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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Homeland 3, Ch4, with Claire Danes, Damian Lewis PREVIEW

Damian Lewis as Brody and Claire Danes as Carrie in Homeland 3
Damian Lewis and Claire Danes in Homeland 3. Pics: Ch4

Rating: ★★★★

Channel 4: starts Sunday, 6 October, 9pm

Story: Almost three months after America’s ‘Second 9/11’, alleged Langley bomber Nick Brody remains at large.

HOMELAND was carefully primed in its debut season, but blew up in the faces of its makers in series two, with a credibility-snapping plot that released all the thriller’s tension.

Happily, the drama’s rediscovered its mojo. Season three powers back with in gripping style with bags

Carrie is questioned by the Senate in Homeland 3
Carrie in the Senate hot seat

of paranoia, high-level dirty tricks and Carrie going off the rails again.

She has good reason, in fairness. Hung out to dry before a behind-closed-doors Senate investigation, she faces hostile questioning as damaging documents about her and the CIA’s failures are leaked from an unknown source to the senators.

Claire Danes is superb again

It is three months after the Langley bombing, which killed 219 people and for which the missing Brodie is blamed. The CIA is in the doghouse and Carrie and Saul’s closeness to traitor-turned-double agent Brodie is clearly deeply compromising.

But it is Carrie that’s getting all the flak, and as she is off her lithium medication again, the pressure is sending her into frantic overdrive. Claire Danes is once again in can’t-tear-your-eyes-away form as the agent on the edge.

Rupert Friend as Quinn in Homeland 3
Quinn (Rupert Friend) seeks his quarry

Saul, meanwhile, is trying to restore some cred to the agency by taking out six high-level conspirators in the Langley bombing all at the same time. This on its own is a nail-biting strand of the opener, but it is woven brilliantly into the dark machinations around Carrie as well as Jess, now on hard times, trying to cope with Dana’s recovery from her suicide bid.

Homeland is back in the zone

F Murray Abraham returns as Dar Adal to prowl round Saul, prompting the latter’s suspicion that it might be Adal leaking documents to destroy Carrie.

One character who hasn’t returned is Brody – but he will. This may disappoint some viewers of episode one, but his non-show is quite a shrew dramatic move as his non-appearance hangs over all the characters and the rogue congressman’s re-appearance will be all the more dramatic.

F Murray Abraham as Adal in Homeland 3
The ever watchful Dar Adal (F Murray Abraham)

Pushing Homeland beyond what was a tightly plotted, if slightly unbelievable, first season looked like a mistake after season two was such a dreary letdown.

But the new series, which goes out on Ch4 seven days after the US, looks full of compelling and topical intrigue, with its enemies-within theme and well-developed characters throughout. It deserves a good audience, as well, with so many fine actors on hand to bring it to life.

Cast: Claire Danes Carrie Mathison, Damian Lewis Nicholas Brody, Rupert Friend Peter Quinn, Morena Baccarin Jessica Brody, Jackson Pace Chris Brody, Morgan Saylor Dana Brody, Sarita Choudhury Mira Berenson, Tracy Letts Andrew Lockhart, F. Murray Abraham Dar Adal, Mandy Patinkin Saul Berenson, James Rebhorn Frank Mathison, Tim Guinee Scott Ryan, Sam Underwood Leo Carras, Amy Morton Erin Kimball, Pedro Pascal David Pantillo

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