Homeland: The Complete First Season (US - BD RA)
Reviewer Jonathan gives a technical review of the award-winning show...
Carrie Mathison (Golden Globe winner Claire Danes), a brilliant but volatile CIA agent, suspects that a rescued American POW may not be what he seems. Is Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) a war hero... or an Al Qaeda sleeper agent plotting a spectacular terrorist attack on U.S. soil? Following her instincts, Mathison will risk everything to uncover the truth - her reputation, her career and even her sanity. Packed with multiple layers of hidden clues, Season One offers something new every time you see it... watch carefully. (From the Fox synopsis)
Homeland meets the high standards set by Fox in the video department with a very strong 1080p transfer. Each fifty minute episode takes up approximately 9GB of memory. With only one audio track that makes for an impressive bit rate. The show doesn't have a huge amount of visual flair, with the exception of some stylish flashbacks, and the lack of post production effects on the image make for a very clean a natural appearance. Detail is exceptionally strong and color representation is very good, though it can occasionally look pastel-like in weird lighting. Black levels are nearly reference quality. The colour palette is mostly natural but lighting is consistently gloomy making for a less than vibrant appearance. Flashback scenes have an added layer of style with jittery cameras and depth of field effects, as well as a boost of contrast. It's a cool, surreal touch and the transfer holds up magnificently well among the blurry shifting lenses and multitudes of shadows. There don't appear to be many digital artefacts resulting from the transition to Blu-ray, though there is plenty of noticeable blocking among the digital noise if you go looking for it. The third screen cap shows it at its worst in the bottom left area of the picture. It is inconsistent enough to not be a detriment, and bright outdoor scenes just look flawless. Overall this is a very strong image, even if the shows visuals aren't exactly designed to jump off the screen.
Much like the video transfer, this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has very little to complain about. Homeland features a lot of subtle music that bounces and echoes around the room in a really neat way. It never takes the foreground of the sound mix but during scenes of subterfuge and mystery it compliments the shows mood perfectly. It also nicely utilizes the LFE channel with some effective low tones that never become too encroaching. Music aside, ambient sounds make up the majority of the surround channel effects. You can hear plenty of breezes and cars passing by in the rear channels when a scene calls for it. Like the music, the sound mix does a great job of letting the story take the foreground while subtly immersing you in what is happening on screen. There are some scenes where planes fly low over a household and the mix is appropriately loud and booming to simulate the effect. In one seen a terrorist is prevented from falling asleep in an ongoing interrogation by blasting loud speed metal music, and the effect jarred and irritated me to the same effect that it did the terrorist. Dialogue can be too quiet from time to time during soft intimate whispers. I found myself needing to turn the volume up to make out some of it, but this was isolated to only a couple of incidents and my poor interpretive skills are are probably somewhat to blame. That small quibble aside, this is a very effective audio track that makes wonderfully understated use of the surround channels.
Each disc has a series of Deleted Scenes (HD) that match the episodes on the disc. There is about 12 minutes total over the course of the three discs. It is difficult to get into detail about what the scenes cover without revealing plot details, but these deleted scenes are better than your usual snippets from the cutting room floor. There are a few dull ones, but there’s also some great little scenes involving minor characters that were glazed over to save time in the series. There are no commentary tracks or information about why the scenes were deleted provided.
There’s a Commentary on the Pilot featuring Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, and writers/producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. It’s a commentary track that goes all over the place, which I actually found more refreshing and encompassing than most tracks. The cast and crew seem to have a very friendly rapport and laugh with each other over memories on set. It was neat to find out that the opening scenes of the series were actually filmed in Israel. It never gets very technical, but they talk about the editing process and how they cut to things differently before the pilot reached its final stages. There are plenty of silent moments too, so there isn’t a constant barrage of information. It’s a nice little track but I wish there were more of them to go with the crazier episodes of the series.
Homeland Season One: Under Surveillance (HD, 33:46) is a professionally made and somewhat lengthy behind-the-scenes look at the series. There’s lots of talk about what inspired the story and how the writers came up with its origin. Casts and crew members provide interviews and weigh in on their experiences with the show and their takes on the story. There isn’t much here to distinguish it from any other show’s making-of, but it suits its purpose just fine and fans of the show will find it very insightful. Lastly there is Week 10: Prologue to Season 2 (HD, 03:53), which sounds like some kind of commercial. It’s actually a full scene from the beginning of the next season. Obviously I can’t get into detail about what happens, but this is a nice little teaser.
Homeland is a potent political thriller that excels in the genre thanks to interesting characters and wonderful lead performances from Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. This show features not one, but two enigmatic leads that are immensely likable but also have the potential to flip at any moment. There’s enough nerve-racking tension to make up for some slower episodes and a few bouts of boring exposition. Fox brings the award-winning series to Blu-ray with a great transfer and an audio mix filled with lots of nice little surprises. Extras are underwhelming in number (more commentary tracks would have been nice), but the contents are of high quality.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Release Date: 28th August 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Commentary on Pilot Episode, Deleted Scenes, Under Surveillance - Making Homeland, Week 10: A Prologue to Season 2
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Morena Baccarin
Genre: Crime, Drama and Mystery
Length: 660 minutes
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