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 season, which was met with many awards to honor its success, the second season has now arrived on Blu-ray, with the tough task of following up what it has started. Fortunately, this season of the show was up to the task of providing another completely engaging experience, complete with strong performances from its lead characters, a twisty plot that keeps the viewer guessing, and a finale that has me very excited for what the upcoming third season has in store. Continue on to learn more about this second season Blu-ray release.
It will be hard not to spoil events of the first season, so be forewarned, but I need to lay out some kind of synopsis. This second season picks up about six months after the ending of season one. Carrie Mathison (the Emmy award-winning Claire Danes) no longer has her job with the CIA, but is pulled into an operation, based on her past connections and a little help from her former mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). This scenario has a roundabout way of getting Carrie back into the CIA, which is necessary, as they need to deal with the Brody situation. Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) is now a Congressman and has been approached by the Vice President to be his running mate in his future campaign for President. This would be all well and good, if it were not for the fact that Brody is still working as a sleeper agent for Abu Nazir.
This season sees the return of many characters, notably the other members of the Brody household. Morena Baccarin continues to be incredibly effective as Jessica Brody, the suffering wife who is not sure to think of all the mysterious behavior her husband displays. Morgan Saylor, who plays Brody’s daughter, Dana, gets her own plots that manage to work well into this season. And there is Brody’s former best friend and Jessica’s former lover, Major Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff), who has been suspicious of certain events that he believes may be connected to Brody’s allegiances.
On the CIA side of things, David Harewood returns as the director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center and is as stern as always. David Marciano’s Virgil continues to be one of the only people Carrie can rely on, as he continues to do freelance surveillance work. And new to the group is Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who serves as a CIA operative very willing to do his job as effectively as possible.
While a new terrorist threat does emerge this season, the focus is just as much about examining the Brody character. Carrie is not sidelined though, as she contends with her own drama, based on the events that took her out of the game in season one, along with her own personal relationship with Brody. As the lives of both become intertwined, the story examines who these people are and why they are doing what they do, but that does not discount the turn to more edge-of-your-seat excitement, as the season reaches its big finale.
This Blu-ray set includes all 12 episodes of the second season:
1. “The Smile”
2. “Beirut Is Back”
3. “State of Independence”
4. “New Car Smell”
6. “A Gettysburg Address”
7. “The Clearing”
8. “I’ll Fly Away”
9. “Two Hats”
10. “Broken Hearts”
11. “In Memoriam”
12. “The Choice”
Homeland is 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 second 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, Homeland is very much an old school 70s espionage thriller that happens to be set in modern times.
I would say the first season was better constructed overall, as it introduced you to characters for the first time and allowed you to grasp onto who they were, while also developing a fairly closed off story for one season of television. It lent itself to future seasons, of course, but it works well as a standalone. I would not say the second season is all over the place, but it does stand to reason that the show seems more willing to go to certain ridiculous lengths to keep itself going. This would be a problem if the show was not so well-crafted from a filmmaking standpoint and very well-acted, as far as the cast is concerned.
Both Danes and Lewis continue to be absolutely fantastic in their respective roles. Danes has plenty to work with, based on the state of her character, following the previous season, but she is turned down a bit, compared to how her bipolar disorder factored in before. That said, the desperation and emotional turmoil she is put through can be quite intense, but it only adds to the quality of her performance. Much of the same can be said of Damien Lewis as Brody, who is much more the interesting character this time around (as opposed to a good balance in the first season). The way he is forced to deal with certain scenarios and the way we see him grapple with so many impossible situations is pretty amazing to watch and makes for a very complex person to try and get a read on, but incredibly fascinating all the same. The quieter force that is Mandy Patinkin does not hurt either. Rightfully Emmy-nominated, Patinkin adds such a great, authentic quality to this series that he is easily someone who can balance the series’ crazier moments with his down-to-earth, cold, but caring manner.
Once again, Homeland was able to truly deliver on being a series that is surprising, well-thought out, very well acted, and the kind of show that leaves you thinking about all the layers it has. Being only a minor step down from the previous season is not at all a bad thing when that first season was so amazing. It makes little difference overall, as Homeland is fantastic television that comes from a place of great work done by everyone involved. I look forward to seeing what the next season will have to offer, but for now, there are two great seasons available to watch.
Homeland’s second season arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC-encoded transfer for every episode, which looks great, given the digital photography used to film the show. Homeland continues to be a series that relies on a less is more approach in a lot of its craft. That does not stop the show from being well-shot and carefully constructed in the way it is framed and assembled during each episode, but it certainly is not a flashy series, when it does not deal with shocking moments. There is the continued sense that the show does try to have the same feel as a lot of 70s spy thrillers, which is quite fitting. With that said, the Blu-ray is fine when considering the textures and colors for the characters, backgrounds, and settings during various times of the day. It looks good throughout, with most of the emphasis being on the characters. When the show does get into more hectic scenarios, the look of the more action-y sequences are well handled for the Blu-ray, which feels rich and dense with a nice level of contrast to balance between that and the more intimate settings. Once again, this Blu-ray delivers very well in its video presentation.
I was quite pleased with the audio presentation as well. The score of this series by Sean Callery does a great job of representing a lot of what was going on in the characters’ heads. With that, this Blu-ray does a great job of delivering a solid audio experience all around. The score comes in at specific moments and sounds great, but when dealing with other aspects, the dialogue all registers well throughout. With the slightly expanded scope that allow for bigger set pieces, various other elements that factor into the audio sound clear and feel properly mixed, which include louder moments to take note of, such as explosions and gunshots. It is a solid lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that does well by the show for sure.
Unfortunately, there really is not a whole lot in the way of extra material to be found on this Blu-ray set, which is a bit confounding. Surely there would be time to record some commentaries or provide more insight to one of the most highly acclaimed series currently on television.
Returning to the Homeland: Filming in Israel – A look at the use of Israel as a location to fill in for Beirut.
The Border: A Prologue to Season Three – A really brief setup for one aspect of the next season.
A Super 8 Film Diary by Damian Lewis – Lewis uses his great accent to narrate his home movies from during the shooting of Homeland
The Choice: The Making of the Season Finale – A 15-minute look at what went into the final episode of the season.
Homeland’s second season is an incredibly well-constructed espionage thriller that makes good on its potential by really delivering where it needs to. It works just as well as a character study, but gets a lot of excitement-related bonus points by amping up the tensions to great effect, when necessary. The Blu-ray’s audio and video presentation is excellent. The show looks and sounds great on this format and is well worth being viewed in this manner. I wish there were more special features to go with all of this, but that does not stop this series from delivering overall. Fans of the first season should not miss this thrilling second season.