Homeland, Series 2, Channel 4 | TV reviews, news & interviews
Homeland, Series 2, Channel 4
Powerful return for Emmy-winning war-on-terror thriller
Surfing in on the back of six Emmy awards, Homeland's second season opened with a sizzling episode which banished any lingering doubts about the improbabilities of the ending of series one. Like, for instance, the way zealous Marine-turned-suicide bomber Nicholas Brody had abandoned his mission because of a tearful phone call from his daughter, who somehow managed to get connected to a top-security bunker in the middle of a full-scale terrorist panic.
But never mind all that, because we've now moved on several months, and Brody, cover un-blown and revered as an American war hero, has become a congressman. So lustrous is his aura of warrior and patriot that current Vice-President Walden (Jamey Sheridan, pictured above with Damian Lewis) wants Brody to run for Vice-President in his upcoming Presidential campaign. Meanwhile, his potential nemesis, CIA analyst Carrie Mathison, has undergone electro-convulsive therapy and has been trying to rebuild her life by growing vegetables, living quietly with her father and sister, and teaching language classes. We don't know whether her treatment has caused her to forget that she'd seen through Brody's camouflage of true-blue righteousness.
However, in a bold pre-emptive strike by the screenwriters, global tensions have been heated to boiling point by Israeli air raids against Iranian nuclear installations, and all sorts of murkiness is stirring in the covert world. Obviously it wouldn't be long before Carrie's former CIA handlers burst in on her semi-reclusive lifestyle. One of her old contacts in the Lebanon, the wife of a Hezbollah leader, had information about an attack on the USA, and Carrie is the only person she'll trust.
Though she'd been ignominiously ejected from the Agency as a raving mad woman, here she was back in the thick of it, operating under a false identity in the heart of mysterious downtown Beirut. Her mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin, pictured left with Claire Danes) did make a point of expressing concerns about her mental fragility, but naturally these were overridden by operational necessity. Besides, as we saw when she boldly outwitted a shady hostile operative who followed her through the Beirut souk, Carrie was buzzing on the excitement of being back in the saddle.
The mood was tense, taut and claustrophobic, though the nit-picking viewer would have been able to find a few issues to nag at in the plotting. For example, would Brody really have reacted like a guilty, blushing teenager when journalist Roya Hammad visited his office, bringing a message from his handler Abu Nazir? And would Ms Hammad also have been able to stroll into CIA HQ without an appointment and call counter-terrorism chief David Estes (David Harewood) out of his office for an interview, conveniently leaving Brody alone to rummage through his files of potential terrorist targets?
But in a way these kinds of argument are beside the point. What counts is the way that Homeland draws you into its sealed world of threat and paranoia, and forces you to believe in it as long as you're there. The show has assembled a veritable task force of top-flight acting talent, Harewood and Patinkin lending copper-bottomed gravitas alongside strong support from Sheridan's manipulative V-P and Morena Baccarin as Mrs Brody (who wasn't too happy this week to discover that her husband is a Muslim).
It's the twin lead performances of Damian Lewis as Brody (pictured above) and Claire Danes as Carrie that propel Homeland into a class of its own. Danes, with her flickering facial expressions and manic eyes, continues to amaze as she conveys a sense that she's walking a tightrope over a flaming pit of psychological chaos. Lewis plays Brody as a kind of mirror image, sustaining his pose of command and composure until it suddenly disintegrates into sweaty-palmed panic. If you watched episode one, you'll have to watch the lot.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
A tale of bands in vans that, for the most part, stuck to familiar routes
It's still sharp, but should the BBC be flagellating itself a second time?
Untangling the structure of Islamic State reveals the scale of the enemy
The hills have eyes in this sinister new Lakeland thriller
Impressive talents in remarkably gimmick-free Beeb competition
New puppet satire can barely drag itself to the finishing line
Pleasing travelogue with game presenter Christine Bleakley
Erudition and humour, pleasure and sin jostle in unashamedly intelligent television
The case in which DNA profiling was first used to catch a killer makes for gripping drama
An arts and broadcasting giant who was an inspired head of music at the BBC
Troubling investigation of the disaffection of French Muslims
Old Testament epic rendered as an animal-free northern soap