Magazine article The Spectator

Television: James Walton

Magazine article The Spectator

Television: James Walton

Article excerpt

One of the more welcome and surprising things about television at the moment is that Homeland (Channel 4, Sunday) is good again. As I'm not the only person to have pointed out, the first series was great. After that, though, the show suffered badly from the diminishing returns which so often afflict a deserved American hit that's obliged for financial reasons to just keep on going -- usually by serving up increasingly minor variations on a theme. (Exhibit A: Lost ; exhibit B: most of mid-period 24 .)

Fortunately now that Damian Lewis's Brody is dead, Homeland no longer has to think up any more ways to make us wonder which side he's on. Instead, to the obvious relief of all concerned, it can start again with a different story. It can also let Carrie (Claire Danes) take centre-stage unaccompanied.

In last week's opening episode, we learned that Carrie hadn't allowed the little matter of bipolar disorder stand in the way of a successful new career in Kabul blasting America's enemies to pieces with drones. If anything, she seems tougher and more driven than ever -- despite a tendency to slurp the sort of large glasses of wine that in Britain might suggest merely a quiet night in front of the telly, but that here are presumably meant to signify something darker.

Then, however, Carrie ordered an attack on what turned out to be a family wedding. As a result, she was recalled to Washington by the slippery and careerist head of the CIA, Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts) -- a man who's apparently been skipping his diversity training. (Pakistan, he told her on Sunday, 'is not even a real country. It's a fucking acronym.')

For some women, such a return home might have represented a long-awaited chance to catch up with their baby daughter -- in this case, the one fathered by Brody, and with the red hair to prove it. Carrie, though, is not one of nature's mothers. To her credit, she did try for a day or two, changing little Franny's nappy, resisting the urge to drown her in the bath and at one stage whispering a few maternal confidences into her ear. ('I can't remember why I had you.') She was also scrupulous about taking her daughter with her when she tracked down a former CIA field officer to grill him about what might have gone wrong with the intelligence that led to the wedding-party bombing. (Perhaps unexpectedly, the officer in question is played by Adam Godley, who made his name with his performance as Kenneth Williams in Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick at the National Theatre. …

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