‘Homeland’ continues to thrill, intrigue
TV Review | 4 out of 5 stars
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 00:10
If the Emmys told you anything, it’s that if you aren’t watching “Homeland” yet, you should be.
Premiering on Showtime last fall, the series was instantly lauded by critics. It stars British actor Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine who has just been rescued from eight years of al−Qaeda captivity. The nation and Brody’s family, both of whom have long believed him dead, regard Brody as a war hero — except for CIA officer Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes. Carrie, whose superiors don’t think highly of her, believes that Brody has been turned and now works as a double agent for al−Qaeda. The show’s writers do a masterful job of making the audience wholeheartedly believe that Brody is a terrorist one minute, and then believe the exact opposite a minute later. The full truth — or what seems to be the full truth — isn’t revealed until the first season’s finale.
Six months have passed since that finale, and already Brody has been elected to the House of Representatives where he is floated as a leading candidate for the Vice Presidency. Carrie, who underwent voluntary electroshock therapy in an attempt to cure her bipolar disorder, is now mentally stable but has left the CIA and incorrectly believes that she was wrong about Brody. But after Israel bombs Iran’s nuclear facilities, protests spring up across the Middle East and one of Carrie’s old recruits contacts the CIA. Her bosses at the CIA come to bring her back into the game and it’s off to the races.
Watching the two act, one can easily see why Lewis and Danes earned the Emmy Awards for Lead Actor and Actress in a Drama Series, respectively. Lewis’ character seems to move only from one impossible situation to another, but he does so believably. Not only is Brody forced to speak with and commit a crime for someone who claims to be from al−Qaeda, he also has to admit to his wife that he converted to Islam while in captivity, while dealing with trivial−by−comparison issues like a rebellious 16−year−old daughter. It’s almost frightening how well Damian Lewis pulls it off.
Meanwhile, just watching the not−yet−recovered Carrie Mathison go from a sheltered environment with her family to the heart of a rioting Beirut makes the viewer’s heart sink. The show does a masterful job portraying the effects of bipolar disorder and it also makes the imminent bad outcome of Carrie’s situation painfully obvious. The viewer knows that no matter how quickly Carrie’s espionage skills return during her mission in Lebanon, it’s going to be downhill for Carrie’s sanity from here on out.
Even if all you knew about the show was that it beat out “Mad Men” and a whole host of other great shows for Outstanding Drama Series a few weeks ago, and if you just jumped into the show at the start of this season, you would be hard pressed to understand why the show was so lauded for its creativity and plausibility last season. Last season’s writers took great pains to build up the characters to the point where you truly understood their motivations, but they seemed to have thrown that out the window this time around. Brody, who was clearly very conflicted last season about seeking revenge on one of the people who ordered the death of someone he loved, takes almost no pushing before he is willing to help al−Qaeda plan an attack on civilians.
Still, if you aren’t watching “Homeland” yet, you should start. The show’s first season, only 12 60−minute episodes long, is a masterpiece, and this season is on track to being one as well. The characters are brilliantly acted, the writing is tense and tight and the plot, while flawed, is better than most other dramas. All it takes is a single episode to get hooked.