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.

PREVIOUS: 46 Out 47 The Cops 48 Moonlighting 49 Brotherhood 50 Copper

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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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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.

Estes
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
Showtime
Emmys

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Homeland, Damian Lewis, Claire Danes PREVIEW

Brody (Damian Leiws) is damaged by his time in captivity. Pics: C4

Rating: ★★

Channel 4 Week starting 18 Feb day and time to be announced

Story: Sgt Nicholas Brody has been released after eight years of captivity in a terrorist cellar in Afghanistan. He arrives home traumatised but to a hero’s welcome. However, CIA operative Carrie Mathison is suspicious. She has information that a US prisoner has been ‘turned’, and despite not having the authority, she wants to keep Brody under surveillance.

Homeland arrives on a wave of good reviews and awards from the US, where it recently picked up best drama at the Golden Globes.

Starring Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, and made by the Emmy-winning executive producers of 24 (Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa), the opening episode certainly succeeds in delivering a thriller with ambiguous characters and intriguing twists.

Danes plays CIA agent Carrie Mathison, a driven woman whose job it is to uncover terrorist plots in the Middle East. As we meet her she is causing an international incident by bribing her way into an Iraqi prison to contact a man who is about to executed.

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes

Subsequently stripped of her role in the field, we next see her 10 months later when she has a desk job. Called into a briefing from her boss, David Estes, Carrie learns that Navy Seals raiding an Al-Qaeda safehouse in Afghanistan have rescued Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Lewis), who has been a prisoner for eight years.

Is Brody a hero or terrorist?
As Brody is welcomed home by a Vice President he can’t even name, so long has he been gone, Mathison recalls what her doomed contact Iraq told her – that an American PoW had been ‘turned’.

She suspects Brody, but doesn’t have the credibility or authority to have him bugged and followed. So is Brody a war hero or is he a traitor who is about to trigger a terrorist attack in the US? Over 12 episodes we should find out, though a second series has already been commissioned.

Homeland is skilfully set up in the opening episode, Lewis’s prisoner looks like Robinson Crusoe when he is discovered, but he is physically and mentally scarred by torture. He is a virtual stranger to his son and daughter and even his wife has moved on by sleeping with Brody’s Marine buddy.

Found – the Navy Seals discover Brody

But there is plenty of ambiguity about the hero to make the audience wonder. What happened to his sniping partner after they were captured? Why does he lie to his wife at one point? And do his flashbacks contradict his statements during his CIA debriefing?

Best actress Golden Globe
On the other hand, Claire Danes, who picked up the Golden Globe for best actress, plays a woman who has plenty of her own issues. ‘Will you behave yourself?’ asks her mentor at the CIA, Saul Berenson. A reasonable question because she is unpopular and discredited. We don’t know whether her instincts are sharper than everyone else’s, or if she’s unbalanced.

The story, loosely based on an Israeli television series called Prisoners of War, plays with some engrossing themes. How will Brody reintegrate into civilian life while dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (on his first night home he has violent sex with his wife, suggesting he has become desensitised to normal relationships). And why is Mathison’s personal life so apparently reckless?

Lewis, who like fellow old-Etonian Dominic West, seems to have convinced the Americans he is one of them, walks the tightrope between hero and villain with skill. And Danes powers between vulnerability and ruthlessness to make a suitably disconcerting protagonist.

Cast: Claire Danes Carrie Mathison, Damian Lewis Nicholas ‘Nick’ Brody, Morena Baccarin Jessica Brody, David Harewood David Estes, Diego Klattenhoff Captain Mike Faber, Jackson Pace Chris Brody,  Morgan Saylor Dana Brody, Mandy Patinkin Saul Berenson

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