"Homeland" Season 2 is one the most eagerly awaited television events of the year, and it's not difficult to understand why it just won six Emmys, including Best Drama.
Many of the best television shows work on a lot of levels, and one reason "Homeland" (Season 2 premieres on Sun., Sept. 30 at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime) has picked up so many awards is because it's especially adept at storytelling that resonates in a number of ways.
What grounds "Homeland" and makes it so immediately addictive is that the drama, at its core, is a realistic espionage thriller. It's not a story about heroic spies jumping out of planes or scaling buildings; it's about the grinding, stressful, often frustrating work of collecting leads, analyzing data and dealing with the political wrangling between agencies and Beltway factions.
Real conflicts are reflected in the story -- much of the first two episodes takes place in an especially jittery Israel -- and seeing all the grunt work of undercover operatives actually yields greater dividends, because when the tension is racheted up, it usually feels earned. Sometimes field work is really dangerous, and having been a fly of the wall the whole time makes those punctuations of fear and danger stand in even more stark relief.
Its crisp pace and its relevance to current events made it stand out, but "Homeland's" devotion to the thorny dilemmas and tentative connections of its characters is what probably made it catnip to viewers and Emmy voters alike. Graham Greene, that peerless chronicler of flawed human beings, caught up in morally challenging events, called it "the human factor," and it's that ability to combine political urgency with strong emotional undertows that makes "Homeland" truly unique. The characters drive the plot, not the other way around, which is why the show isn't coy about tossing out twists and revelations: Big reveals exist to ramp up the characters' dilemmas; they don't exist merely to set another round of machinations in motion.
Some might argue that "Homeland's" second season is bound to be a disappointment, now that we know Brody is working for the terrorist Abu Nazir. But we also know something else: The show's writers, led by executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, are unlikely to settle for cheap thrills, which makes it even more pleasurable to settle in for the second saga of Carrie and Brody.