC, Sundance, AMC and FX as "regular TV," because their programming tends to be among the most distinctive and challenging on any platform, including streaming.
That's all for now. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that I can't do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. Please include a first name with your question. Everyone stay safe and healthy