TV Review - Homeland: Season 2

Mandy Patinkin (left) and
Claire Danes in a scene from "Homeland"
I made some Emmy predictions about which show would and should win the top awards, including Outstanding Drama Series. Here are those predictions, if you didn't see them, but the short of it is that I was wrong about all of my predictions except Frozen Planet and the fact that Homeland should and would sweep the dramatic awards. I was therefore extremely happy when that's what exactly it did. The show was nominated for nine Emmys. It won six. Damian Lewis won for his role of Nicholas Brody, a U.S. marine who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held hostage for years, along with a fellow soldier named Tom Walker, a skilled sniper. Claire Danes won for her role of Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent who suspects Brody of defecting, of being a turned agent. The first season, which was by far the best series of episodes not only made last year but ever, focused on Carrie's efforts to prove Brody was a traitor as well as expose that he was working for known terrorist, Abu Nazir.

Season 2 picks up months where Season 1 leaves off. Carrie is no longer in the CIA. She's now a vegetarian living in a Washington, DC suburb under the supervision of her father and sister. Carrie suffered a lot of mental problems last season and it appears that she's in a place where she can be in peace and get over those problems. She works instead as a ESL teacher for immigrants. Brody is a congressman. The Vice President of the United States handpicked him to fill the seat of a representative who had to vacate due to a sex scandal. Brody seems perfectly fine until he's visited by the mysterious Roya Hammad, played by Zuleikha Robinson (Lost). She has a message from Abu Nazir.

The CIA, at the same time, visits Carrie with a message as well. A contact, or what the agency calls an asset, that Carrie made years ago has come out of the woodwork with information about Nazir and a new attack against America that's upcoming. Carrie has to go to Lebanon in order to meet the asset and get the intelligence. Meanwhile, the Vice President visits Brody again with designs to advance his career. He wants to groom Brody for a higher office. Yet, Brody is being pulled in two directions over what he should do with that higher office and greater access into the government.

All of it stems from Brody's time in Afghanistan. His wife Jessica, played by Morena Baccarin, learns that while Brody was in captivity he converted to Islam. This perhaps puts in her head that if he converted to that, he might have converted to other things. She doesn't seem as understanding as Brody's daughter, Dana, played by Morgan Saylor. Dana easily embraces the fact that her dad is a closeted Muslim. She even defends him. However, Brody keeps his Islamic faith out of people's eyes, even his friends who are all marines. Some of them notice that Brody has converted a little bit. They're not totally aware of what, but they have some sense that he's different.

The fact remains that Brody is different. He lost someone that he loved, a surrogate son in many ways. That surrogate son was a little Muslim boy named Issa. An illegal drone attack killed Issa as well as other school children. Brody witnessed this and found out that the men in the government who were responsible weren't held responsible, so Brody wants justice for that and Nazir who was Issa's father wants to use that to pressure Brody into doing more, which includes murdering people. Brody has to decide if he's going to go that far. One can argue he's already made the decision, but this season offers him a second chance.

The writers, adapting from the Israeli TV series by Gideon Raff, have crafted a great character in a great dilemma. Working off great printed material, the producers and directors, like Michael Cuesta who did the first and second episodes of this season, have crafted what has so far been a great spy movie week-to-week. The action might not be as intense as a James Bond film, Mission: Impossible or The Bourne Identity, but the action they do have is nail-biting and certainly had me anxious, specifically the scenes set in Lebanon.

Some might criticize this show because like with so many films and TV shows, Muslims are ultimately cast as the bad guys. Brody, on the other hand, is Muslim, and whether or not he's a bad guy is still to be determined. One could argue that he's been certainly compromised, but he's also certainly not evil. He's a white, All-American marine who prays to Allah. It's a powerful distinction and does bring the Muslim faith and its practices into people's homes, particularly Brody's home, and in tiny moments allows people to understand it or at least understand the point-of-view of some Muslims and Arabs who have had their children blown up. Trust me, there's more than a few.

This is actually not the first time the main character of a TV series has been Muslim. Aliens in America, which was cancelled by the CW, had a young boy from Pakistan, played by Adhir Kalyan (Rules of Engagment) as a foreign exchange student living in an American home. That show tried to tackle the issue of U.S.-Muslim relations in a comedic way. Showtime's Sleeper Cell was a mini-series starring Michael Ealy (Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Good Wife) that worked on similar levels as Homeland, but was designed as a closed circuit. The short-lived reality show on TLC called All-American Muslim tried to go the Bravo or Kim Kardashian-route with Islam. Homeland is better because it's more entertaining and in a good way is more insidious about attacking the issue of U.S.-Muslim relations, which is why Homeland will be more successful.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Airs Sundays at 10PM on Showtime.


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