Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Homeland," Season Two

Season two of “Homeland” continues the program’s arc after the show’s excellent opening set of episodes.  In season two, the CIA recalls the seemingly discredited Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) back to service to deal with potential retaliatory strikes on the U.S. after an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Many have described “Homeland” as the “anti-24” and the contrast can be seen in the interrogation scenes in the two shows.  In season one, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), eventually draws information out of a suspect after earning her confidence during a cross-country car trip, rather than torturing her a la Jack Bauer.  Similarly, in season two, Carrie finally gets American marine turned terrorist Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) to confess by identifying with his post-traumatic stress.  Many criticized “24” during its run for oversimplifying the interrogation process and “Homeland” is much more in line with techniques that intelligence professionals say usually work, as torture often produces unreliable information.  This evolution is another manifestation of how the nation has moved away from the tactics of the early years of the Bush war on terror.
Though the Islamic terrorist threat is the primary focus, “Homeland” also clearly shows the influence of 1970s thrillers that portray the government and its intelligent agencies as a danger as well.  After Brody moves to assist the CIA to hunt down the Bin Laden-like Abu Nazir, the Company makes plans to eliminate him after his work is done.   This subplot consumes a good portion of the final episodes, along with the terrorist threat
Of course, the show does take some entertaining—but absurd—“24” like twists.  In season one, it is clear that the neoconservative Vice President Walden is a stand-in for Dick Cheney and the connection becomes even clearer this season when it turns out he has a pacemaker for his heart problem.  In a bizarre series of evens, Nazir programs the pacemaker to give Walden a heart attack and kill him in revenge for the drone strike that killed his son (Walden ordered the attack as CIA director).
“Homeland” also portrays the war on terror’s impact on the home front.  Brody’s PTSD has left him unable to deal with his wife and family and he goes to the length of giving his best friend, Mike, permission to resume the relationship he had with his wife while Brody was presumed dead in Iraq.  Brody believes the war and his captivity has permanently changed him, just as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have altered many real-life vets.
As season two concludes, it takes a dramatic twist when the late Nazir’s network attacks the CIA and make it look like it was the work of the now reformed Brody.  Having started a romantic relationship, Carrie helps Brody escape the country.  Away from Langley at the time of the attack, it appears Saul will become CIA director and Carrie will serve at his side with Brody’s role in exonerating himself unclear.  With the Abu Nazir plotline concluded, “Homeland,” like other serialized shows, has revamped key parts of its premise and it will be interesting to see where the program goes from here.  I might have to get Showtime because I don’t think I can wait a full year to find out.

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