Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday TV: First Thoughts on Homeland

The basics: Homeland, a new program airing on Showtime, features Claire Danes as Carrie, a CIA analyst who is also bipolar.  In a CIA briefing, Carrie hears that a U.S. POW, long presumed dead, had been discovered and rescued in Iraq. She immediately leaves the room and goes to consult Saul (Mandy Patinkin). When an Iraqi prisoner told her an American POW had been turned, she initially dismissed the claims because there were no known POWs. Now she fears Sergeant Brody (Damian Lewis), who is welcomed as an American hero will pull off a terrorist attack on American soil.

My thoughts: The first episode of Homeland is brilliant. It's intelligent, thrilling, and wacky in the best ways. At the crux of the show is the tension between paranoia and reality. Carrie wants round-the-clock surveillance, which is a clear violation of Brody's privacy. He hasn't yet done anything. Does the word of an Iraqi prisoner trump an American hero? When the CIA won't bug Brody's house, Carrie does it herself and makes her apartment surveillance central. She has eyes and ears in every room of his house.

Meanwhile, Brody and his family are struggling to find normalcy. He was presumed dead years ago, and his wife was close to telling their two children about her new boyfriend. Their son is young enough to not even remember his father. It's a tragic and fascinating family dynamic.

The acting is superb across the board. I've been a huge fan of Claire Danes since the blessed days of My So-Called Life. She portrays the crazy and the smart brilliantly. It's clear she's never forgiven herself for not catching (and stopping) the terror events of 9/11 and refuses to let it happen again. Is her bipolar disorder wrapped up in these fears? It's too early to tell.

Homeland is intense. The details matter, which makes the audience feel like Carrie. We're helping her look for clues about Brody. Where will we draw the line in the sand? Which one will we trust? Will we be right?

The verdict: It's too early to tell, of course, but based on the first episode, Homeland could well be the best show on tv (watch out, The Good Wife). It's a reminder that episodic television can tell stories visually in ways books cannot. The little details and clues of Homeland would be too obvious if inserted in a novel, but on the screen they dazzle.

Now tell me: what do you think of Homeland so far? 


  1. I hadn't heard of this series before, but I do admit that you've got me very curious about it now. I think the fact that it deals so directly with a bi-polar character is very intriguing, and I think I need to check this one out. Great post today! Without your coverage, I may have never heard of this series!

  2. Shamefully, I was sold on the show when I saw they cast Damian Lewis. I can't wait to watch this ep -- DVR saves the day!

  3. I've finally watched the first episode (I saved your post until I had). I loved it! I'm a big fan of Lewis, Danes and Patinkin, so my expectations were pretty high. I think it has the potential to be a really wonderful show!


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