TV review: Homeland

By Columbus Alive
From the September 27, 2012 edition

It was immediately apparent “Homeland” had all the pieces to become a great television drama, but I wasn’t sure if the writers could puzzle them all together the right way. Then the first season produced two indelible performances by the leads, and dovetailed plots and themes in a powerful conclusion to the season-long storyline while opening new plots to explore.

On paper, “Homeland” is a suspenseful conspiracy thriller that often misdirects the audience with incredible skill, but it’s also the best character study this side of “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad.” Seeing Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) investigate marine Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) as a potential terrorist — using questionable methods and motivations, then eventually questioning her own sanity — was a tour de force by Danes. Lewis’ Brody was also captivating as a man torn between his loyalties; whether it’s his pseudo patriotism, Islamic religion or family ties.

Season 2 jumps forward a few months since last season’s edge-of-seat finale, and character development is still at the forefront. For Carrie, the CIA is the past. She’s slowly recovering from her “treatments” and struggling for a normal life, until Sal (Mandy Patinkin) shows up needing her help with an asset. Brody is now a popular congressman with a line to the vice presidential nomination, but still has ties to the nefarious, Osama bin Laden-like Abu Nazir. Many innocent lives will again rest within the stratum of Brody’s conscience.

If you’re into “Homeland” for the intelligence thriller aspect, the first two episodes have intense moments and explosive reveals. Those captivated by the thought-provoking exploration of Carrie and Brody will also be pleased, but I foresee their personal bombshells hitting later this season.

“Homeland” was one of the best dramas last year, and even though there’s a chance it could fall apart at any moment, that’s probably not happening in Season 2. Showrunners Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon have found the right balance to continue the cat-and-mouse suspense while being able to continue building complex characters.