(This review includes spoilers for the whole season)
Last weekend saw the end of the second season of Showtime's Homeland. After a great season premiere and some unexpectedly early twists, the show again delivered on its promise of great thrills, intense moments, and great performances.
Following the events of the first season, which left war hero/terrorist Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) en route to a political career, and mentally unstable CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) dismissed from the CIA and "committed", the new season manages to spin the wheels again in a believable way, as Carrie's suspicions are proved correct and Brody's cover is blown, forcing him to collaborate with the CIA in their attempt to capture head terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). Meanwhile, Brody's family life continues to crumble under his lies and guilt.
After Brody's capture on the fourth episode, I asked myself "what now?", cause it seemed surprisingly early in the season for that. But fortunately, the writers found good paths to take the story through on its way to the finale, just like they did on the first season. And every episode delivers on such different ways, be it with its performances ("Q&A"), its emotional grip ("The Clearing"), or several unexpected twists. The fifth episode ("Q&A"), which featured an intense interrogation of Brody by both Quinn (Rupert Friend) and Carrie was among the best the show has done so far. Simply an acting tour-de-force by everyone involved.
Some of the unexpected twists involved the CIA being surprised while searching the Tailor's shop in Gettysburgh by a team of terrorists that left everyone, including Quinn and Galvez, for dead; Brody being taken away by Roya to meet Abu Nazir; or the revelations of Quinn's actual involvement in the mission. All of those involved pretty good cliffhangers that left me craving for the next episode.
That said, I won't deny that I felt a certain decline in the execution of some plotpoints during the second half of the season. Most notably, I felt the way the search for Nazir at the abandoned mill was handled was slightly weak. I mean, experienced tactical search teams didn't notice a false wall? or Carrie and the team leader being separated from the rest when they find Nazir? the awkward return of Galvez? Those are some of the ones that come to mind. Producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon did a good job in addressing some of these "issues" in a lengthy press conference (read here). But overall, those issues didn't detract much from my enjoyment of the show.
The finale also did a great job of putting the events of past episodes in perspective. Whereas the capture of Abu Nazir had seem a bit anti-climatic and maybe even borderline silly, the finale revealed what was actually behind all of it, literally with a bang as an explosive planted on Brody's car blows up the whole CIA building in the middle of a memorial to Vice-President Walden. The moment of the explosion was actually a nice surprise that I didn't see coming. It saddens me that they offed Estes (David Harewood) because I always thought he was a pretty good actor, and the character was a solid grey-ish antagonist.
There was actually a little bit of everything in the finale, with great emotional moments between Brody and Dana, some great intense moments between Estes/Saul, Estes/Quinn, and Saul/Carrie. I have to add that the addition of Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn to the cast was a great move. Friend delivered greatly with his cold performance. I loved his character. As for the rest, if there's anything else I could nitpick, the moments that Carrie and Brody spend together as a "happy couple" always feel awkward to me. And maybe that's how it's supposed to be, but I really don't see this relationship as something healthy. I tend to lean towards Saul point of view on the matter and I consider Carrie to be "the smartest and the dumbest f**king person I've ever known".
Either way, the explosion at the CIA only ignited another string of events, as Carrie is forced to help Brody leave the country, while Saul is left in charge of the CIA, after the death of more than 200 people, including Estes and most of the CIA top-brass. This sets up the events of what would be the third season, which will begin someday in 2013. Just like after Season 1, I can't wait.
(All pictures belong to Showtime and its affiliates)