Created by: Michael Klick, Katie O’Hara
Starring: Damian Lewis, Claire Danes
Homeland is one of those critically acclaimed shows that just doesn’t get the buzz of something like Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead yet it wins Emmy’s and those that love it really “love” it. The first season of the series was fantastic but it just didn’t feel like the kind of show that could, or maybe even should, go more than that first season.
Season 1 of Homeland was an edge of your seat thriller with each episode ratcheting up the danger throughout the season. Brody (Damian Lewis) was a soldier found years after he went missing and was imprisoned in the Middle East. He came home to much fanfare and throughout the season was even courted to be the next vice President. The problem for him was Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes), the lone CIA agent that saw Brody as a threat, as a terrorist. She believed he had been turned by his captors and then set loose to do evil things here in the United States. Carrie failed on the job once before and carries a great deal of guilt for that failure and her peers believe she is simply imprinting those feelings on this situation. Eventually she was proven to be right by the end of season one but literally at the cost of her own sanity. Her mental problems got the best of her and the finale of the show found her in a facility getting shock treatments.
That ending seemed a lot too melodramatic for a series that was so well versed in reality. Suddenly the series went soap opera and for me it just didn’t work. Overall the first season is still highly recommended with that little misstep at the end being just that, a single misstep. At the end of the season Brody had also turned on his captors though. He couldn’t blow up a bomb they had strapped to him so questions about what would happen next were left for season 2.
Season 2 of the show is much different than season 1. It was a little scary to see the thematic shift happen but the creators of the series handled it superbly and managed to bring us another season of edge of your seat thrill with the characters coming from different places this time around. The CIA are now aware of who Brody really is and are using him to get to his bosses in the Middle East first and then on American soil. Brody is being tugged by loyalties to his captors, his religion, his country, and his family. In an added layer of mystery there are new players at the CIA working on the case and their motivations aren’t clear for a majority of the season. The series picks up six months after Carrie’s electro shock and she is now teaching and her brains are still addled even if she is stable. Of course the situation at the CIA changes and only she can help them, her involvement at the CIA jars her back to reality and she eventually finds herself back working the Brody case.
There are tons of twists, backroom dealings, back stabbings, and action throughout the season. It’s never clear where anyone’s loyalties fall until it becomes shockingly clear usually with a cliffhanger ending. There is a love triangle between Brody, Carrie, and Brody’s wife that can become just a little tedious but that story element often allows the opportunity for questioning Carrie’s loyalties too. The season finale, like the end of season 1 is a little too melodramatic for my taste but it sets the stage for another story telling shift for the next season, something the creators of the series have proven that they are quite good at.
This is one of those fantastic situations where the blu-ray looks better than the show did when it was originally broadcast. Most likely you would have seen this show on cable Showtime broadcast in 720p. The blu-ray is presented here at a much higher 1080p resolution and overall it just looks great. The series is shot digitally but it still manages to have a cinematic look and feel to it. The shooting, lighting, and editing are all approached with a feature film attention to pacing and detail and it ends up coming off like a film experience. Colors are spot on and detail levels are extremely high, even in darker scenes. Black levels are inky and the compression did not crush the depth of the show, it never looks flat. This is easily one of the best, if not the best TV to Blu-Ray transfer available.
The DTS Master Audio presentation is just necessary for a thriller of this kind. Sounds play a big role in making the atmosphere of the show feel real and throughout the blu-ray presentation they work great. The audio here is more about being immersed in the world built by the show rather than whiz bang FX. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout the season and that’s saying a lot considering how often people speak in hushed tones. Ambient noise is constant but not overbearing in the rear speakers and the bass is consistent while not aggressive. Everything seems to be very well balanced in the audio mix throughout. This isn’t the blu-ray you pull out for demoing your sound system but you will find yourself feeling as if you are literally in this world with the characters.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The 3 disc set comes packaged in a standard slim blu-ray case with basic artwork that does fit well with that of season 1. It’s not particularly creative but it does get the job done.
Each of the three discs features some deleted scenes none of which really feel like they should have been included in their corresponding episodes but are still entertaining to see. There are really only two real supplements here and together they only run 24 minutes. The first one is on the first disc and it briefly takes a look at the shooting that had to be done in Israel and the second one is on the last disc focusing on the making of the season finale. Both of these feel like marketing material more than real featurettes but they are still good for a single watch. There’s also a short teaser reel that sets up season 2, something that was probably run on Showtime prior to the season premiere. Finally there’s a segment shot and narrated by Damian Lewis. Not a lot of depth in this 11 minutes either. Sadly the bonus features just don’t do this Emmy Award winning series justice, yeah that’s kind of a pun I know. Where are the commentaries? Where are the real documentaries? There are so many great opportunities for doing some fascinating extras here and twentieth Century Fox and Showtime are just dropping the ball.
Homeland Season 2 does what I didn’t think could be done; it takes everything great about season 1 and makes it better. It’s no wonder that the show has received so many awards because everyone participating in this series is at the top of their game. This is absolutely the best work that Claire Danes has ever done. The series plays with modern fears here in this country and gives weight to its story with them. The thematic elements of loyalty and religion are in place but they are tools for drama and suspense not preaching. Simply put Homeland is the best of TV right now.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10