HOMELAND: Advance Review
Read on for my spoiler-free advance review of Homeland’s first 3 episodes:
So many new television series are introduced each fall that it can sometimes feel overwhelming. What new shows are really worth watching? Well, set your DVRs because one of the best pilots of the year, Homeland, premieres this Sunday, October 2nd at 10 ET/PT on Showtime. The pilot was made available for free online viewing a couple weeks ago, but the unedited version will finally be airing tomorrow night. Homeland’s writing, direction, acting, and production quality are among the best out there right now, and I highly recommend it. Haven’t yet heard about Homeland? Check out the videos below to catch up:
Showtime sent me the first 3 episodes of Homeland and I happily devoured them. Each episode was better than the last. I’m completely addicted and can’t wait for more. Homeland is definitely an intense show, with disturbing images, violence, and nudity, so it’s not for everyone. But for those interested in a character-based drama set against the backdrop of the post-911 CIA as it combats terrorism, Homeland is for you. It deals with loaded political and military storylines with complexity and nuance and avoids any kind of preachy patriotism whatsoever. At its core, Homeland is a character-based drama, and that is what really strengthens the thrilling premise. Beyond the mystery and intrigue are well-written characters who feel like real people, sympathetic in their flaws and complexities.
Claire Danes stars as Carrie Mathison, a CIA officer who believes that returning war hero Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) may have been turned during his captivity in Iraq. Carrie is incredibly intense and not entirely emotionally stable, but this is balanced with a sincere dedication to keeping the USA safe from any further terrorist attacks. She is tough, smart, stubborn, and driven, moving fearlessly to achieve her goals. But not in the “beating up bad guys in high-heel boots” way that we may be accustomed to seeing female CIA agents on television. At the opening of the pilot, Carrie is a field agent in Baghdad, but when she is discovered trespassing in a prison by a large number of soldiers, she is not clad in black leather, and she does not miraculously break out ninja skills to take out 15 guards. Carrie is a different kind of heroine, who feels very authentic, and I really like that about her. She also has some major personal baggage that begins to slowly reveal itself in the series, and which may serve to give us even deeper insight into what makes her tick.
Rounding out the CIA characters are Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and David Estes (David Harewood). Patinkin plays Carrie’s mentor, the veteran CIA Division Chief who recruited and trained her. I love him in this role and you really sympathize with him in trying to work with stubborn Carrie. (And I’m not just saying that because he played Inigo Montoya. Really.) Harewood plays the Deputy Director, Carrie’s boss, who seems to hold something personal against her. We don’t get to know him too well in the first few episodes, but I suspect that he will become more important later on in the series.
However, this is not merely a show about the CIA, but also features a compelling family drama. When Sgt. Nicholas Brody returns from 8 years as a POW, it completely changes the lives of his family. Damian Lewis is stellar and heartbreaking in his portrayal of Sgt. Brody. While the A story line may revolve around whether Brody has turned, there is just so much more going on. Whether or not Brody has been turned, you can’t help but be moved by him and his experiences, and there are just so many different levels to be played there. The Brodys are, of course, thrilled at Nick’s return, but it’s never that simple. Adjustments must be made. Morena Baccarin (Inara!) does an excellent job as Jessica, Nick’s wife, demonstrating all the intricacies of her reaction to her long-lost husband’s return. Children Dana (Morgan Saylor) and Chris (Jackson Pace) round out the picture. While Dana is the typical rebellious teenager full of anger at her mother—the kind that I really cannot stand—her behavior seems a bit more understandable in this case, and she is able to rein it in when it matters.
The pilot is certainly strong, but it may worry some as to the sustainability of the show. Having seen episodes 2 and 3, however, I think that they are even stronger. These subsequent episodes point to a season long arc that will be worth investing in. The reveals continue, along with more and more suspense, mystery, and complication. In the words of Carrie, “No one said becoming a terrorist was easy, Saul!”