Contributed by Siobhan Parker
Emmy success story Homeland returned to Channel 4 last night for its second season, just a week after its US air date – a short delay for casual fans but for Homeland obsessives it was a tense week of averting eyes and ignoring excited tweets such as “Episode 211 has just blown my mind!” from David Harewood (who plays the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center’s Director David Estes). It proved to be a worthwhile wait.
We pick up around six months after the finale of season 1 which saw CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) receiving ECT treatment for bi-polar disorder. When we rejoin Carrie, she is working as an ESL teacher and living with her father. When she receives a call from her former mentor Saul (Mandy Patinkin), she is back on a plane to Lebanon within hours despite an initial, vehement refusal to speak to anyone involved with her former life. Her violent reaction to hearing Estes’ name was brilliantly acted, and indicates her fear of allowing that life back in, yet her meeting with him shows the strong hold her old life has over her. Towards the end of season 1, Danes’ portrayal of bi-polar disorder had been stretched to the limit, and had the season continued any longer without her referring herself for treatment, I wonder whether the character would have become a parody of itself, so crazed was she. However, the treatment arrived just as she was becoming almost too uncomfortable to watch, and now we see a calmer, more focused Carrie, albeit with hints of the illness under the surface. Towards the end of the episode, we see a hint of the excitement, bordering on delirium, that she felt during her time as an active officer, as she escapes from a policeman who had been pursuing her. It is a testament to Danes’ acting abilities that she can depict Carrie’s slide back into her former life with just a smile.
Meanwhile, former marine turned al-Qaeda operative Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) has now become a Congressman, and during the episode he is approached by the Vice-President to become his running mate during the election trail. For me, Lewis was one of the standout actors of season 1, imbuing Brody’s character with a threatening malice and slyness that simmered just below the surface of the heroic family man that he showed to the world. In this episode, he is approached by one of al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Nazir’s allies who has an assignment for him. After an initial refusal to assist in the killing of innocent civilians, Brody agrees. The speed in which he changes his mind suggests that he is more deeply mired in his al-Qaeda allegiances than when we left him, unable to blow up a room containing himself and the Vice-President, in season 1, although it could just be that he is more comfortable arranging the massacre of the innocents from within his comfortable surroundings than becoming a suicide bomber. Either way, his continued allegiance to Nazir is obvious, and it will be interesting to see how far this will go in season 2.
For me, the most interesting scenes in the episode didn’t come from any of the main characters, but from Brody’s daughter Dana. After her accidental involvement with Brody’s failed suicide bomb attack and her discovery of his Muslim beliefs at the end of season 1, we see her defending Muslims during a debate at school, and helping her father bury his copy of the Koran in the garden after it was thrown to the floor when her mother Jessica (Morena Baccarin) discovered her husbands conversion to Islam. Dana could prove to be an interesting part of Brody’s decision making process when weighing up his role as a father and political figure with his allegiance to Abu Nazir, and perhaps even an ally for him at home.
In all, the episode was a slow burner with little of the tension and excitement that had built up at the end of season 1; however the threads are being weaved for several fascinating plot strands and I can’t wait to see when and how Carrie begins her inevitable slide towards another manic episode, and how Brody aligns his new role as running mate to the Vice-President with his al-Qaeda allegiances.
Homeland continues Sunday’s at 9.00pm on Channel 4