Washington should be more of a character in the drama, and its architectural shadows are so absent they’re glaring. While Israel stands in for Lebanon in some pricey location shots, sleepy Charlotte barely captures the federal city’s grandeur, especially when bullets zipped through what is called Farragut Square. No one needs the skyline cliches of dome and obelisk, but the show lacks some breakneck rush across the Key Bridge, as in “No Way Out.”
No one has given such chase since Angelina Jolie in “Salt,” and Carrie is decidedly not some krav-maga-trained ninja. She runs like she’s vulnerable, her blond hair literally grazed by bullets. It’s female heroism made more arresting because she is often on the brink of collapse.
Meanwhile, this season, lesser characters are gaining strength. Brody’s whiny and intrusive daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) has something to say about tolerance. The teenager enrolls in what looks to be Sidwell Friends and gets mouthy — in a Quaker meeting, no less. She complicates the garden-party ambitions of her mother (Morena Baccarin).
No one can perceive any core ideological belief of the vice president (Jamey Sheridan) other than that he believes he deserves to be president. The series exhibits no obvious partisan agenda except to be conservative in its worry about enemies abroad and to be liberal in what the writers have called “spending narrative capital.” In the first season, they did not reserve the action for the final episodes; early on, there was a mess of kissing and killing. Again in the new season, events unfold briskly, even if Brody’s flirtation with higher office happens mere moments after he’s achieved lower office.
Does that make “Homeland” the best political TV series ever made? Of course, there’s “The Wire,” which told the complicated saga of who really ran Baltimore — drug-dealing impresarios or City Hall desperados. “The West Wing” constructed some alternate progressive reality when the Bush administration proved, at minimum, less loquacious. And “24” used the usually numbing mechanism of prime-time television to drag audiences closer to terrifying geopolitical unrest, suggesting that the real world has many brink-of-war crises that are carefully, deliberately undetectable.
“Homeland” keeps this concept alive and electric, insisting that entertainment can offer escapism not just from ordinary life, but also from ordinary headlines. There’s no hegemony on what’s happening in the world, and there are more official sentries than ever standing in the way of facts. Through the well-traveled characters of Carrie and Brody, the globe seems more curved and spins more quickly. Above all, “Homeland” depicts something useful and suspenseful about the world that you can’t get anywhere else.
airs at 10 p.m. Sundays on Showtime. Season two starts Sept. 30.