The Emmy-sweeping “Homeland” returned to Showtime on Sunday night armed and loaded for bear, news that should strike terror in the hearts of every infidel conspiring to overthrow TV’s best drama.
The Emmy-sweeping “Homeland” returned to Showtime on Sunday night armed and loaded for bear, news that should strike terror in the hearts of every infidel conspiring to overthrow TV’s best drama. But don’t expect it to equal last season’s riveting mix of action, suspense and political commentary. No, expect it to be even better, as evidenced by how deftly it dispatches worries of a sophomore slump by instantly stirring a barrage of intrigue and excitement via bipolar CIA operative Carrie Mathison and her frenemy, war hero-turned-Manchurian candidate Nick Brody.
When last seen, Carrie (reigning Emmy-winner Claire Danes) was undergoing electroshock, and Brody (reigning Emmy-winner Damian Lewis), an ex-POW harboring sympathies for his former captor, the Bin Laden-like Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban), had a bomb strapped to his chest, ready to take out Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan) and a host of other government VIPs. Since then, their lives have changed dramatically. Carrie’s been booted out of Langley, sent home to live with her father (James Rebhorn) in Virginia, where her life consists of daily doses of lithium and a stress-free job teaching ESL to Arab-speaking immigrants. Brody, whose shaky conscience stopped him from pulling the trigger on his suicide attack, has adopted a more covert assault on America by being elected to Congress and winning favor with Walden, who, irony of all ironies, wants to make Nick his running mate in the upcoming presidential election.
Elsewhere – in keeping with the show’s prescient, ripped-from-the-headlines timeliness -- Israel is fresh off unleashing airstrikes on nuclear facilities in Iran, attacks that stir enraged anti-American protestors to storm U.S. embassies in the Middle East. It's an escalating crisis Carrie’s mentor, Saul Berenson (the superb Mandy Patinkin), is dealing with when he’s suddenly contacted in Beirut by the wife of a Hezbollah muckity-muck claiming to have knowledge of planned terrorist attacks against the United States. But the only person the snitch will talk to is her old confident, Carrie, who Saul grudgingly drops on hands and knees begging to again serve her ungrateful nation.
What happens next, I will not say, but trust me, you won’t want to miss a nail-biting second of it, as the show’s team of Emmy-winning writers cook up a host of calamitous situations for Carrie and Brody to worm their way out of, both internationally and at home, where Brody’s withering ties to his wife (Morena Baccarin) and two teenage kids (Jackson Pace and Morgan Saylor) are about to snap. His only ally seems to be Dana, his rebellious 16-year-old daughter, who thinks Dad’s covert worship of Allah in the family’s garage is kind of neat. She even sticks up for the children of Islam when her ignorant American classmates start talking uninformed smack about Muslims during a school assembly.
Page 2 of 2 - And that’s the beauty of “Homeland,” as it paints an even-handed portrait of America’s growing paranoia and the world’s escalating hatred for a country that won’t take time to glean the true reasons why it’s being targeted. That’s also what’s great about Brody and Carrie, two people on opposite sides of the terror fight who can see beyond the black-and-white rhetoric and distill the complexities of what has brought Americans and Muslims to the brink of world war. Neither character picks a side, choosing instead to champion what each believes to be right and just.
In that respect, “Homeland” has the uncanny ability to make astute points about world matters while snazzily decked out in an action-adventure cloak. You come for the thrills, but you stay for the lessons. Not just about terrorism, but also about America’s nefarious dealings under the guise of homeland security, a political boilerplate that has slowly robbed us of our constitutionally guaranteed rights. And done so out of an unwarranted fear of an “enemy” that we know little of, and – worse – don’t care to learn anything about. If “Homeland” changes that thought process even a little – especially in the mind of its No. 1 fan, Barack Obama – it will not be just a terrific show, it well could be America’s savior.
HOMELAND (Season 2) Cast includes Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin. Directed by Michael Cuesta. 4 stars out of 4.