Homeland is an espionage drama series on Showtime that has received a lot of acclaim for the way it pulls together a lot of ideas surrounding counter-terrorism, paranoia, prisoners of war, damaged personas, and what it means to be a hero. Following the highly acclaimed first and second seasons (reviewed HERE and HERE), which were met with many awards to honor the success of the series success, the third season has now arrived on Blu-ray a few weeks before the new season starts, with the tough task of following up what has been started. This season of the series unfortunately has fallen prey to evidence of diminishing returns, despite attempts to change up the status quo and the very strong performances that continue to be prevalent throughout. Continue on to learn more about this third season Blu-ray release.
It will be hard not to spoil events of the first and second season, so be forewarned, but I need to lay out some kind of synopsis. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the CIA by Abu Nazir’s people, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is taking a lot of the blame, especially as Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) is forced to throw her under the bus. As this is taking place, we eventually catch up to Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who is living in exile, given the implication of his involvement with the attack. Given that this show needs to eventually bring its characters together, we do eventually find our three main places in the graces of each other, but to what extent and what the overall goal is, is something that builds over the course of the season.
Other key figures turn up as well. Introduced in the previous season, Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend, the new Agent 47) returns as the CIA black ops operative, doing what he can to try and keep Carrie safe, while following orders from Saul. And then you have the Brody clan, where Nicholas’ daughter Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor), in particular, has a lot to deal with, given the actions she took, following the news of her father supposedly being a terrorist. Also, because why not, I will make mention of F. Murray Abraham, who returns as Dar Adal, a retired black ops specialist, who is not afraid to get his hands dirty.
This Blu-ray set includes all 12 episodes of the second season:
- Tin Man Is Down
- Tower of David
- Game On
- The Yoga Play
- Still Positive
- A Red Wheelbarrow
- One Last Thing
- Good Night
- Big Man in Tehran
- The Star
Homeland was originally based on an Israel series, Prisoners of War, and was developed for American television by Howard Gordan and Alex Gansa, both of whom were previously involved with 24. I have previously described the series as 24 meets The Manchurian Candidate and The Conversation, and that really does continue to show in this third season. Like 24, Homeland has its moments of characters screaming at each other about where the terrorists are and what not, but Homeland is also very willing to play a lot of things very close to the chest, which makes these characters and their choices all the more compelling. As opposed to an action/drama, Homelandis very much an old school 70s espionage thriller that happens to be set in modern times.
In this third season, while the dynamics have certainly changed, that is the nature of jazz as well, which very much plays into the scoring of this series, when it is not about tense musical stings. Pushing Carrie to her limits in terms of dealing with the politics of her actions, while we also see different shades of Saul, continues to make the CIA side of this series compelling enough. It is mainly due to the strength of Danes and Patinkin as actors in these roles, but I cannot deny that putting so much focus on alienating Carrie makes this show hard to handle at times.
More bothersome to others, though not as much to myself, was the Dana Brody plotline. While last season went to some ridiculous lengths to keep her involved in a physical and thematic sense (guilt over vehicular manslaughter), this season wants to treat her as the victim of poor circumstances, given what actions she took, based on what happened with her father. As a result, we get a plotline involving her that seems like a bit of a stretch, but I do think Saylor is a fine young actress. It is fortunate that this season wraps up her storyline in a fairly appropriate manner, that does not need to cloud the entire season, but with that said, her character was a big part of what made the first season’s finale so compelling.
As I do not want to spoil anything, I won’t go through the ridiculous plot contortions utilized to keep certain characters around, but I will say that regardless of how I would have liked to see Brody handled, Damien Lewis is pretty incredibly, from a performance standpoint. There are some aspects of who this man has become, let alone some episodes that really single him out, which makes great use of this man who has such a tricky role to play. I will say that the finale of this season does a fine job of closing off certain storylines that pertain to these characters, while also serving as a strong way to allow the next season to start pretty fresh.
While not as seamless as previous seasons and now showing signs of age, I would like to be confident that the fourth season will allow things to flesh out in new and interesting ways. That said, this third season, despite its hiccups, still features some tense filmmaking, strong performances, and enough motivation to keep one watching this series. Plus, I still cannot get over how wonderful it is to see Mandy Patinkin be so consistently watchable.
Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Clarity/Detail: Homeland has always been a sharp and nicely defined series to watch on Blu-ray. There is a lot of great detail to take in, given the varying locales featured in this season, let alone things like costume design and the various aspects of the CIA settings, etc. All of this comes through nice and clear.
Depth: There are aspects of Brody’s location and some developments later in the season that do a fine job of conveying the sense of depth that is nicely handled for this Blu-ray.
Black Levels: Much like the characters, there are a lot of shadowy aspects to the look of this series and they come through very nicely thanks to the dark and inky black levels featured on this Blu-ray presentation.
Color Reproduction: Colors continue to be accurate and well suited to the series, when put into play. Given the different locations, there are some key moments that play quite well in regards to the use of color, which is fine for a series like this.
Flesh Tones: Things like lighting, locations, and other aspects keep the characters in constant flux, but textures and flesh tones always come through quite well.
Noise/Artifacts: Nothing of note here.
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Dynamics: Not sure why, but this season of Homeland features less impact form a visceral level, despite some significant action beats and as a result, the lossless soundtrack is less of a work out for a home theater system. With that in mind, the audio track still provides more than enough to keep the viewer satisfied.
Low Frequency Extension: When the LFE channel is given the chance to go to work, this Blu-ray does a fine job of allowing the subwoofer to leave an impact.
Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels do their job in enveloping the viewer throughout every episode. The ambiance, score, action, and dialogue are all balanced quite well, making for a solid three-dimensional experience.
Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone sounds loud and clear, whether people are talking or yelling.
There are some features spread across all three discs in this set. I continue to wish for more extras, given how neat it would be to learn more about the actors/creators involved in the season, the work that goes into making these episodes work and other such aspects. Alas, there is very little here, which is a shame.
- Disc One:
- Homeland Season Three: Recreating the Tower of David (HD, 7:33) – A look at one of the main locations for this season and how different filming locations were utilized.
- Deleted Scene (HD, 2:11)
- Disc Two:
- Deleted Scene (HD, 7:25)
- Disc Three:
- The Last Days: Filming the Season Finale in Morocco (HD, 13:06) – A look at the filming last episode of the season, with some details regarding the plotting, the effects, the location, and other aspects.
- Audio Commentary on the Season Finale with Damian Lewis, Alex Gansa and Joe Hobeck – A nice enough conversation, though I would love to hear more from these guys on other episodes.
- Deleted Scene (HD, 4:35)
While Season 3 of Homeland is not as strong as the previous two seasons, it has enough in the way of strong performances and some interesting turns in the plot that kept me still engaged by how everything ended up turning out. With that in mind, the Blu-ray presentation is quite strong, despite the extras coming up short overall. I continue to be excited about what is to come next for this series, but considering everything, Homeland may have fallen down a couple levels, but is still damn exciting to watch, when it is at its best.