Homeland: Season 2 (2012)
22nd September 2013
With Carrie Mathison returning to civilian life and recovering at home after her mental breakdown and treatment for her bipolar disorder, Brody has become a U.S. congressman - and potential running mate for the Vice President - safe in the knowledge that his double life can continue without the CIA's prying eyes. Allowing himself to relax, Brody is now able spend more of his time trying to mend his increasingly fraught relationship with Jessica - and avoiding the increasing demands of Abu Nazir.
But when the CIA uncover a new terrorist threat, and a contact insists that they'll only talk to Carrie, Saul insists that she's brought back in - albeit on a tight leash - she's sent off to Beirut to collect the valuable information about Abu Naziri in person. After a dramatic chase, with Carrie soon slipping back into her previous "life", she retrieves various documents - but they don't appear to offer much value. However, buried deep within them, Saul finds something deeply shocking, forcing him to fully reinstate Carrie and back in the field.
Carrie's mission is to be a simple one - tail Brody and get close to him, but she's not to reveal that she's back working at the CIA. Director of the Counterterrorism Center, David Estes, the same man who virtually drove Carrie to her breakdown in the first place, is not happy with Saul's idea but, short on ideas, he has no other options open to him - or does he...?
But during a simple meeting at a hotel to gather intelligence, Carrie loses her cool - and cover - and confronts Brody about his past actions, forcing the CIA to intervene. Brody is "bagged", handcuffed, bundled into a van and put into a dark room handcuffed to a chair. Despite him protesting his innocence, and the fact they've just kidnapped a U.S. congressman, Carrie is insistent he's guilty. But she's just as shocked as anyone when, during his intensive interrogation, Brody is broken and reveals all.
With Brody admitting that he has been secretly working for Abu Nazir, seizing the chance to get the upper hand, the CIA gives him only one way out. He either feels the full force of the law - and a system which doesn't take to terrorist too kindly - or he comes a double agent. He has no other option but to agree, but just how loyal will Brody be - to both sides?
With her suspicions finally proven right, and fully reinstated at the CIA, Carrie's is tasked with continuing to tail him. But with Brody's continued worries about the safety of his family, will his family be finally destroyed, not by terrorists, but by his rekindled romantic relationship with Carrie?
Homeland is presented in its originally broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. As the series was filmed in HD it goes without saying that it's also presented in HD on the Blu-ray. Needless to say, it looks pretty spectacular in HD, and whilst it may not have the kind quality as a big budget Hollywood film, there's a great range of colours on offer. Whilst it's occasionally grainy (probably deliberately), it's bright and, in equal doses, moody too. You only have watch the opening titles to see just how good the picture quality is going to be - and then be gobsmacked by the shear clarity of Beirut’s streets (AKA Israel). It's got to be one of the best set of visuals given to any television series.
Matching the impressive picture quality is the surprisingly dynamic and ultra-crystal clear 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. I don't think I've ever heard audio as clear and precise as to what's presented here. Not only is the musical score seamlessly integrated into the on screen action, but there's never an overreaction and the need to throw massive amounts of bass about.
Never the less, whilst it is a dialogue heavy series, when there is a need for action, the audio springs into life and dazzles. It's so good that it almost nonchalantly wanders onto the sound stage. Just like the picture quality, it's got to be one of the best audio tracks in any television series - and potentially films too. It's simply amazing and certainly worth while spending the extra over the DVD.
The menu is a simple, but rather effective affair; scored with the jazzy style theme tune and accompanied with numerous large cut scenes from the season (hopefully, they won't give too much away to the first time viewer!). Whilst it took an absolute age to load (albeit on my aging Samsung Blu-ray player which hasn't received an update for yonks) there's something fancy happening in the background.
It may exist on other releases, but Homeland includes a rather clever Search feature which allows you to watch every episode without interruption. It simply remembers your place in the season if you need to leave. After all, given the total running time, you may need to carry out such trivial matters like sleeping, eating or even going out to work. For example, if you're midway through episode two on disc one and then decide to pop in disc three to watch some extras, upon loading, the disc will inform you that you're still watching episode two. It's certainly a clever idea - and it probably explains the slow start up time as it reads the locally held data from the player.
Spanning three discs, the twelve, optionally subtitled, episodes are either viewed via the Search option detailed above or via the Episode Selection option. Again, this could be a boring and nothing affair (as you'd probably expect from an episode selection option really) but, yet again, it's great to see a brief synopsis popping up next to your selection. Again, fantastic for when you've forgotten what's happening.
