So…Homeland returns for a third outing. Carrie is back, looking a little less harrowed. Well, only a little. Off her meds, or on to new ones or something like that. Let’s just say, whilst not fully unhinged, the door is hanging on by a hinge at present, but could go either way. Easily one of the best written (and played) female characters on TV in recent times.
Saul is back, reluctantly taking the helm at the CIA. An organisation now in tatters, with other government bodies looking for excuses to pull the plug. As a result, he looks a lot more harrowed, stuck making the tough decisions, with half an eye on so-called ‘friendly colleagues’, wondering whether he’s getting stabbed in the back.
Brody is MIA (again), leaving his family to pick up the pieces (again). Daughter Dana – whilst seeming well-adjusted on the surface – appears to have been through the biggest ordeal, as the episode picks up her story again during rehab, having tried to take her life following the events at the end of season 2.
Shady operative-turned-assassin, Peter Quinn, is in full focus in this opening episode, ordered to infiltrate a compound Scarface style and take out a very bad man in under 10 minutes. It goes (mostly) to plan but, as you’d expect, takes us to some dark places. I was half hoping a coked-up Al Pacino to burst out and utter that immortal line.
So, all in all, a perky start. However…
Third time round the writers have got their work cut out, ensuring the various character story arcs don’t all snowball in different directions. The first episode hasn’t even touched on the whereabouts of Brody or Abu Nazir.
One thing for them to remember (should they need reminding) is to avoid letting this show veer too close to the action fuelled roller coaster that was 24. Times have moved on since then and the first (if not so much the second) series proved that Homeland was (and hopefully still is) an intelligent, slow burner, where you have to put the work in to thread the story together.
Key to this is the tour de force performance of Damian Lewis. The sooner he’s back in the picture the better. Although, with half of America now gunning for the ex-Congressman, his ability to lie his way out of trouble could be sorely put to the test.
Whatever way this season unfolds, I imagine it will be the hardest one yet in terms of receiving widespread acclaim. Season 2 rode high on the success of season 1 meaning that, if season 2 was largely accepted as the difficult second album achieved, that leaves this as the impossible third album in the making.
I say in the making, I’m hoping they’ve finished writing it and that it promises to be the best season yet. The bar, however, remains almost impossibly high.