Homeland

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 Comments:

  1. @ Chris. Sorry to have upset you. But their is no need to call anyone ignorant. I simply have no interest in anything that continues to glorify violence, war or anything that tells us we need to keep fighting each other. This is a series about a war that had nothing to do with terror and everything.to do with oil; a war that has devastated millions of families in many countries. I don’t need to know everything you may know about the show to know it is about the above – having seen the promos. That was enough to make me feel deeply sad that such war-glorifying crap keeps coming back into our lives. That’s all. I do not question the “quality of the show”; simply it’s overall subject matter. What surprises me is that 10 has gone for a ” family friendly” Sunday line up with YTT and Modern Family and then follows these with such a very un-family-friendly subject. I hope you enjoy it. I simply won’t be watching, That’s all. 🙂

  2. I’m sure the show is outstanding, but I don’t see it being able to regularly deliver a
    1 million minimum viewing audience that Ten will be demanding of it, at an 8.30 pm timeslot.

  3. @cookie…you seem to know nothing about this show. It doesn’t glorify war at all and indeed givesa interesting perspective on how the US has handled the whole war on terror. Your ignorance is astounding.

  4. I’ll speak for the great unwashed and say I haven’t seen an episode of this show but it ticks all the boxes and I can’t wait to watch it. Unless a network really screws with the show (like not showing all eps in a series), I don’t turn to the net or DVD box sets to watch programs beforehand.

    Life was a great series and Damian Lewis was superb. I was really disappointed it only lasted a season or two (compared to the dross that gets renewed). And anything with Patinkin in it is a plus – I don’t think Criminal Minds has been the same since he left. As for the subject matter, well, at least it isn’t another cop/hospital procedural. Can’t wait!

  5. Yep great show. Haven’t watched the whole season yet. Seems most people here have already seen it too. That’s because it’s on Ten and no one trusts Ten anymore so why bother investing your time in a show when Ten will probably treat it like crap and chop and change timeslots. Still hoping it rates well for them.

  6. Having seen all 12 episodes of series 1, this is a compelling drama that only gets better with each episode. Claire Danes is simply amazing. Can not recommend it enough.

  7. An absolutely outstanding show. I hope C10 do it justice. mind you, i found it ever so slightly over-racey in some episodes. Is this the first half of the first season, or is it a mini-season abd we’ll have to wait some time for season 2 ?

  8. Agreed. Best new show of 2011 (yes better than game of thrones). Danes performance is outstanding. I cant remember a better performance from a female lead in TV series. No doubt Ten will edit it, change timeslots when it doesnt rate straight away and generally burn viewers until it ends up showing @ 9.30 on 11.

  9. If people stick around to episode 7 they’ll be hooked for the long haul.

    This is a great series but it’s rather slow to start. I recommend it – great show

  10. OMG enough with the constant American war – ain fact any war! – and terrorism shit. I, for one, will not watch shows like this that keep telling us we should all be fighting one another. I hope it bombs…in fact I am pretty sure it will disappear from our screens in an instant.

  11. I saw this show in the States and it was must see TV. The story was compelling and so well told I couldn’t wait for the next episode. Claire Danes was astounding and thoroughly deserved her Golden Globe. I was surprised not to see Mandy Patinkin on the nominee lists though. His understated performance was brilliant. I hope viewers give this show a chance and tune in.

  12. “Jessica Lynch who was the first US Prisoner of War to be rescued from Iraq” – Actually the local Iraq hospital that was doing it very best to look after her tried to return her to the US Military at least once only to be shot at the US military. The “rescue” (fully recorded for later broadcast) was one of the single biggest stunts of the early part of the “war”. Fortunately Private Lynch refused to play the “victim” and support the war; and disappeared quietly into the background when she got home. PS: She did not “go down firing her weapon” as is often claimed by those trying to make the poor woman into some sort of ‘war hero” that they can sell to the US public.

  13. Much will depend on whether or not each episode adheres fairly tightly to the story arc, or whether it turns into another Jericho or V, where the storyline degenerates into a loose framework upon which episodes are poorly hung in. If we see bible-bashing or soap-opera-like character developments at any stage, we’ll know it’s the latter and that the series is now bound meet an untimely termination.

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