The sheer brilliance of Homeland S2
My girlfriend and I have a running argument: I think Claire Danes and Damian Lewis are incredible on Homeland. She thinks Claire Danes and Damien Lewis are massively overrated. I'll say something like "Danes and Lewis were insanely good in last night's closing scene." She'll retort with something like "Danes only has one look - sad and confused - and she uses it in every scene, while Lewis looks hopelessly out of his depth." Much yelling ensues.
But I'm right ... right?
(Warning: Spoilers from last night's episode of Homeland, titled "A Gettysburg Address", follow.)
For the second week in a row, Homeland turned in a master-class on how to make an episode of television, bolstered by key scenes from stars Danes and Lewis. In last week's episode, it was that engrossing interrogation scene that ended with Brody in the foetal position on the floor; this week was that final scene in Brody's office after a half dozen CIA agents were gunned down in the former abode of Bassel the bomb-maker which ended with a tearful Carrie seeking solace in the arms of the man she loves but dares not trust.
Okay, sure, Danes busted out the sad/confused face, her lower jaw crumpling up and whimpering as the realism of what just happened hit poor Carrie like a ton of bricks, while Brody embraced her and gave us a shadowy, vague "you know, I might actually have known that was going to happen" stare into the distance.
But, dammit, she does that face so well.
Danes' sad/confused face is key to the emotional reality of Carrie's world, effortlessly conveying that she feels the weight of the world on her shoulders - and buying into the emotional stakes of what we see on screen is key to watching the show.
It's almost the opposite of something like The Walking Dead, where the action is what drives the narrative; on Homeland, the action - like the gunmen shooting down Galves, Quinn and the other agents - is necessary, but it's almost secondary to the interpersonal drama unfolding before us.
The real action is in Carrie revealing to Brody that she wanted him to leave his wife, the start of a good 15 minutes or so of the most engaging television I've seen all year - and all it involved was Danes, Lewis and a table*. The real action is in the tense few moments as Brody and Roya (underrated actress Zuleikha Robinson) stop talking in the hallway as Carrie screams at Virgil (David Marciano) to fix the sound.
It's in that surprising scene in which Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) reveals to Jess (Morena Baccarin) that he believes Brody killed Tom Walker. It's in that calm but intimidating way that Saul (Mandy Patinkin) tells Mike to drop the investigation as they sit in Estes' (David Harewood) office. It's in the moment outside the office door when Quinn (Rupert Friend) quietly tells Carrie not to trust Brody.
The cast is fantastic across the board - aside from the distracting storyline between Brody's daughter and Walden's son, there isn't a weak link in the show (and even the kids aren't too bad). The writing and direction on Homeland is second to none. The storyline is as riveting as it is surprising, with little downtime between important plot points.
But it is those moments, those nuggets of interplay between the various members of that brilliant cast, that are making Homeland the best show on television right now - and, behind Breaking Bad, maybe my favourite show of all time.
What do you think of the latest season of Homeland so far? Are you loving it as much as I am?
(*) Personally, I think the table deserves a supporting actor nomination at the 2013 Emmy Awards.
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