Homeland: Season 2
Many people seem to hold the opinion that weekly original series broadcast on cable exist solely to exploit a loop hold in the FCC mandate that permits previously unimaginable us of profanity, nudity and sexual content. While it is certainly truth that this is an aspect of unrestricted programing content and George Carlin’s iconic seven words you’ll never hear on TV doesn’t apply in this venue, such an assessment is unreasonably myopic. The plain fact is cable series have in many cases provided a stage for some dramas and comedies of the highest possible quality. With the artistic freedom to explore mature themes openly and with a gritty realism networks such as HBO, Showtime, Starz and AMC have crafted arguably the most intelligent an compelling entertainment of our current era. One of the prime examples is under examination here, HBO’s ‘Homeland’, in particular the second season.
As the title suggests the series focuses on a topic that since the tragic events of 9-11 been a foremost concern of our entire population, homeland security. The treasured freedoms that have been the cornerstone of the American way of life have been exchanged in an attempt to secure a greater sense of security. ‘Homeland’ has been accused by some as exploiting the darkest and most emotionally intense moment in our history and to a given extent this assessment is valid. What must be included in any analysis of this show is to a considerable extent providing a similar purpose as previously held by literature. A crucial role of both is to hold our society up to an unblinking eye that delves into emotional and psychological motivation that drives us as a culture. This level of intensity and unabashed veracity could not be implementing within the confines of traditional broadcast television. ‘Homeland’ forgoes the puerile uses of the liberal standards into in order to tell a story of incredible potency which translates to mesmerizing entertainment. In fact this format permits the story teller to go into minute detail that otherwise would require a series of several hefty tomes. With how the story of ‘Homeland’ is laid out and presented you can view each season as a novel with the episodes representing the chapter breaks. The first season introduced the audience to the characters in pay and the complex interrelationships and multilayered situations.
Claire Danes continues to give the performance of a lifetime as CIA officer, Carrie Mathison. She is an exceptional analyst whose career was adversely but her propensity for obsessing over an assignment. Although this is in part due to her unrelenting nature and need to resolve details Carrie is bi-polar which frequently leads to dangerously erratic behavior. The first season she follows up on information she obtained while in Iraq that a recently retrieved American Marine has been compromised by terrorists; the signs point to the returning American hero, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). An already complicated situation becomes untenably convoluted when Carrie engages in a sexual relationship with him. In an understandable turn of events the political power brokers decide to cash in on Brody’s heroic image by running him for office as a congressman. The majority of the first season was devoted to teasing the audience with the true nature of Brody and Carrie coming perilously close to complete psychological collapse. By the conclusion of that season Carrie is close to catatonic with her CIA mentor, Middle-East Division Chief, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) desperate to reconcile a critical time line of events Carrie had established.
Most dramatic series end a season on a cliff hanger in order to maintain an elevated need to know among the fans. With the show each episode was so perfectly constructed by the time that last shot fades to credits the audiences is primed to tune in for season two. This season does not ease the fans back into the story; it opens with the world in more turmoil than usual and Carrie reduced to an in instructor fir an English as a second language class. She is approached by the CIA Director Estes (David Harewood) followed by Saul requesting her assistance. After a kidnapping, over derision and a breakdown she is not anxious to return. One of her former field informers has reappeared with critical intelligence and they need Carrie to go to Lebanon to expedite its retrieval. Meanwhile Brody is now the freshman congressman for the Virginia's 2nd congressional district, is already being floated as a candidate on the national front. Vice President Walden (Jamey Sheridan) offers Brody the second spot in his bid for the Presidency. Before the first couple of episodes have been broadcast the level of intrigue is already poised to surpass the first season.
This places Saul in an extremely difficult position on both the personal and professional level. He has a paternal feeling towards Carrie, one of the brightest and most intuitive agents he has ever trained. Pulling back in of a mission of such incredible criticality, particularly requiring a return to the Middle East could easily push her irrevocably over the point of no return. On the other hand if he acts with caution towards Carrie’s fragile psychological state many innocent lives will be lost. This is a reoccurring a fundamental theme imitated in the prior season and masterfully built upon here; the balance between the human toil upon failure with the personal harm adjunct to success. Unlike the spies in the vast majority of movie thrillers the espionage operatives as depicted here can be realistically fragile emotionally. Carrie is very good at what she does and is completed vested in the security she is entrusted to maintain. She is also an emotionally damaged and psychologically unstable young woman. Much of the tension generated by this series is derived from the realization that these crucial investigations and life or death decisions are shouldered by fallible human beings.
Carrie is mentally unbalanced and after electroconvulsive treatment her psychological state is more delicate than ever. Ms Danes is an actress of extraordinary ability and emotional range. She is a child star who successfully navigated growing up famous without the self-destructive detours so prevalent among young Hollywood. Inevitably her two years studying psychology at Yale helped her prepare for this difficult role. Some comedians have parodied the erratic and frantic energy Ms Danes brings to this role but that doesn’t diminish just how spot on her performance continues to be. This is extended to every actor engaged in this series as well as the writing and direction. To maintain the high octane power of this story and continually escalate the circumstances in conjunction with exemplary character development is an amazing accomplishment. Many series experience a sophomore slump this one managed to use the first season as a foundation to achieve even greater heights. It remains one It remains one of the most intelligently fashioned series redefining the genre.
The Border: A Prologue to Season Three