After captivating viewers on both sides of the Atlantic earlier this year, the second season of CIA conspiracy thriller Homeland returns to UK screens as crazed agent Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) squares off against Iraq veteran and now al-Qaeda terrorist Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis).
Based on the hit Israeli drama Hatufim (Prisoners of War), the zeitgeist-nailing show returns with US relations with the Middle-East in crisis. Innocence of Muslims, the amateur anti-Islam movie made by Egyptian-born Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, sparked outrage across the Muslim world last month for disrespectfully depicting the prophet Mohammed. The likes of Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia all witnessed violent protests over the film, with US ambassador Christopher Stevens killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. President Barack Obama, whose approval ratings couldn't be higher in America after the killing of Osama Bin Laden last year, faced serious questions in the US press over his policy in the region.
Issues surrounding the actions Western nations have taken in the Middle East following 9/11 have been reflected in numerous television dramas both in America and the UK, from Spooks to 24. The latter was written by Homeland's creators Howard Gordon and Alex Hansa, but unlike the blatant right-wing propaganda of that show, where gung-ho Jack Bauer appeared to be single-handedly combating terrorism, Homeland probes deeper into the on-going War on Terror, questioning the lengths America is willing to go in order to 'protect' the people.
The two protagonists are both outsiders of the system that reflect different aspects of the country. Carrie, the brilliant but unstable CIA agent, personifies modern America. Paranoid, on-edge, and determined to learn from mistakes of the past, her relentless pursuit of Brody and terrorist head honcho Abu Nazir highlight the nation's fear of radical Islam, and its dogged determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate it.
Brody similarly embodies another side to America. A Marine Sergeant who is held as a prisoner of war by al-Qaeda terrorists for eight years; he returns to his 'homeland' and finds an America he can't understand. After witnessing Abu Nazir's son Issa slaughtered by a US drone strike, he becomes disillusioned with the lies and deceit that officials in government fuel to justify America's foreign policy decisions and decides that the current regime needs to be brought down.
The finale of last season left tensions between the two no closer to being resolved. Carrie, convinced of Brody's ill intentions towards the US, was subject to shock treatment therapy after those closest to her believed she had suffered a mental breakdown. Brody meanwhile aborted his plans to sacrifice himself and kill the Vice President in a suicide bomb, to stealthily infiltrate the government through becoming a congressman.
Set six months after the dramatic events of the finale, the second season starts with Carrie now living a seemingly normal life, staying with her father and teaching English at a local language school. Brody has also settled into life in public office, and his family are reaping the benefits of his newfound political connections.
But it was obvious the two wouldn't be out of the spy game for long. This year's plot arc begins with trouble in Beirut, as both Carrie and Brody are pulled back in by Saul Berenson and Abu Nazir respectively to deal with another planned attack on US soil. Expect the two to once again cross paths as they become embroiled ever deeper into the continuing crisis. After these fresh riots across the world the show appears even more in tune with the global zeitgeist, and just like those shocking events, the spellbinding spy drama will have us glued to our screens.