TV Review: “Homeland” – A Conspiracy of a Different Sort

Written by Spencer Sterritt November 18, 2012

Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Homeland

“Homeland,” which is now racing towards the endgame of season two, is the most interesting television show on right now. It has action, tension, and brutal violence, but that’s not what makes it such an interesting show. It’s the mind games that the writers play with the audience and the spy-thriller genre that make it so interesting. Constantly moving in an uncertain direction, this season of “Homeland” is confident and smart, constantly wrapping itself and the audience into knots that seem impossible to get out of.

Season one was all about the tango between CIA agent Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) and American POW Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) who may have been turned into a terrorist. After the season one finale the show seemed doomed plot wise, but season two has effectively kept up the tension by keeping Brody’s motivations just as complex and hidden, and having a marvelous sense of pacing.

“I’m not lying”

Whereas season one would change the sort of show it was every few episodes, morphing from a show about surveillance to one about intimacy, and then finally one about political abuse, now “Homeland” is switching up the sort of show it is in nearly every episode. “Homeland” moves at a breakneck speed now, getting right to the core of an issue in one episode and then moving on to something even bigger. At the 2/3 mark of the season “Homeland” has already been four different shows by my count.

Homeland, Many Patinkin, Caire Danes

A spy show in Beirut, complete with a shaky cam chase, is one of those four

 

Whereas some shows wouldn’t be able to keep this pace up, or wouldn’t mine the ideas and themes of the episode deep enough, the “Homeland” writers know exactly what drives a spy thriller. Many of them worked on “24,” especially during the later seasons when it went off the rails, and now they are making up for the paper thin plotting and thematic resonance in “24” by delving to the core of every theme presented. The pacing is speedy, the plot air tight (so far), and the writing is top notch.

“You’re hiding something. I can see it in your eyes.”

The acting is damn impressive as well. Mandy Patinkin, as Saul Berenson, who is Carrie Matheson’s closest confidant, has taken more of a back seat this season, though all of his scenes are still outstanding. The real star of this season is Damian Lewis. He was forced to act cagey in season one, but now that the audience knows if he’s a terrorist or not Damian Lewis can really shine, bringing all of the tension and pressure that Brody is under to the surface. The fifth episode “Q&A” is his standout moment, as he gets broken down completely and doesn’t say a word, sinking lower in his seat and expressing every tiny emotion and surge of fear in his eyes.

Homeland, Damian Lewis, Q&A

Brody before the collapse

Claire Danes still holds her own as a woman slipping, still unsure about her feelings for Brody. But it’s absolutely clear that if season one was Claire Danes’ season, then season two belongs to Damian Lewis.

“I seem to be good at this, if nothing else.”

Season one was damn focused, only getting into big picture politics in the last few episodes as the threat of a terrorist attack ramped up significantly. Terrorism in the domestic front by an American was such a strong hook for that season, and season two feels a bit less focused as it shifts from the search for a domestic terrorist to an international terrorist. The current focus on abuse by the privileged is far more topical than season one, paying off on the cynicism of season one. I didn’t think that the writers would be able to mine a plot about the Vice-Presidents arrogant son for real pathos, but lo and behold they do it, and they manage to seamlessly bring his plot into the main plot.

After an amazing first season, and a finale that left a lot of people wondering where “Homeland” could possibly go, season two manages to effectively up the stakes and demonstrates the real confidence the writers have as they twist the show every week and constantly evolve. Instead of throwing in more action scenes they keep up the tension by keeping the audience on their feet, never sure where it is going to go next. Anchored by Damian Lewis’ phenomenal acting, and strong writing across the board, “Homeland” is once again the best drama on television.

My Rating: 9/10

 

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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