The first season of Homeland was an excellent season of television. So far, I think it’s fair to say that the second season is shaping up to be even better.
Homeland is interesting because if you try to explain the premise to someone who hasn’t seen it, it sounds pretty terrible. It’s all like, TERRORISM and CONSPIRACIES and ELECTROSHOCK THERAPY. There are all kinds of coincidences and close calls and scenarios that are pretty much impossible in a world that seems to closely resemble our actual world. But none of that matters, mostly thanks to Claire Danes and Damian Lewis.
When they first encountered each other in the first season, Carrie was playing the role of a voyeur, a CIA agent spying on Brody, a U.S. soldier who made it home after spending eight years as a prisoner in Iraq. Carrie was convinced he had been turned, that he was working with the terrorists who kept him captive to plan some kind of attack against his own country. In the process of investigating all of this (mostly without the help of the CIA, since they were way not into her theories) Carrie and Brody fell in love. Well, Carrie did, anyway. We have much better access to her mental state, to her thoughts and feelings. Brody, despite being kind of a mess, is more inscrutable. Where his loyalties lie and whether he’s capable of betraying his country and family are themes the show is still investigating.
At this point, they’ve both sort of ruined each other’s lives. Brody got Carrie kicked out of the CIA by convincing everyone (including Carrie) that she was crazy. The fact that she’s bipolar didn’t help, but of course Carrie was right, which was definitively revealed last season, when Brody nearly killed a bunch of people including the vice president. The only reason he didn’t go through with it was because of a desperate phone call from his teenage daughter, Dana. But Carrie has messed with Brody’s life, too. Their affair nearly destroyed the already shaky relationship between Brody and his wife, Jessica. And while Brody held all the cards in the first season, now his lies are unravelling and suddenly Carrie’s the one in control.
See, I told you that when you try to explain this show it sounds pretty ridiculous. Somehow, the connection between Brody and Carrie is so compelling and destructive and filled with chemistry, that they manage to sell the whole thing. The other great thing about Homeland is that it’s always so action-packed. Incredibly, there have only been six episodes so far in the season, and each one has covered, like, the equivalent of half a season worth of material on most other shows. It’s all, BAM! Brody’s a congressman…BAM! Carrie has a reason to be involved with the CIA again…BAM! Her former boss, Saul (the always wonderful Mandy Patinkin) finds out Brody really was involved in a terrorist plot and Carrie was right all along…BAM! After briefly spying on Brody, Carrie leads a charge to take him in for questioning…BAM! Brody admits some of the shady stuff he did and joins forces with the CIA.
Phew, that is a lot of stuff. Homeland doesn’t slow down, but it still has all these meaningful moments. The best scene was when Carrie came in to interrogate Brody. She has feelings for him, and that’s real, but she uses those feelings as a means to an end, to make Brody admit what she already knows – that he’s been up to no good terrorist stuff ever since he returned to the States. Brody lies to everyone, but Carrie is his soft spot. He doesn’t say much, but you can see him questioning everything over the course of the interrogation. By the end of it, he unravels.
Homeland isn’t perfect. The subplots are kind of stupid. Dana is a great character who feels like a real, complex, emotional teenager, but her current plot, which has her involved in a hit-and-run along with the VP’s son, is pretty terrible. Then there’s Mike, Brody’s army buddy who had an affair with Jessica when Brody was captured and Jess thought she was a widow. Lately, Mike’s been investigating Brody on his own based on very little evidence. It could lead to an interesting story – he did recently have an encounter with Saul that only furthered his belief that he’s on to something – but for now it’s just kind of silly. Jessica’s story has been focused on her attempts to play the role of a politician’s wife, something she’s adapted to quite easily despite Brody’s increasingly erratic behaviour. She’s not an idiot, and she knows something is wrong, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
As far as current dramas go, I think Homeland is one of the best. I would say it’s second to Breaking Bad, but probably on par with Mad Men, which I also adore. I’m really excited to see what happens by the end of the season; if things keep going the way they have been, everything could be completely different in just a few episodes.