Showtime’s Homeland won six well-deserved Emmy Awards for its inaugural season including Outstanding Drama Series and trophies for both of its leading performers. While its second season may be a trifle less consistent in its plotting and execution, the show by no means was the victim of sophomore slump. Homeland remains a mostly riveting thrill ride in which terrorism becomes a double-edged sword and the duplicitous always find a way to inch ever closer to their goals usually when others are least expecting anything to happen.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 10 Hrs. 28 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case with leaves in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/10/2013
With CIA operative Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) drummed out of the agency and assigned to a mental asylum after being convinced she was wrong about the true nature of returning POW Nicholas "Nick" Brody (Damian Lewis) at the end of season one, the second season begins with Carrie teaching English as a second language and working in her garden while suspected terrorist Nick Brody is now a congressman from Virginia. He’s being courted by the current Vice President (Jamey Sheridan) to be his running mate in the upcoming Presidential election, but while Brody was unable to complete his suicide bombing mission his mentor Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) expected him to accomplish at the end of season one thus sparing the life of the Vice President, Brody is still expected to be an undercover operative so Nazir can make another deadly strike against America at some future date. When the CIA receives reconnaissance from a Nazir contact in Beirut that Nazir is planning another strike against the U.S., Carrie must be enlisted in the mission since the contact will speak only to her. Thus begins a season-long rebuilding of her credibility for Carrie, assignments that she has both successes and failures with but which almost always involve tension ratcheted up to the breaking point (hers and ours).
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Homeland, unlike many thrillers that stretch important plot reversals across multiple seasons, unloads a great number of shocking plot twists within its first six episodes. By then, information has come into the hands of the CIA via Carrie proving that Brody is, in fact, working for the enemy, and he’s then worked on by the agency to become a double agent – only, can he really be trusted? And can he perform this balancing act with his edgy wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) and his recalcitrant daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) constantly making demands on him and with Carrie creeping deeper and deeper into his life in more than a professional capacity? These storylines: the imminent attack on the U.S. Carrie’s image rehabilitation, Brody’s tightrope walking with the CIA team being led by shadowy figure Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) and the enemy led by his handler (Zuleikha Robinson) and Nazir, and the hits and misses by the agency as missions succeed or fail almost without warning – these keep season two near the high water mark of its freshman season.
There are a few stumbles, of course. Too much time is spent with Brody’s teenaged daughter going through the pains of adolescence and dragging everyone else along with her; in another show, it would make for interesting domestic drama, but it’s a bit intrusive and out of place within the political thriller arena that we find in Homeland. Brody’s crumbling marriage which was an important aspect of season one takes on even greater focus in season two especially with the frequent appearances of Captain Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff) whom Jessica became intimate with during Brody’s eight year absence and who continues to play a major role in the season. The squabbles between husband and wife and the lies that are swapped and later discovered again draw time away from more pressing issues even if they do allow all of the actors involved to really dig their teeth into in order to deliver the dramatic goods.
And deliver the goods they do with an amazing string of superb performances from all of the principal cast. Claire Danes and Damian Lewis continue to amaze in their roles, each etching portraits of damaged souls clawing and scraping to get back to even an approximation of normal. Morena Baccarin as the hurt, put-upon wife is just as effective this season as last. Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson, Carrie’s sole champion within the agency, creates a memorable character through the use of calm underplaying, a galvanizing performance that was recognized this year with an Emmy nomination. (Indeed, all four named principals received nominations for season two.) Secondary roles are handled with equal professionalism.
Here are the twelve episodes as contained on three Blu-ray discs in this set:
1 – The Smile
2 – Beirut Is Back
3 – State of Independence
4 – New Car Smell
5 – Q & A
6 – A Gettysburg Address
7 – The Clearing
8 – I’ll Fly Away
9 – Two Hats
10 – Broken Hearts
11 – In Memoriam
12 – The Choice
The episodes are presented in their widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is quite pleasing through one couldn’t always call the images razor sharp. Color is beautifully delineated and consistent with accurate and appealing flesh tones. Black levels are very good as well though not quite optimum. Each episode has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does a quite respectable job of delivering a fast paced soundtrack which only lacks more concerted use of the rear channels. As is, Sean Callery’s score gets wonderful placement throughout the soundstage, but ambient sounds are often more stereophonic than surround in nature with the rears coming up short. Dialogue has been superbly recorded and has been placed in the center channel. Several large-scale explosions during the season give the LFE channel a healthy workout.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Deleted Scenes (HD): four deleted scenes are spread over the three discs.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Return to the Homeland: Filming in Israel (7:52, HD): several series producers, director Michael Cuesta, and actors Mandy Patinkin and Navid Negahban discuss filming on location in Israel for the season premiere lending great authenticity to the storytelling.
The Border: A Prologue to Season Three (1:40, HD): brief prelude to the new season featuring Brody in an action sequence far from home.
A Super 8 Film Diary by Damian Lewis (11:05, HD): pretty much what the title explains, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the many members of the cast and crew as they work and relax during production filmed by series star Lewis.
“The Choice”: The Making of the Season Finale (15:41, HD): important members of the crew and principal cast discuss the final episode of the season including location shooting, decisions about the life and death of characters, and where season three seems to be pointing.
Promo Trailers (HD): Homeland: Season One, The Americans, Sons of Anarchy, American Horror Story: Asylum.
An outstanding season of the Emmy-winning Homeland, season two contains much breakneck pacing and breathless action scenes and a climactic episode that scores major ironic points in plotting. The Blu-ray set provides excellent picture and sound quality and a few entertaining extras. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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