×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Homeland’

Third season begins seeking to right itself after the second's maddening narrative turns

With:

Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, Morena Baccarin, Rupert Friend, Morgan Saylor, Jackson Pace, Sarita Choudhury, Tracy Letts, F. Murray Abraham

Few programs have experienced the explosive trajectory of “Homeland,” an Emmy winner for its first season before vaulting headlong into its second, wildly veering off course and, almost literally, blowing the whole thing up in the season finale. The third flight thus finds the series back on somewhat more sober terrain in addressing the fallout from those events, while suffering from big absences initially. Smart, watchable and extremely well cast, “Homeland’s” creative roller-coaster ride ultimately illustrates the gap between a popcorn show like “24” — not a bad option, but more limited — and the tougher-to-execute hairpin turns of a “Breaking Bad.”

For those who haven’t caught up (and spoilers will only apply to them), the explosion at the CIA has left the world assuming former POW Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis, absent from these initial episodes) is dead, while the CIA agent who hunted and bedded him, Carrie (Claire Danes), must deal with the fallout, including congressional scrutiny regarding how this mess could have happened.

Carrie’s mentor, Saul (Mandy Patinkin), is also trying to steer an agency decimated and devastated by the blast — eager for both answers and, perhaps less helpfully, revenge.

Showrunners Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, who adapted the original Israeli series and gave it an electric turbo-boost that made even President Obama a fan, have demonstrated this is a world where very bad things might happen, which is helpful in keeping the audience off balance.

It’s also a place where alliances and friendships are fungible and moral clarity remains elusive. Although “Homeland” doesn’t traffic in moral equivalency necessarily, it does pointedly drive home the notion that the threat of terrorism has a way of leading those charged with thwarting it into questionable thickets, which generally come with unpalatable tradeoffs and distasteful choices.

At the same time, the show hasn’t escaped some of the dead ends that arose and became groan-inducing during last year’s uneven ride, most notably the ongoing mini-drama surrounding Brody’s teenage daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor), whose plotline continues to command far more screentime than it merits.

Danes, by contrast, has made the most of a character whose paranoia is often justified, and Patinkin’s beefed-up presence to start season three (with F. Murray Abraham also hanging around) adds welcome edge and gravitas to the antiterrorism crusade.

“Homeland” has forged a strong enough bond with most of its audience — and built up enough prestige as Showtime’s first best-series Emmy recipient — that it can probably punch its own ticket, but what initially appeared like one of TV’s finest hours slipped several rungs as it aggressively (and to its credit, fearlessly) chewed through life-and-death scenarios.

These latest episodes represent a tentative first step toward seeing whether the show can re-ascend to those heights or, conversely, plummet into an abyss of implausibility. Like so much else pertaining to “Homeland,” at this point, it could go either way.

TV Review: 'Homeland'

(Series; Showtime, Sun. Sept. 29, 9 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in Charlotte, N.C. by Teakwood Lane Prods., Cherry Pie Prods. and Keshet in association with Fox 21.

Crew:

Executive producers, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff, Chip Johannessen, Alex Cary, Avi Nir, Ran Telem; co-executive producers, Lesli Linka Glatter, Michael Klick, Barbara Hall, Patrick Harbinson; director, Linka Glatter; writers, Gansa, Hall. 60 MIN.

Cast:

Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, Morena Baccarin, Rupert Friend, Morgan Saylor, Jackson Pace, Sarita Choudhury, Tracy Letts, F. Murray Abraham

More TV

  • Naomi Watts

    Naomi Watts to Star in Jason Blum-Produced Quibi Series 'Wolves and Villagers' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomi Watts has been cast in the lead role in the upcoming Quibi series “Wolves and Villagers,” Variety has learned exclusively. The exact plot of the short-form series is being kept under wraps, but Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has previously described the show as “Fatal Attraction 2.0.” Jason Blum is executive producing the series, with [...]

  • HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops

    HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops Trailer

    “Revolutionary,” “superstars,” “the voice of true New Yorkers” — that’s how Spike Lee and other influential figures describe journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill in the trailer released for HBO’s “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists” documentary. The film, which premieres Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, follows the two newspaper columnists whose dedication and wit [...]

  • Riverdale Chapter Twenty-Six

    TV News Roundup: 'Riverdale' Sets 'Heathers' Musical Episode

    In Thursday’s roundup, “Riverdale” is set to tackle “Heathers: The Musical,” and Freeform has announced its second annual summit. DATES  The musical episode of the CW’s “Riverdale,” featuring nine songs, will air Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. On the show, Riverdale High School takes on “Heathers: The Musical,” with queen bees Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), [...]

  • The Bone Collector

    NBC Orders 'Bone Collector' Drama Pilot 'Lincoln'

    NBC has ordered the drama pilot “Lincoln,” formerly known as “The Bone Collector.” Based on the internationally bestselling book series, “Lincoln” follows legendary forensic criminologist Lincoln Rhyme, who was seriously injured during his hunt for the diabolic serial killer known as the Bone Collector. Called back into action when the killer re-emerges, Lincoln forms a [...]

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Turns in Record Q4 Subscriber Gains, Price Increase Weighs on U.S. Forecast

    Netflix is beating Wall Street expectations for international subscriber growth — but its recently announced price increase in the U.S. may have put a damper on its momentum in the States. For the fourth quarter of 2018, Netflix reported 1.53 million paid net adds in the U.S. and 7.31 million internationally, to end the year [...]

  • vudu-free-movies-tv-shows

    Walmart Brushes Off Reports of Streaming Development Halt

    Walmart isn’t ruling out options for a potential streaming video service, a company spokesperson says. Responding to a CNBC report that the mega-retailer had decided not to launch its own streaming entertainment service after all, Walmart would not confirm that there was any halt in development of such a platform, and did not have anything definitive [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content