Homeland — Killer TV no.45

Showtime, Series 1 2011, series 2 2012, series 3 2013, series 4 2014
‘My name is Nicholas Brody and I’m a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. I have a wife, and two kids, who I love. By the time you watch this, you’ll have read a lot of things about me, about what I’ve done, and so I wanted to explain myself, so that you’ll know the truth.’ – Nicholas Brody
Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, David Harewood, Mandy Patinkin
Identikit: CIA officer Carrie Mathison suspects that a US Marine, Nicholas Brody, who’s been a prisoner of al-Qaeda for eight years but has now been rescued, may have been turned into a terrorist targeting the USA.

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Taut, clever and character-driven thriller with Damian Lewis as the war hero returning to the US after eight years as a PoW – but whom Claire Danes’ CIA agent suspects of having been turned into and al-Qaeda terrorist. There are twists galore, but the show’s real pulling power came from great characters, particularly Danes’ Carrie Mathison, whose secret battle with bi-polar disorder means the audience is never sure if she is paranoid or correct in suspecting Brody. It is a performance of compelling intensity from Danes, whose character veers from professional to frazzled to reckless. Damian Lewis also goes through the emotional gears as the hero on edge, balancing a loving all-American family with harrowing years in captivity. Mandy Patinkin adds gravitas as Division Chief Saul Berenson, and Morena Baccarin is well cast as Jessica Brody, the wife who travels from sympathetic and confused to angry and dismayed with her husband. That other post-9/11 intelligence drama 24 was more gung-ho and may have been a longer-running series, but where it was packed with plot (missing daughter, moles, passenger plane bombed, assassination conspiracy, senator with secrets – all in episode one), Homeland is a character-rich story, full of tension and questions about the nature of intelligence work.

Brody (Damian Lewis) and Carrie (Claire Danes) in Homeland

The 12-parter has its plausibility-stretching aspects (the all-seeing CIA being unaware of Carrie’s medicated lifestyle, for instance), but it works as a thriller full of engaging figures and intrigue. Series two and three stretched the premise – is-he-or-isn’t-he a traitor – too far and the spell was broken thereafter. But season one was fresh, multi-layered and gripping. Series one and two both won Golden Globes for best drama, with Claire Danes also winning twice for best actress.

Classic episode: The Weekend, episode 7 in series 1, is Brody’s showstopping moment, an instalment that is beautifully acted, elegantly structured and revelatory. Brody and Carrie sleep together at her family’s country cabin, while at the same time Jessica and Mike, whose relationship is scuppered by Brody’s return, acknowledge how difficult things are with her husband back on the scene. The mood then sours between Carrie and Brody when he realises that she’s been spying on him, and she finally accuses him of being an al-Qaeda agent. He denies it but admits to killing his co-prisoner Walker, an act of self-preservation. Following a call from Saul, Carrie thinks Brody is telling the truth and tries to repair their relationship. Brody leaves feeling betrayed, returns home, sees his wife and children asleep, and in the living room sits down and starts crying.

Watercooler facts: Homeland is based on an Israeli series called Hatufim. It is also one of President Obama’s favourite shows.

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Comments

  1. Linda says:

    HOMELAND should be in the Top. 10. It has always had superb writing which is truly relevant to our present world’s situation

    • robinjarossi says:

      You’re right, it should be higher. I wrote that post before the last series, which was a return to form and would have pushed it up the ranking

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