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‘Homeland’ Scores at Emmys and Again with Season 2 Premiere
September 28, 2012  | By David Bianculli

Showtime’s Homeland not only swept the Emmys in the major dramatic categories last Sunday – but this Sunday, it launches Season 2 with another home-run swing…

Out of respect for those who want their viewing surprises maximized, I’ll refrain from describing any pivotal details regarding Sunday’s season premiere (10 p.m. ET). You can hear my full review, by the way, on Friday’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR, along with a review of the season premiere of Showtime’s Dexter. (After about 5 p.m. ET Friday, you can hear my report on the Fresh Air website.)

One fact established at the very start, though, and already revealed in promos, is that six months has gone by since last season’s stunner of a finale, and that Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison has retired from the CIA, undergone shock treatment, endured a stay in a mental institution, and come out for a quieter life, living with her family and teaching English to foreign students.

Her bedroom mirror says it all: As her reflection reveals a young woman still reeling from bipolar disorder and her frantic efforts to unmask a returning American prisoner of war hero (Damien Lewis’ Nicholas Brody) as an Al-Qaeda operative, a note on the mirror reads “BREATHE.”

And then she gets a phone call, which takes her breath away. And, as you’re watching, yours.

I’m impressed, thrilled and recharged by the high quality of Homeland – not only the intricate and sensitive plotting by Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon and their writing staff, but the amazing performances by the cast members. It takes a rare combination of great writing and great acting to make you forget you’re watching a performance, but when I see Carrie or Brody on screen, I’m not watching a skilled acting job. I’m feeling for, and worrying about, those very real, very raw characters.

And the supporting cast was hired with just as keen an eye. Mandy Patinkin, as Saul, has been so strong in so many previous roles, his quiet, utter perfection as Carrie’s CIA mentor is almost expected – but that doesn’t make it any less memorable or impressive. And Morena Baccarin, as Brody’s ambitious, conflicted wife, is another of this show’s many secret weapons.

At this point in its run, Homeland already ranks as one of the three best drama shows on television, on a par with AMC’s Breaking Bad and Mad Men. And if you don’t know that already, or need a refresher, Showtime is making it easy.

Once Homeland walked away with Emmys for Best Dramatic Series, Writing, Actress (Danes) and Actor (Lewis), and gave Showtime its first Series Emmy win in the bargain, the network cleared its Saturday schedule to make room for a marathon Season 1 catch-up session.

Beginning at noon ET Saturday, Showtime is repeating all 12 Season 1 episodes of Homeland. Watch it Saturday as a refresher, or a primer, then tune in Sunday night for one of television’s best current series – which, this fall, begins as compellingly and imaginatively as last season.

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