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Homeland: Season 2 - First episode reviewed

Homeland

Review by Rob Carnevale

HAVING lost the novelty value, as well as the ‘is he or isn’t he a terrorist’ question mark, Homeland returned to Channel 4 on Sunday night (October 7, 2012) with its work cut out in gripping viewers once more.

It didn’t take long to reassure us, though, that this show has lost none of its brilliance in between seasons… and that’s despite the fact that this first hour was mostly a scene setter.

Picking up some months after the climactic events of the first run (when Claire Danes’ Carrie opted for electric shock therapy), the story this time so far involves a new threat to America in the form of a potential new terror attack.

A former asset of Carrie’s, a woman named Fatima, has the information required by the CIA to start combating the threat. But she will only speak to Carrie.

For her bosses, this involves luring her back with their tails very much between their legs.

Carrie, though, isn’t the same woman. Now teaching and at peace with herself, she’s reluctant to re-enter the life that caused her so much torment. Only Saul (Mandy Patinkin) can entice her to fly out to Beirut.

But even then, Carrie is far from the super-driven spy she once was. Her memory and ability to retain information is shaky, her confidence shattered. It was a masterful, often jittery performance from Danes… capped by a thrilling foot chase through a Beirut market-place in which she rediscovered her mojo.

After evading her pusuer, a smile spoke a thousand words. She was back.

Over in Washington, meanwhile, Brody (Damian Lewis) was discovering the cost of ‘failure’ to carry out his season one mission. Now being lined up to run as vice president, all appeared to be going swimmingly.

But a visit from a journalist with connections to Abu Nazir forces him to re-align his loyalties. He had to extract a list of names from the safe of CIA boss David Estes (David Harewood) who will now become potential targets for the latest attack.

Brody was torn. It’s clear he’s getting to like life in Washington, while benefitting personally from being closer to his family once more.

But even that is facing problems. His daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor), let slip he was a Muslim during a school debate, prompting Mrs Jessica Brody (Morena Baccarin) to put everyone on the spot. She was left reeling by Brody’s surprise confession. Suddenly, home life isn’t so rosy.

It’s Homeland‘s eye for the personal that makes this show so riveting, as well as the way in which it slowly builds the tension surrounding the main thriller element.

Hence, we care for every one of the characters even when we don’t like or don’t trust some of their motivations. They are flesh and blood creations – as flawed as they are driven, and as scarred as they are trying to put things right in their own way. And this extends from Brody to Carrie via Saul and even Dana and David Estes. There are no weak players in this line-up.

The thriller element, too, smacks of realism. This season looks set to unfold against the backdrop of tensions between the US and Iran – a plot device that isn’t so far removed from the truth, especially when taking into account the debates held over the impact of drone strikes (something that is currently occupying our headlines thanks to Imran Khan’s stance in Pakistan).

Homeland may not be as high octane as, say, 24 but it feels even more real for it. The good guys may not always win. And they may not always be that good.

Sunday nights just became brilliant again.