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Homeland: The Complete Third Season
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/9/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/29/2014
In the 80s (and everyone once in a while, today), it was very chic to have a made-for-TV movie in which the story was "Ripped from the Headlines!". In order to cash in, the producers would take a trendy topic or a newsworthy event and create a fictional story around. Yes, this was exploitative, but it often worked. But, there are also projects which simply get lucky in the way in which they reflect current events. While the premise was clearly based on an event which was relevant at the time, the rare few have a production which will continue to echo things which we are seeing in the news. Homeland is such a show and Season Three continues the series' trend of being topical.
Picking up not long after the conclusion ofSeason Two, Season Three of Homeland shows the CIA in turmoil. An explosion during a ceremony at the Langley headquarters of the agency has left the CIA a mess. Fearing that he was responsible for the bombing, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) helped transport known spy and her lover Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) to the Canadian border so that he could flee the country. Opting to not accompany him, Carrie returns to Washington to face the music. Her affair with Brody is leaked to the press and CIA Director Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) isn't buying Carrie's story that she was unconscious following the explosion. Carrie, who has been diagnosed with Bi-polar Disorder, reaches a manic point and she's institutionalized. Meanwhile, Saul is dealing with several issues. His position as bureau chief is temporary, but he wants it to be permanent. He finds his wife, Mira (Sarita Choudhury) with another man. And he learns that a high-ranking Iranian official has entered the country. If only Carrie could get out of the hospital to help him.
The above synopsis only covers the first few episodes of Season Three, as I don't want to give away some of the things which happen later on in the season. But, I must say that the shows described here were challenging. Following the tension of the Season Two finale, Season Three begins on a low note and doesn't really go anywhere. I'll be quite honest, it was a struggle to get through the first three episodes. If the people behind the show were smart, they should have had Danes or Patinkin come out and say, "Hi. We know that you are slogging through this, but hang in there, because it gets better."
And it does...sort of. A major plot twist is revealed in Episode Four (Appropriately titled "Game On") and the show gets back on track. I think that the makers of Homeland sometimes forget that we came here to watch a political thriller/espionage show. Sure, it's nice that they flesh out the characters, such as having Carrie deal with a psychiatric disorder, but at the end of the day, we want spy stuff. And when Season Three focuses on that, it's pretty good. Again, I'm not going to uncover anything, but Carrie and Saul get involved in a huge mission which could change the way in which the U.S. deals with the Middle East or get them all killed. The episodes and scenes which follow this story don't exactly crackle with energy -- that's not this show's style -- but they are interesting and provide some suspense.
It's when Homeland wanders off course that the show gets dicey. Obviously, the crux of the first two seasons was meant to be the relationship between Carrie and Brody, but I had no interest in that story. It felt contrived from the outset. That has mercifully gone away in Season Three, but it's been replaced by other things. The writers clearly felt that they couldn't abandon Brody's family altogether, so we get a pointless sub-plot involving Brody's daughter (Morgan Saylor). This takes up valuable time which could have been spent on something else. I do understand why Homeland had to show us what became of Brody after the ending of Season Two, but instead of cutting back and forth between that and the main story, all of Episode Three is dedicated to this and it's pretty boring. (Although, I did appreciate how the locale is based on something which I learned about from NPR.)
Which brings us to the season finale, which decidedly wraps up one of the show's main storyline. This smacked of the feeling that the producers didn't know if the shows was coming back or not. As it is, I am interested in seeing what direction it will take now that Carrie is clearly on a new path. As for that finale, I was glad to see that plot resolved, while I know that others were upset by it. The bottom-line is that after three seasons, Homeland still isn't the show that it could be. The plotlines about terrorism and tensions with the Middle East truly resonate and could make for exciting and tense TV. Instead, the show often wanders into melodrama and loses sight of the potential for realism and suspense. Season Three took the show in a somewhat different direction and save for the unnecessary detours and slow start, I thought that it was the best one yet.
Homeland: The Complete Third Season shows that they are still doing a bad job hiding that the show is shot in Charlotte on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The three-Disc set contains all 12 episodes from the show's third season. The shows has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain at times and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, with the image only going soft at rare moments, and the depth is acceptable. Overall, this rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For the most part, the bulk of the audio comes from the center and front channels. We do get some nice stereo effects which highlight off-screen sounds. During crowd scenes and the few action scenes, the rear speakers come to life, delivering noticeable audio. A few gunshots and explosions involve the subwoofer.
The Homeland: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Disc delivers a few extra features. Disc 1 offers "Re-Creating the Tower of David" (8 minutes) takes us on-set to San Juan, Puerto Rico to show how the production team made their own version of the infamous building in Venezuela. We get comments from the creative team, as well as a wealth of location footage. This Disc also has one DELETED SCENE, which runs about 2 minutes. Disc Two delivers six DELETED SCENES, from various episodes, which run about 7 minutes. Disc 3 offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY on the episode "The Star" from Damian Lewis, Alex Gansa, and Joe Hobeck. In "The Last Days: Filming the Season Finale" (13 minutes) we see that Morocco was used as a stand-in for Tehran. We go on-set to see the action being staged in the streets. From there, the cast and crew discuss the ending of the season, how it was shot and the level of emotion which was involved. This Disc also has four DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long