Fall 2011 Review: Homeland

15 Oct

There were a couple of candidates for the most interesting new show of the Fall, but I think I’ve found it in Homeland (so far, anyway).  I only kind of understood what the show was about coming in, but I leave the show a lot more intrigued than I was before watching.

At the beginning of the episode, Claire Danes’ character, Carrie Mathison, CIA officer, is in Iraq, and gets a message from an Iraqi prisoner set to be assassinated.  She gets the message after she promises to protect his family after bribing her way into the prison to talk to him.  Ten months later, she’s back in Washington and on the CIA shitlist for bribing her way into the prison.  We then learn two key pieces of set up for the show.  First, a marine taken prisoner of war eight years ago has been found alive by American special forces and is coming back home a national hero, and two, the piece of information Mathison got was that Al Qaeda had managed to turn a prisoner of war, which Mathison guesses to be the marine, Nicholas Brody, portrayed by Damian Lewis.

The episode follows the twin paths of Mathison and Brody.  Mathison, a career-driven agent, who is convinced that Brody is a terrorist, trying to circumvent the law whenever necessary to get the information to prove to her boss and mentor that Brody was turned, and Brody slowly trying to work himself back into a society he’s been out of for eight years, meeting a family he hasn’t seen, and a son he barely knows.

The supporting cast played less of a role in the premiere, but seems interesting.  On Brody’s side are his wife and his good friend, who have been sleeping together in his absence.  On Mathison’s side are her mentor, Saul Berenson, played by Mandy Patinkin, who believes in Mathison’s competence but is concerned about her tendency to take things too far, and her boss David Estes.

Underpinning this all is an intense psychological thriller.  Danes might be right, and Brody is a terrorist waiting to happen, and every moment not following his every move is a moment wasted.  Or, Danes might be crazy or obsessive – we get some hints she’s a little off her rocker in the first episode.  It may slightly lean towards the former in the first episode; we know he lies in his debriefing from quick visions we see inside his head.  Still, I’m counting on the fact that there’s a lot we don’t know and that it can still go either way.  In my opinion, the show would lose a lot if it just spilled the beans too early about what was really going on; part of what’s great is the intense psychological showdown and the lack of clear objective truth.

Will I watch again?  Book it – this is one of the highlights of the new shows, if not the best.  Danes is fantastic, and there’s a lot of different ways this can go, and still be great.  I can’t think of another television show quite like it.  After watching The Killing, I’ve developed a fear that every intense show with a great premiere is just waiting to go downhill, but hopefully this show will start building back my optimism.

One Response to “Fall 2011 Review: Homeland”

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