Homeland Series 2 Episode 2 Review: Beirut Is Back

HOMELAND: Sunday 15th October, Channel 4, 9pm

Many US TV series – and particularly those which arrive with a big concept – lose something after the first series. Some, like True Blood, continue to entertain, but find their intoxicating mix diluted through familiarity. Some, like Twin Peaks, keep you at arm’s length for too long. For the majority of the first two episodes, Homeland has looked like going down the Heroes path, i.e. diving off a cliff, the plot resolved and little fresh intrigue to be found.

Producer Howard Gordon’s warnings that “characters [who viewers] are invested in could goâ€? haven’t helped. It’s the same reductionist mode of publicity that hurt the later Harry Potter books. It suggests your piece is unable to offer its own intrigue and reduces the viewing experience to Guess Who’s Got a Sight On Their Head.

The audacity of the first season lay in keeping us divorced from the thought processes of the protagonist. Brody might still blow someone up, but the uncertainty lies with him not the audience. Damien Lewis is a fine actor, but with the question mark removed, Brody’s not proving to be a very interesting character.

Like its jazz soundtrack, Homeland is happy to hit you on the offbeat. The twists don’t always come at the dramatic high points you might expect, but with this episode the show delivered a fantastic sideswipe. Many of the characters seemed to have become locked in stasis since the end of last season. Saul and Carrie were in danger of becoming a pair of Lois Lanes, defined by their ignorance. Now somebody’s just found a cape in the closet.

Where the show goes from here is impossible to say. Given Gordon’s comments, Saul might take a bullet to the head before telling anyone, but let’s hope not. Homeland trades on its uncertainty and it needed to regain it. Whether it fulfils on this cliff-hanger is another matter, but you don’t make a series as smart as the first if you’re thick. This may be the point at which Homeland reminds us exactly how clever it is.

Or they could just take a leaf out of Mad Men’s book and throw in a lawnmower.