Homeland Blog – Series 2, Episode 5: Q&A

In the face of variable plotting, Homeland’s strength has been the quality of its acting. Actors, writers and directors love a good two-hander, even if audiences often miss that’s what’s happening (“Oh, were there only the two of them? Oh gosh, I guess you’re rightâ€?). Save for Saul and Quinn in their choric capacity – and Finn and Dana discovering the dark side of the Ferris Bueller fantasy elsewhere – that’s pretty much what we got in the latter half of this week’s episode.

We know by now that Lewis and Danes are up to the challenges of the script, but their performances are still exceptional. Lewis in particular delivers as he shows us a man paying the cost of everything he has invested in the last series and a half. Based on comments he’s made, it’s fair to assume Lewis is costing Showtime less than Danes. If so, they got a bargain.

Of course, Lewis wasn’t a complete unknown in the US before this. They may not have had the joy of seeing him guest host Have I Got News for You or encouraging Olly Murs to sleep around a bit more on The Graham Norton Show, but he’s had starring roles in American productions as far back as Band of Brothers. I’d recommend anyone keen on exploring Lewis’s back catalogue check out Stephen Poliakoff’s satire Friends and Crocodiles.

Great British actors have filled the US TV networks over the past 10 years. Dominic West and Idris Elba in The Wire, Hugh Laurie in House, Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead, Jared Harris in Mad Men, Jospeh Fiennes in FlashForward, Natascha McElhone in Californication – and that’s before we get to co-productions like Downton Abbey, Upstairs, Downstairs and Torchwood: Miracle Day.

As gratifying as it would be to think this was the result of our superior pool of acting talent, as previously suggested, it’s got just as much to do with money. Elsewhere in Homeland we’ve got Brits David Harewood and Rupert Friend. Fine actors they may be, but they’re also going to cost you a lot less than Yanks with the same sort of experience.

Meanwhile, this week’s episode has one of the strongest individual conceits we’ve seen from the series in a while; a US congressman chained to the floor and subjected to the sort of degradation Congress has been happily signing off on since 9/11. This self-reflexive punishment has become something of a preoccupation of late and, with the US at the fag end of two messy wars, it’s hardly surprising.

All that talk of torture, removal of rights and psychological terror doesn’t mean much till it’s directed at a white man in a suit. It’s comparable to the end of empire stories which troubled British literature at the turn of the last century and even more so the self-flagellation that followed Vietnam. When you’re at the top, the only way is down – and America has created a hell of a briar patch to fall into. Still, at least there’ll be another Star Wars film along to cheer us all up in a couple of years – just like last time.

3 out of 5