Featured TV on DVD Review: Homeland: Season Two
In my opinion, Homeland was the best new release of last year. I am not alone in that opinion. In fact, given its performance at the Golden Globes and the Emmys, many, many people thought it was the best show, period. This is a double-edged sword, on the other hand, as it means there are incredible expectations for season two. Can it possibly live up to season one? Does it get even better?
As we usually do, we will start with a setup. Homeland focuses on a CIA agent, Carrie Mathison, who learns of a POW who was turned by al Qaeda and is now working for Abu Nazir. When she hears the information, she ignores it and tells no one, not even her handler, Saul Berenson, because there are no known POWs who could have been turned. She assumes she got faulty information from a prisoner who was just trying to save his life. That changes with the rescue of Nicholas Brody. She suspects he's the POW her contact told her about and wants to observe him from the minute he reaches the United States. There's a problem. Her boss, David Estes, refuses, because Nicholas Brody is considered a hero. The American people need a hero after a long and difficult war, and Nicholas Brody is the perfect fit. So, Carrie begins the surveillance on her own.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Brody tries to readjust to life and it is not all smooth sailing. His wife, Jessica, thought he was dead and moved on. His kids, Dana and Chris are not exactly doing well either. It's a lot to deal with. Not only does the family have to readjust to their old lives, but also Nicholas Brody has changed. Granted, he was a POW for years, so some changes are expected. However, there is another reason for the changes. Carrie was right. Nicholas had been turned and is now working for al Qaeda and the plan is to kill the Vice President with a suicide attack that he will carry out.
Unfortunately, it will be nearly impossible for Carrie to prove this. No only is Nicholas seen as a hero, he's being groomed for politics. (He does in fact get elected to congress near the end of the first season.) It would take a huge amount of evidence to prove her case. There's another reason why Carrie will have trouble convincing others. She's bi-polar and the connections she sees could be the result of a chemical imbalance. She becomes so obsessed with the case, that she confronts the Brody family at their home and scares Dana so much that she calls her dad and begs him to promise he's coming home. He decides to abort the mission. Because of all that happened, Carrie's mental illness is exposed and she's thrown out of the CIA, something her boss, David Estes, was happy to do. Meanwhile, Nicholas makes a deal with Abu Nazir to continue influencing American policy from the inside. Unfortunately for Nicholas, Abu Nazir still wants him to do more.
(There's obviously a lot of season one I'm skipping over, but I don't want to get into too many spoilers.)
Season two begins about six months after the end of season one and a lot has happened. Carrie has left the CIA and is now an ESL teacher, while Nicholas is being groomed to be Vice President. Neither one has a long time to enjoy their new lives. Before the beginning of the second season, Israel attacked Iran's nuclear sites supposedly destroying them. This obviously increases the tension in the Middle East and this drags both Carrie and Nicholas into the action. Carrie is approached by the CIA that an old asset of hers wants to defect to the United States, but she will only talk to Carrie about the information she has. Since Carrie's departure from the CIA was less than pleasant for her, she's not interested in going back. However, she agrees in order to help her asset, who is the wife of a top level al Qaeda agent. Meanwhile, Nicholas is approached by Roya Hammad, who is undercover as a reporter, but is actually an agent for Abu Nazir. She wants him to break into a safe in David Estes's office to get a code needed to find CIA agents. It's clear they are doing this to kill one of them and Nicholas is not happy about that. That's not the only complication. As part of being groomed for Vice President, the current V.P. wants Nicholas to help him help the Israelis finish the job in Iran. So he's being torn with his political life and his vow to Abu Nazir. His homelife has also taken a turn for the worse, as his family found out he converted to Islam while he was a POW. This is odd, to say the least. It would also kill his political career if it came out, so his wife, Jessica, is less than happy with the revelation.
The plot moves faster during the second season and by the second episode, we've run into unacceptable spoilers. The spoiler at the end of episode two changes the whole series, but I can't talk about it.
Holy crap... Season two of Homeland is actually better than season one. I didn't think that would be possible. Season two was nominated for eleven Emmy nominations, two more than season one and personally I think it should win many of them. The writing is simply incredible in this show with a lot of very tense moments, not to mention some mind-blowing twists. Claire Danes is perfect in performance and Damian Lewis isn't far behind. Add in the amazing supporting cast and this show is simply the best there is on TV at the moment.
However, it's the final season for Breaking Bad, so that gives it a pretty big edge and it will likely beat Homeland in most categories as a result. That said, Claire Danes is a virtual lock to win again this year and it might win a couple others.
Extras are spread throughout the three-disc set, starting with a couple of deleted scenes and an 8-minute making of featurette on the first disc. Disc two has one more deleted scene. Disc three has a two-minute prologue for season three, 11 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage shot and narrated by Damian Lewis, one more deleted scene, and finally a 16-minute making of featurette on the series finale. This is a little less than last time around, but that's the only complaint I have.
Like last time, the technical presentation is top notch, when you compare it to other TV on DVD releases. The level of detail is amazingly high, the colors are vivid, the black levels are deep without swallowing up details. It doesn't look as good as a $100 million first run release would, but that's an unfair comparison. Likewise, the audio is fantastic for a TV on DVD release with a very active 5.1 surround sound track. The dialogue is always clear and there's more than enough activity in the surround sound speakers to feel immersive.
The list price for the Blu-ray is $10 or 20% more than the DVD. However, right now on Amazon.com, the DVD has a much deeper discount, so the Blu-ray costs $15 or 60% more than the DVD. That's a lot, so I would check on the prices to see it if will drop before snapping it up. If they haven't changed soon, grab it before season three starts.
Homeland is the best drama on TV at the moment, yes, better than Breaking Bad. There are not a lot of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray, but it is still worth picking up. I would just wait to see if the Blu-ray price will drop so it is closer to the DVD price.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2013-09-21