Homeland cleverly lays out its plot like jigsaw pieces, hooking the viewer into its conspiracies as well as its characters.

Now that the war in Iraq is almost behind America, US television is probably ready to cope with the War on Terror as a background for episodic television.

The outstandingly-made Generation Kill and Over There were too real to become populist dramas.

Cable network Showtime now sets a conspiratorial drama, using the war as a backdrop to a saga on home turf. Homeland is based on an Israeli series Hatufim (which means ‘kidnapped’).

The hero of the story, in a dramatic sense anyway, is CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) who digs deeper into the rescue of Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), found as a Prisoner of War after eight years in Afghanistan.

While the CIA and the nation are busy celebrating his homecoming with yellow ribbons around old oak trees, Mathison is far more suspicious.

What happened to the other US soldier who was also captured with him? And how does it stack up with intelligence she received in Iraq that a US soldier has been turned into a “sleeper cell” by his captor, terrorist Abu Nazir?

Mathison not only has suspicions, but a hot temper to boot. Her theories land little joy from CIA Deputy Director David Estes (David Harewood) but Middle-East Division Chief Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) cautiously cuts her more slack.

Brody’s family, consisting of Jessica (Morena Baccarin) and two teenagers (Jackson Pace,
Morgan Saylor), try to welcome back a missing husband and father. There are mixed feelings about reviving emotions when they have already moved on.

In the hands of 24 producer Howard Gordon, Homeland cleverly lays out its plot like jigsaw pieces, hooking the viewer into its conspiracies as well as its characters.

With a rock-solid cast, the characters have depth, drawing upon dense backstories and directorial subtext.

Dane’s central character isn’t readily-likable. She’s obsessive, desperate and flawed. But the quest for truth raises her stock. We know there’s some truth there somewhere that only she can get to the bottom of.

Damian Lewis, last seen in the more offbeat series Life, is brooding as the all-American hero, but if there is more to Brody then he hides it well.

Patinkin is always understated and pitch-perfect as the voice of experience. Morena Baccarin (V) adds a touch of glamour but is also concealing a lie. The sum of the parts makes for a dynamic ensemble.

As a cable drama there are flashes of language, violence and nudity -all of them are justified by the story.

Homeland is said to be a personal favourite of Barack Obama’s and it’s not hard to see why -although it’s a little alarming the leader of the US Army favours a tale that appears to negate it. Yesterday it became a Golden Globe winner too.

TEN is launching the show well in advance of the start of the ratings season, which is a concern. Narrative dramas of this calibre require the viewer to hook in from the start. A dark, sombre piece will need every assistance to work on a broad platform.

I couldn’t help but wonder what show might have been produced if the genders of the two lead characters had been reversed. It was, after all, Jessica Lynch who was the first US Prisoner of War to be rescued from Iraq, taken to Germany and given a hero homecoming -all of which are mirrored in Brody’s tale.

Nevertheless, Homeland is made of strong stuff. It’s the first bull’s-eye for 2012. I’m looking forward to watching how it all unravels.

Homeland premieres 8:30pm Sunday on TEN.

34 Responses

  1. Some observations that I know will not be observed
    • As Noel has stated the first 12 Epps and complete season one have been screened in the States, meaning the hardcore viewer has more than likely already watched through one means or the other some or all the first season.
    • The moves slowly but with momentum and would definitely benefit from a few double Epps. Screening in the beginning so today’s average viewer does not lose interest in the early parts where characters are being explored.
    • Not screening the second season until October 2012 is probably a death blow.
    • The last episode of season one is one of the best pieces of Television I have ever seen and having always liked Claire Danes her Golden Globe success was always a gimme.
    • Strange as it may seem I believe Ten would have been better off postponing it’s screening to make the time between 1 and 2 a little less, anyone who really wanted to watch probably would have anyway.

  2. I am going to rant & rave now as I cannot believe some of the negative comments some of you are posting in 2012 – I am sick of reading them.

    Why have I chosen ‘Homeland’ comments rather than others…. to tell you the truth, @JB set me off. @ JB : You cannot be serious. (please accept my apology for making you the highlight here) but at the beginning you said ‘Yep great show’. Why could you not leave it at that? Instead you had to add ‘that’s because it’s on Ten and no one trusts Ten anymore so why bother etc etc)

    In my opinion, Ten have invested heavily in ‘Homeland’ working for them, so rather than give them negative comments, why not support the show no matter what station it is on.
    I very much doubt Ten will be chopping and changing time slots with this show, especially knowing that it is one of the most popular TV Series in the US for some time.

    (Special note to the Ten Network – Do not chop & change the schedule no matter the ratings. Instead sell Homeland to viewers in a way that they will eagerly want to continue watching it each week. Make it exciting/watchable because at the end of the day, it is the best TV production for 2011. (Do not repeat it every 5 mins – instead sell it in a special way just like you did with ‘The Project’. I sell Homeland to my friends every opportunity I can.

  3. Not sure why people are dissing channel ten. It’d be far worse if it was on nine as they’d air it for a couple of weeks and then move it to the graveyard shift. Xfiles became a hit on channel ten in Australia long before it was a hit in the USA, that success here saved it and gave it a season 2. The show can do fine on ten if they believe in it, allow it to build and treat it well. Sick of networks expecting a lot straight away and then dumping shows. Many of the biggest shows in history weren’t hits straight away but now they’re expected to be.

  4. It’s such a good drama. I thought the war element might be a bit of a turn off but its barely noticeable. Very much a spy type thriller and I agree with CB, Clare Daines is freaking fantastic. Nice pick on her golden globe. I’ll be watching it again Sunday night.

  5. I have seen the first few episodes and stopped watching not because it’s not impeccably made but because of the storyline. I personally don’t like these sorts of shows. They are not for everyone and I too am surprised TEN has put this on the family friendly night. IMO it should be on at 9:30pm after NCIS on Tuesday. In saying this it does deserve all the accolades it’s been getting and i do hope it works for TEN but this is TEN we are talking about. If it were on Nine or Seven it would have such a better chance to succeed but we will see

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