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Homeland: The Complete Second Season (2012)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/10/2013

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/17/2013

Most of the time, being a media critic is like being a more focused version of a fan. I watch movies and TV series, take notes, and then write reviews. (Well, I often write the review in my head while I'm watching, but that's a peek behind the curtain for which you didn't ask.) The difference between being a fan and being a reviewer is that there are times when I watch things which I truly have little interest in...or honestly would not watch if given the chance. Despite being a hit and receiving rave reviews and awards, Season One of Homeland did nothing for me and I found the show to be very overrated. So, when Season Two arrived on my doorstep, I wasn't exactly elated, but I decided to be a good professional and give it a try.

(Editor's Note: It's impossible to discuss Season 2 of Homeland without divulging secrets from Season 1, so read with caution.) Homeland tells the stories of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). Carrie is a CIA agent who was warned that an American POW (from the war in Iraq) had been programmed to be a terrorist. Not long afterwards, Marine Brody, who had been MIA for eight years, was found and brought home to the U.S. Carrie was convinced that Brody was the terrorist in question, but her superiors, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and David Estes (David Harewood), refused to believe her. Meanwhile, Brody was attempting to re-start his life with his wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin), and his children, Dana (Morgan Saylor) and Chris (Jackson Pace). It doesn't help that he becomes involved in a physical relationship with Carrie, who's spying gets out of control. As it turns out, Carrie's suspicions were correct. Brody has been influenced by Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) to seek revenge for the death of his son. Brody uses his instant celebrity to move into politics and gain access to high-ranking officials, specifically Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan). But, Brody can't go through with his suicide bombing mission. However, Carrie decides that she's tired of hitting dead ends with Brody and decides to have ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) to help get her Bi-polar Disorder under control.

As Season 2 begins, we see the characters still attempting to lead normal lives. Carrie has left the CIA and is working as an ESL teacher. Brody has been elected to Congress and is attempting to focus on the job. However, reporter Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson) has become his new connection to Nazir, and she reminds him that he still has things to do for the cause. When one of Carrie's old contacts in Beirut comes forward with information, Saul convinces her to briefly return to the job. This mission yields important evidence concerning terrorist activities in the U.S., including those which include Brody. This sucks Carrie back into the CIA. Now, more than ever, the pressure is on to uncover a terrorist attack on American soil, and only Carrie can maneuver with Brody to find the truth.

As noted in my review for Season One of Homeland, I liked the show's central premise, but I found the pacing to be frustratingly sluggish and some of the material was far-fetched (most notably the relationship between Carrie and Brody), so, overall, the series didn't work for me. Now, I don't think that certain things were tweaked just for me, but I can tell you that Season Two plays like a different show at times, and some noticeable improvements have been made.

First of all, all of Season One hinged on the "the whole world vs. Carrie" premise, which was known as the "only Carrie knows the truth" plot. We see this kind of thing in movies all the time and it often wears out its welcome in two hours, so having it stretched over 12 episodes was torture. Thankfully, this is dispensed with in Season Two and Carrie can actually work as part of a team where people trust her. Secondly, as noted above, I was never crazy about the affair between Brody and Carrie. This is still a part of Season Two, but it takes a back-seat to other stories, which truly helps the show.

The best thing about Season Two of Homeland is that it's far more streamlined than the first season. A huge plot-point/twist is revealed at the end of Episode 2, so with Episode 3, the show is really off and running. The pacing is still a bit sluggish at times, and the show has a tendency to repeat itself (here's Brody and Jessica arguing again, here's Carrie nervously running her fingers through her hands again), but there is much more tension in Season Two. In Season One, we were told to question Carrie's suspicions. But, let's face it, if Carrie was wrong, there really wouldn't be a show. In Season Two, there's suddenly many more questions other then whether or not Carrie is right and we quickly learn that there are many layers to Brody. On top of this, there is a greater sense of danger from the other terrorists who enter the picture.

While I still think that Homeland is over-rated, Season Two is definitely a marked improvement over Season One. Even with the enhancements, Season Two still has issues. A sub-plot concerning Brody's daughter takes time to develop and really doesn't go anywhere. The issues between Brody and his wife feel very forced and get to the point where they make no sense. It may have been my imagination, but there seemed to be less Saul, and that's never a good thing. But, warts and all, unlike Season One, watching Season Two of Homeland didn't feel like a chore and I liked some of the questions raised by the finale. So, this time, I am sort of curious about next season.

Homeland: The Complete Second Season doesn't bother to hide the CATS signs on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The 3-Disc set contains all 12 episodes of the show's second season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only very mild grain at times and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, but the image did have a tendency to get too dark at times. The level of detail is good, as is the depth. This rivals, but does not surpass, HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done, most notably in street scenes, where we can hear cars coming from the right or left sides of the screen. The surround sound effects are good as well, especially during crowd scenes. The action scenes offer some nice subwoofer effects, and explosions truly have presence.

The Homeland: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Disc set contains several episodes spread over the three Discs. Disc 1 kicks off with "Return to the Homeland: Filming in Israel" (8 minutes) which takes us on location with the cast and crew to see the sights which were used for the show. We see how areas were used to simulate other countries and how the locals reacted. The Disc also has two DELETED SCENES. Disc 2 contains one DELETED SCENE. Disc 3 opens with "The Choice: The Making of the Season Finale" (16 minutes), where we hear comments from the creative team and the cast who talk about the story and the twists in the show. After we get several perspectives on the themes, the piece then takes us on set to show how certain things were shot. The Disc also offers one DELETED SCENE.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.