Homeland S1: Is he or isn’t he?

I know a TV show is good when I watch it pretty much in one sitting

Admittedly I am in the rare position of being able to do this while I wait to go back to work starting next week and also to move houses so my housework is basically on hold but, I did watch Homeland through in less than 30 hours, so, in my books that makes it a pretty great show.

The premise is based on the Israeli series of novels Hatufim (English translation: Abducted) created by Gideon Raf. It stars Clare Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin about a CIA officer who becomes convinced that the intelligence that led to the rescue of a U.S. soldier was a setup and connected to an Al Qaeda terrorist plot and the ‘hero’ US Marine that has been rescued was in fact ‘turned’ and is only playing a part in a conspiracy when he is hailed as a hero upon his return after eight years of imprisonment.

Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a CIA officer previously stationed in Baghdad and who takes her job far too seriously. We quickly learn that Carrie has some type of mental health issue although this is not fully revealed until late in the series. Like many professional-based characters (especially women?) Carrie’s commitment to her job has cost her personal life and she spends most of her time engaged and on-duty. She has few friends at work however, apart from her mentor Saul as she has proven in the past to be willing to cross personal, social and political lines in her  drive to do her job and she has obviously stepped on more than a few toes along the way.

The secondary storyline within the show is how the family of returned Marine Nicholas Brody deal with the return of their husband/father after thinking he was dead for eight years.

From the viewer’s point of view, Brody’s violence, and detachment fuel our speculation that Carrie is right, that Brody has indeed been turned. His story as a POW is told in flashback during the season and this helps us to understand what Brody is so angry about, but does little to reveal the nature of his allegiance, which remains a mystery until the last few episodes. The relationship between Brody and Carrie becomes emotional and complex as she struggles to clarify if Brody is who he says he is while Brody’s relationship with his wife and children is fraught with silence and misunderstanding but also a real desire to reconnect as a family. It is these relationships that fuel the series and compel the viewer to keep watching – to see not only if Brody is a sleeper or not, but to find out how it will all play out.

I don’t want to give too much away here as Homeland is quite riveting viewing and all the more so for the way in which the narrative unfolds over the season.

It reminds me a bit of 24, with its talented but socially awkward main character and the life-or-death aspect of the work that they do. Like 24, Homeland is also a well put-together piece of TV with high production values and a stellar cast that all work to make entry into the world of the CIA operations seamless for the audience. It’s really easy to just accept the premise of what is being offered and to lose yourself to the narrative – and that is another sign of a great show.

My only gripe is the season finale. I didn’t like it and was frustrated by it. I can see why they chose to do it and I can see it making Season 2 interesting, but, after all the build-up, it was a bit disappointing. Don’t worry, you do get to find out about Sgt Brody and you do get closure on most of what happens but, it ends on a high note and for someone like me, who is driven crazy by the need to ‘know what happens’ (a whole season in 30 hours remember?) this is a bit frustrating. I actually left my viewing of Lost until after Season 4 had been released on DVD as I couldn’t stand the suspense and I was left feeling a little like this at the end of Homeland. I am however looking forward to season 2 (which I am told is definitely a go from Showtime) as this storyline and these characters have a lot of narrative juice left in them and it will be interesting to see how the writers propel them into the next chapter of their lives.

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