Spread over the three discs, one of the best extras any production company could do is place a teaser for the third season on the disc. Fortunately, Fox have decided to do just that and, even though it's a brief as you could get, the Prologue to Season 3 certainly whets your appetite for what's to come.
Also spread across the three discs is a collection of Deleted Scenes. Presented in HD, they look as good as the broadcast material, but you can see why they were trimmed. Offering nothing to the episodes, the rather short scenes were simply trimmed for timing purposes. Still, it's nice to have them included on the disc.
Next up is the eleven minute A Super 8 Film Diary by Damian Lewis. Using his own Super 8 camera, Damian documents his journey through season 2. With no interviews with either the cast or crew, Damian simply narrates the goings on he caught on film. However, it's not that great, as it ends up being a back slapping exercise with "he's great" or "she's wonderful" narration. Still, there's some nice behind-the-scenes footage to be viewed - including clips of his band at "wrap party" and discovering that Claire Danes was pregnant during filming. They certainly hid that well!
Homeland is based on an Israeli drama series called Hatufim. That series came into being in response to the many Israeli soldiers who had been held captive and, once released, then had to cope with difficult, and largely unreported, efforts to reintegrate into Israeli society.
So it's interesting to learn Hatufim's production team were on hand to help with the filming of the opening episode of the second season. Given this, the 8 minute Return to Homeland featurette goes behind the scenes and looks at the filming at the American Embassy in Beirut - with Isarel being the "stand in" location. With burning Isareli flags, shouting protestors and general unrest, it's all pretty realistic - so much so that a passer-by came running in to attack the protesters! The featurette has a few short interviews with cast members Navid Negahban and Mandy Patinkin, but the majority of it is with the production crew. As a featurette, it's all fascinating stuff - made even more interesting by the fact the location featurette was also filmed in HD.
The final extra is the fascinating fifteen minute The Choice: The Making of the Season Finale. Although it's essentially a load of PR-fluff, with some fancy camera work, split screens and animation, it's still an interesting look behind-the-scenes at the making of the final episode of the season. There's interviews with the writers, producers, and main cast members, but the main interest comes from the special effects and sets used in the dramatic ending.
I always wondered whether Homeland would run as a single season mini-series - especially when the script is required to keep Brody's true colours under wraps whilst Carrie spends all her time attempting to uncover his true intentions. With this occurring every week it can all become a little predictable and - dare I say it - a tat boring.
I was also not sure how long the intended American audience would put up with a traitor - although, given the equally excellent The Americans, it appears they do have a bit of an appetite for "reds under the bed" style television. Never the less, money talks, so here we are with a second season on DVD/Blu-ray whilst the third is, as I type this review, currently being broadcast.
There's no doubting that the second season suffers from the much feared "second season syndrome" and it takes a couple of episodes to find its feet before the script writers finally get going - and, thankfully, moving away from the rather annoying "sub-plot" involving Nicholas's daughter Dana. However, once it does, it really cranks up the drama and you're forever left hanging on from the end of one episode to the next - building up into one heck of cliff hanger at the end of the season. I originally watched the series on Channel 4 and, after revising it on the Blu-Ray, it reminded me just how gripping the series is.
Never the less, thrilling or not, other than the season three teaser (which you'll probably find on-line anyway), do you really need to own a copy of Homeland? After all, once watched, would you want to keep revisiting the season?
This is certainly a big problem for numerous television series which find themselves released on to DVD/Blu-ray but, unlike other programmes such as The Simpsons or The X-Files, you can't just pick up a disc and simply dip in and out. Also, a casual viewer can't just drop in and pick up the second season - they really do need to see the first season before even contemplating watching the second. Fortunately, there's a complete season one and two boxset available for purchase too.
Fans of the Homeland will undoubtedly want to get their hands on a copy of this season, and those extras do add some excellent value - even more so as they were filmed in HD. Also, the top draw quality of this HD release really does impress.
But, as for adding value to your DVD shelf, it's hard one to call. Don't get me wrong, Homeland is a fantastic show, but I'm not really sure it deserves a spot on my shelf. However, if you can't stomach the thought of a purchase, a rental is most definitely advised. As such, Homeland is still a highly recommended title.
- The Border: A Prologue to Season 3 (story extension) - Brody escapes into Venezuela
- Return to the Homeland: Filming in Israel - as Homeland goes on location in Israel, this piece explores the location and culture; the cast and producers talk about the storyline that brings Carrie and Saul back to the field
- A Super 8 Film Diary by Damian Lewis - with his own Super 8 camera, Damian Lewis documents his journey through season 2
- The Choice: The Making of the Season Finale - a look behind-the-scenes at the making of the final episode of Season 2; cast and crew talk about the explosive last episode
- Deleted scenes