Homeland. Image: Showtime.
Homeland. Image: Showtime.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had as much access to the internet over the last month as an Amazonian tribal warrior, but I haven’t noticed there being a great deal of hype around the new season of Homeland compared to this time last year. Back then we were all still reeling from the tautly plotted, multi-award winning first season, waiting with increasing impatience for more of the same.  Instead what we got was a critically derided sophomore season which made frequent use of cheap horror-movie clichés. The countless shots of Claire Danes bizarrely contorting her face and the continued presence of the insufferable Dana didn’t help either. It seems that Dana’s contribution is still likely to be limited to bleating “this is bullshit” followed by a world-weary eye-roll. But will I still be fixed in front of my screen every Sunday night at 9 for the next thirteen weeks once the internet gods finally get their act together? Of course I will. And you should be too.

Whichever way you look at it, Homeland is still gripping television. While the show lost any sense of the realism or contemporary relevance it was striving for in its early episodes, when Brody incredulously managed to text his terrorist allies in Lebanon from the basement of the Pentagon, it still managed to produce some heart-racing moments and surprising plot-twists. It is hard to defend it as an intelligent show when nuance is neglected in favour of melodrama, but high-octance, occasionally mindless, entertainment shouldn’t necessarily be written off.  Here in the UK, where dated period-dramas continue to be the critical darlings of serialised drama, Homeland’s direct, fast-paced style is hugely refreshing, something us Brits could take note of.

The superb second season finale, arguably as good as any episode from the show’s initial run, boldly killed off vast swathes of important secondary characters in a terrorist attack. This has set up an intriguing premise for the next thirteen episodes in which bi-polar CIA agent Carrie (Claire Danes) must convince the country of her lover, Brody’s (Damien Lewis) innocence, despite having worked ceaselessly to expose his militant Islamist links in the first two seasons. With Brody on the run from the authorities and reportedly absent in the first couple of episodes, the initial focus is likely to be on what the show does best: examining Carrie’s fragile psychological state and her difficult relationship with mentor Saul, played by the inimitable and majestically bearded Mandy Patinkin.  Of course for every Saul there must unfortunately be a Dana who, judging by the trailer, seems to have succeeded in becoming even more mopey and obnoxious than last year.

Still, there’s much to look forward to in this new season of Homeland, even if a return to the brilliance of the first season currently seems unlikely. Sunday nights just got exciting again.

Below is a link to a trailer set to The Cinematic Orchestra’s ‘To Build a Home’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXOUIsu-E0Q

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