‘Homeland’ mid-season report card: Awards dominance likely to continue

Showtime’s critically acclaimed “Homeland” last night reached the half-way mark in what has so far amounted to a thrilling edge-of-your-seat sophomore season.

Homeland” was undoubtedly the grand-slam champion of the 2012 TV awards season, reaping accolades at the Golden Globes, DGA Awards, WGA Awards, Critics Choice TV Awards, TCA Awards before dominating the Emmys, where it swept almost all of the major categories. The lone holdout was an inexplicable snub at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Coming off that historic night at the Emmys where it claimed Showtime’s first ever series win, and hot on the heels of the pay cabler’s announcement that the show has been renewed for a third season, we take this opportunity to crystal ball its prospects for upcoming awards attention based on the first six episodes.

“Homeland” season two has scored an impressive 96 on Metacritic (denoting “universal acclaim”), higher than its award-winning first season (scoring a 91 according to the site aggregator).

Indeed, the show has received some its best ever reveiws in the last few weeks, with the reviews for its season premiere firmly establishing the show as the best on TV. Matt Roush (TV Guide) wondered, “if they can possibly keep topping themselves. Based on the first two episodes, the answer is a resounding and brilliant yes.” Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly) called the show “unnervingly terrific” in his assessment of the second season opener, while Tim Goodman (Hollywood Reporter) said the season’s first two episodes were, “as riveting and addictive as when we last saw it.” Of Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, he noted they, “immediately put exclamation marks on their Emmy victories with a couple of outstanding performances.”

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Here’s a look forward to the show’s major upcoming awards potential.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. was the first major awards group to recognize “Homeland” when they named the show as Best Drama Series and leading lady Danes with the Best Drama Actress prize. Expect the show to reap nominations again this year in those two categories, as well as a second consecutive nomination for Lewis, and possible nominations in the highly competitive catch-all supporting categories for Mandy Patinkin and Morena Baccarin who, in particular has garnered positive notices for a couple of standout performances in the first half of this season. Another possibility might be a surprise nod for teenager Morgan Saylor, who has also shined as teenager Dana Brody.

On the other hand, SAG snubbed “Homeland” across the board early this year, and was roundly criticized for doing so. Expectations are that SAG voters will get on board this time around and nominate the show’s stars Danes and Lewis as well as the ensemble.

As for next year’s Emmys, so far, it looks like Danes will undoubtedly be back to defend her Emmy victory as Best Drama Actress. Judging by these first six episodes, she already has potential knockout episode submissions with the second season premiere “The Smile,” the emotional “State of Independence,” the game-changing “New Car Smell,” or the intense “Q&A,” the latter two almost certainly in the running as episodes submitted to the Best Drama Series judging panel as well, where the show will likely be the frontrunner for a repeat win.

Lewis will almost certainly follow up his against-the-odds Emmy victory last September by landing a second consecutive nomination as Best Drama Actor next year, and is already a formidable threat to win again. From the first half of season two, he has a knockout episode submission with the intense and emotional interrogation scenes of “Q&A” and, like his co-star, he has been so consistently good throughout the first six episodes, that it will be a tough call to narrow down his best episode next year. A great luxury to have with six more episodes in the bank.

It was somewhat surprising to see Emmy winner Patinkin (“Chicago Hope,” 1995) miss out on a Best Drama Supporting Actor nomination earlier this year. Although it is one of the most perennially competitive categories to break into, Patinkin is still a good bet to reap his fourth career nomination next year. The season’s first six episodes have not given Patinkin a standout episode yet (although an argument could be made for “State of Independence”), so his chances depend on what is yet to come for the crotchety and loyal Saul Berenson.

Baccarin has been impressive this season as weary army wife Jessica Brody. A longshot contender last year, Baccarin has staked her claim for a Best Drama Supporting Actress slot next year with standout scenes in “The Smile” as she confronts husband Brody about his secret conversion to Islam, and in “State of Independence” as she delivers a speech at her fundraiser, candidly speaking about the private struggle she has endured upon her POW husband’s surprise rescue after years in captivity.  Depending on what else Baccarin delivers in the latter half of the season, either installment would make a great episode submission to solidify her Emmy chances.

Don’t count out Saylor, who has gained her fair share of attention this season as the wise-beyond-her-years teenage daughter of the conflicted Brody and harried wife Jessica. Her storyline involving the Vice-President’s son has provided a welcome counterpoint to the main attraction of the show’s terror plot.

Finally, as “Homeland” was represented in both the writing and directing categories at this year’s Emmys by helmer Michael Cuesta (who lost to Tim Van Patten for “Boardwalk Empire”) and Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff (who won the writing Emmy for the show’s pilot), expect to see Cuesta potentially back in contention for directing the show’s dynamic second season opener, as well as showrunners Gansa and Gordon for penning that episode. However, consensus appears to be forming around the fourth episode (“New Car Smell”) as a standout episode so far this season. Writer Meredith Stiehm and director David Semel might find themselves in the running for Emmy glory next year too, depending on what else the show delivers as the latter half of its second season unfurls over the coming weeks. “Q&A” was also a beautifully intense showcase, not only for the two lead actors, but especially for  writer Henry Brommel and Emmy nominated (for “Mad Men” in 2010) director Lesli Linka Glatter.

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