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Frustratingly Disappointing Second Season
on 4 February 2013
Like many others, I came into Homeland Season 2 with BIG expectations. The first season was amazing and ended fairly openly, leaving a ton of possibilities going into the second series. Sadly, Homeland S2 failed slightly to live up to its own high standards.
Firstly it has to be said that once again, Homeland's biggest strength is in the performances of the cast. Everyone is brilliant. Claire Danes and Damian Lewis deserve all the credit in the world in their roles as Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Brody and present us with fully fleshed out characters and the majority of the supporting cast are equally impressive. Even Brody's daughter Dana transitions from annoying, bratty teenager to one of the more interesting characters in the show. Top marks all round.
The series starts on a high note with the CIA performing undercover work in Lebanon to track down a contact in Al Qaeda. It turns out the disgraced Carrie is the only person who can get information out of the contact and the CIA reluctantly bring her back for the purposes of the mission. What follows is an amazingly tense few episodes which could rival any big-budget spy film. However from here on the series takes a bit of a nosedive and becomes very formulaic and dare I say it, tedious at times.
I think the main problem with Season 2 is that beyond those opening episodes there is a lack of any real story arc. The story seems to be composed of lots of individual character threads that never really come together or hold attention. Considering how gripping the first season was it was very disappointing and frustrating to watch week after week without feeling like anything was really taking off. A big contributing factor for this was that because we now know that Brody is a terrorist, all of the "is he, isn't he?" tension is gone, and since he is caught surprisingly early on in the series it never feels like any substantial threat occurs. From around episodes 4 to 10 it's very predictable and you could almost set a time to when Carrie would start crying or Brody would have a crisis of conscience. Thankfully though, it picks up again in a big way at around episode 10 and ends on a real high note.
The other big issue I had was that a lot of the time it was difficult to keep up the suspension of disbelief. I can get on board with Carrie returning for the purposes of the Lebanon mission but after this she is still around conducting and overseeing high-level operations despite her mental issues being well known and repeatedly compromising her relationship with a known terrorist. It's never really explained why she is allowed to stick around after being told up front that her "return" was a one-off thing. Similarly why is the most conspicuously blonde woman in Washington being sent on surveillance operations? You can spot her a mile off! There are also plotholes that get no explanation such as Saul's lie detector results from S1 or how America's most wanted man suddenly appears on their home soil. As for Brody becoming such a high-ranking member of congress, I can see why people would find it odd but after all, this is the country that grants celebrities such as Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger roles as Governors.
Basically, Homeland Season 2 is a bit like a freshly made sandwich of lettuce. At either end is the wonderful, tasty bread of the excellent beginning and conclusion of the series. In the middle you have something which will keep you going but is ultimately unsatisfying. A lack of a main story arc along with bizarre tangents and plotholes mean that it was always going to be overshadowed by its predecessor. Season 2 is very good and still stands above most modern TV shows and after the explosive ending it feels like Season 3 has a lot of potential. However as it is, I feel Homeland Season 2 is more of an appendix to Season 1 that while being perfectly watchable, could have been so, so much better.