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.


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 series two starring Damian Lewis and Claire Danes PREVIEW

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes
Watching their backs – Brody and Carrie. Pic: Channel 4

Rating: ★★★★ 

Channel 4: Sundays, from 7 October, 9pm

Story: Having been kicked out of the CIA and undergone electro-convulsive therapy, Carrie is working as a teacher and on the road to recovery. However, events in Beirut mean her former boss, Estes, has to turn to her again for assistance. Meanwhile, Brody is approached by an ally of Abu Nazir…

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison
Carrie’s dangerous mission to Beirut

The first series of this thriller from Showtime in the US was such a hit, and also won a bundle of Emmys and a Gold Globe for best drama, that it was always going to be back for another series. And here it is, just a few short months after the first success.

The question is, does it have the puff to stay one pulsating step ahead of the audience again? On the basis of episode one, that looks like a yes.

Carrie’s been humiliated and kicked out of the CIA
It is interesting to see how Carrie, Brody and the other characters have emerged from the explosive end of series one. Brody, the war hero Carrie suspected of having been turned into an Al-Qaeda terrorist during captivity, backed down from killing the vice president after a phone call from his daughter, Dana.

Now Carrie is in a frail but recovering state, having been humiliatingly kicked out of the CIA, and received shock therapy for her bipolar condition. She is being looked after by her sister and dad, and is working as an English teacher.

David Estes (David Harewood)

Will Brody be chosen for Presidential running mate?
Brody, meanwhile, is enjoying a stellar political rise as Vice President Bill Walden asks the Congressman if he would be interested as becoming his running mate when Walden goes for the presidency.

It’s not long before Carrie and Brody are stretched in new and dangerous directions, however. A prime asset in Beirut, the wife of a Hezbollah commander, says she has info on a planned attack on the US – but she will only speak to Carrie.

World on edge – Israel bombs Iran
At the same time, the screws are being put on Brody by an ally of Abu Nazir – glamorous journalist Roya Hammad – who wants the Congressman to steal security information from Estes, Carrie’s former boss and the CIA’s counterterrorism boss.

Damian Lewis as Brody
At the seat of power – Brody

As usual, the writers are riffing on real world events to create an alarming backdrop to the story. So, Israel has bombed five Iranian nuclear facilities, killing anything up to 3000 people, and raising global tensions to boiling point. Revenge is in the air.

Claire Danes is terrific again
Homeland works so well because the writing team spend a lot of time breathing life into the principal characters. Carrie – another fine performance by Claire Danes – is brittle in her recovery from the last series’ frantic mania and obsessive vigilance, wonderfully supported by her sister and father, and when called on by Estes, she is clearly in no state for the pressure of further field work.

Similarly, Brody’s complex domestic life is convincingly done, with his being close to daughter Dana while a little distant from wife Jess. Here, she lets slip a secret about Brody that stuns her classmates but dismays and infuriates Jess. And once again, Brit Damian Lewis is at ease as a former US Marine turned Congressman.

The result is that when the heat is on, we’re deeply invested in the fates of these people.

Homeland two gets off to a dramatic and intriguing start, and it looks like being another tense ride.

Cast: Claire Danes Carrie Mathison, Damian Lewis Nicholas Brody, Morena Baccarin Jessica Brody, David Harewood David Estes, Diego Klattenhoff Mike Faber, Jamey Sheridan William Walden, David Marciano Virgil, Navid Negahban Abu Nazir, Jackson Pace Chris Brody, Morgan Saylor Dana Brody, Mandy Patinkin Saul Berenson, Zuleikha Robinson Roya Hammad

Read on…
Channel 4

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