Showtime’s intense CIA/terrorist/government based thriller Homeland is back for its second season. The first season was amazing as evidenced by the multiple Emmys they received, including best drama, actor, actress, and writing. This show invokes paranoia, patriotism and sympathy and keeps the viewers totally engaged. So far, the second season is off to a good start, even though they are still just setting the stage for what is to come. Spoiler alerts for those who haven’t watched these episodes yet.
Claire Danes’ character Carrie broke down at the end of last season, lost her CIA career and subsequently submitted to electro-shock therapy for her bipolar disorder. Just before the therapy begins, she recalls something that validates her theories about Nicholas Brody. Brody (played by Damian Lewis) was a soldier and POW who Carrie believes was turned into a sleeper agent by the Taliban during his captivity. Unfortunately, after the electro-shocks, these memories were lost and we begin this season six months later. Brody is now a Congressman and is on a short-list for the next Vice-Presidential candidate. He is on the track that terrorist Abu Nazir wanted and now Nazir is asking him to steal classified CIA information that would risk US national security. Brody is torn but continues to show his loyalty to Nazir.
Meanwhile, Carrie is now teaching English to Arabic speakers and tending to her garden. She is watched by her father and sister who try to keep her from anything that could trigger a bipolar episode. Meanwhile, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is working in Beirut and requires Carrie’s help getting critical information from an asset named Fatima. Carrie’s former CIA boss comes to ask her help since the asset won’t speak to anyone but her. This scene is very emotional since Carrie was fired by this man and he was not sensitive to her problems or grateful for all her past work. Carrie agrees to go to Beirut but at the end of the episode we see her being chased and unable to meet with Saul or Fatima. During the chase, Carrie smiles in a way that shows her manic side may resurface and start another riveting season.
There is of course so much more in this episode, with insights into Brody’s family, and the discussion of Israel bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. However, the thing that makes this show so compelling to watch is how well Danes and Lewis play their very complex characters. The audience doesn’t know how to feel about them even in their worst moments because there is always a layer of humanity that is relatable. How do you feel about these characters?