Monday, October 01, 2012

Homeland: Season 2 premiere

Ok, I'm somewhat of a late arrival to the Showtime phenom that is "Homeland," having finished season 1 last week - just in time for the season 2 premiere. But I see no reason why that should stop me from blogging what's quickly become (for me, at least) the most exciting new show on TV right now. I may not be able to do it every week, as I don't have Showtime and am therefore dependent on friends who do, but when I do blog it, I'm aiming for a quicker turnaround than I usually managed for "Mad Men."

On that note, here are some quick thoughts on the season premiere:

-SETTING THE SCENE: Tensions running high in the Middle East, based on a (sadly) not-at-all-farfetched premise - Israel bombs Iran's nuclear sites, sparking rage across the Middle East. Remarkably topical and even more remarkably well timed, coming so soon after Netanyahu's little cartoon-bomb drawing stunt before the U.N. Will be interesting to see where the writers go with this. It seems tied in to Abu Nazir's plotting (what isn't, in "Homeland"-universe?), but why exactly would Nazir want to retaliate on behalf of Iran? And how's he going to convince Brody that this has anything to do with avenging Issa?

-THE TWO SIDES OF THE COIN: Meaning Carrie and Brody, those two crazy kids, "damaged goods" both. For the moment they're on totally separate narrative paths - a sharp shift from last season - but I've no doubt they'll intersect before long.

-CONVALESCING CARRIE? I have to say I found Carrie's storyline, at least in this episode, much more compelling, if not necessarily more realistic, than Brody's. I liked the little details of her mental "convalescence," like the gardening, the blue books, and the little note "BREATHE" pinned to her mirror - even if it was all too conveniently cut short by the magical reappearance of the CIA in her life. Yes, the "source that will only talk to Carrie" was a bit of a deus ex machina, but the results were worth it. Apart from the pilot, we've never really seen Carrie "in the field" - I don't think stalking Brody counts - and it was pretty riveting watching her try, tentatively at first, to get back on her game, and her momentary elation after successfully eluding her pursuer (what exactly did she do to incapacitate him, anyway - knee him in the groin?) and realizing she still has It. It was also wrenching to see what I assume were the effects of her electroshock therapy on her short-term memory and her obvious frustration butting up against her refusal to admit what's clear to everyone else: she isn't really ready for this mission just yet. I hope the show doesn't go overboard with the cloak-and-dagger stuff, but for now, it's fun to watch. Claire Danes continues to show just the right amount of crazy, and the right balance between brittleness and strength.

-FUTURE VP BRODY? I love Damian Lewis, and he was excellent as always tonight, but I had a hard time buying any of his three main plot threads in this episode. The first - VP Walden tapping Brody for potential running mate - was perhaps the least objectionable, probably because we've seen something like this coming ever since his ill-fated aide turned her appraising eye on our favorite messed-up war hero. But it did seem a little premature (as Brody himself noted) and that first meeting with Walden rather short and perfunctory, unless there's a deeper game afoot on the VP's part. (The ultimate twist: WALDEN's the Manchurian Candidate! He's working with Nazir! Never mind that that would make no sense whatsoever.)

OTOH, Brody plot #2 - in which a reluctant Brody lets the shady journalist-lady (played by Zuleikha Robinson, who reminds me physically of Norah Jones) pressure him into raiding Estes' safe - just didn't work for me; it felt like something out of a second-rate spy thriller, not up to "Homeland"'s usual standards. And for someone Carrie's previously referred to as one of the smartest men at the CIA, Estes sure acts pretty dumb sometimes. What kind of CIA boss-man leaves a Congressman alone in his office (with the door closed, no less) where there's CLASSIFIED INFO? (Of course, the characters on this show have played pretty fast and loose with exposing and leaving classified info unprotected, Carrie being the worst offender in this regard, though Estes is a close second - I rolled my eyes at the pair of them discussing an asset on HER SISTER'S FRONT PORCH.) And who sets up a date with aforesaid shady journalist-lady after she's been trying to pry some more classified info out of him? (The ultimate twist: ESTES is the Manchurian candidate! He's working with Nazir! Never mind that that would make no sense whatsoever.) One thing I did like about the Estes-Brody encounter was the little exchange between them about the drone program. That one line from Brody - "you lost count?" - was just dripping with irony.

And Brody plot #3 - Dana getting provoked into spilling the beans about her dad's religion, Jessica freaking out after Brody confirms it (did not see that coming) - also felt a bit contrived, although the acting was solid. Jess's reaction was in some ways the more understandable of the two, but her natural anger and dismay that her husband's continued to keep secrets from her was overshadowed by a colder motivation - her fear of losing their newly-elevated status. This is a side of Jess we haven't seen before, and it has the potential to make her a more interesting, if less sympathetic, character than last season's put-upon wife. As for Dana, well...I think sooner or later Brody’s going to have to kill her – or, more likely, convert her. She’s halfway there already.

-LET'S PLAY WHACK-A-MOLE! Last season it was strongly suggested that there's a mole within the government who's been consistently sabotaging the CIA's best-laid plans vis a vis Abu Nazir. So the question remains: is there a mole? And, more importantly, is it someone we know? It can't be Saul, just can't. That would ruin the show and the lovely relationship he has with Carrie. Estes is in some ways a more likely starter, but I don't think it's him. That leaves Galvez (Carrie's former colleague, the half-Lebanese guy) but I don't really want it to be him, either. First because I kinda like him (even if his character's been underdeveloped so far), second because...well, it would be disappointing to have the Muslim guy be the mole. (The ultimate twist: CARRIE's the mole! She's actually schizophrenic, and her other personality is working with Nazir!...oh, never mind.)


-So apparently Dana goes to Sidwell Friends now? That Quaker meeting was painful to sit through on so many different levels. Cannot speak to how realistic it was.

-Did I mishear, or is Carrie's asset's name really Fatima Ali? Sounds like something straight out of Arabian Nights.

-Claire Danes is pregnant and still shooting "Homeland." She's so thin it’s gonna be hard to disguise the baby bump.

-Not enough Saul! Btw, I still don’t know whether Saul reports to Estes or whether they’re of equal rank. For that matter I don't even know what Saul's exact position or title is...anyone else know?

-Judging from the credits and previews for next week, it looks like the actor who's playing Mike is still around, even though his character arc seemed more or less played out by the end of season 1. My prediction: he figures out what happened to Tom Walker and gets offed - possibly by Brody himself - before being able to tell anyone.

-More from the credits: yay, Virgil’s a regular!

-Line of the week goes to Carrie: “I cook dinner on Thursdays!"


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