TV Review - Homeland

Of all the new TV shows that premiered in 2011, this was by far the best pilot. It was so well produced, so well written and so well acted that it makes me mad that all pilots aren't this good. It's only a shame that it's not an original, American idea.

When HBO adapted the Israeli TV series for the United States, In Treatment was a bold and powerful creation that was different and extraordinary. Written in part by Oscar-nominated Ari Folman, it proved Israeli television was fertile ground. Working for the Showtime network, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa developed Homeland from that same fertile ground.

Based on the Israeli series Prisoners of War by Gideon Raff, Claire Danes (Temple Grandin and My So-Called Life) stars as Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent in Baghdad, Iraq, trying to get information on an imminent attack on American soil. She's able to ascertain a tip from an Iraqi prisoner before he's executed, but she doesn't know what it means.

It's not until nearly a year later does she piece it together. Carrie goes back to Washington, DC, where she works as an analyst at the CIA headquarters. It's there that she hears about a rescued P.O.W., a soldier named Sgt. Nicholas Brody, played by Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers and Life). He's welcomed home as a hero, but clearly he doesn't feel like a hero. He goes along with the charade but he's bothered by something inside, possibly something during his captivity, something that literally scarred him.

Brody's wife, Jessica, played by Morena Baccarin (V and Firefly), along with his two children, a teenage daughter and a prepubescent son, try to adjust to life with Brody back in the picture. Jessica also goes along with the charade, mostly because she's bothered by something she wants to hide. What she wants to hide is the fact that while her husband was a prisoner of war, she was having an affair with her husband's friend, Mike Faber, played by Diego Klattenhoff.

Jessica in no way wants to tell Brody about Mike. It does set up the first of two obvious parallels to the film Brothers (2009). Brody and Mike aren't related by blood like the love triangle in Brothers, but Brody's prisoner-of-war experience is similar to the one in Brothers in that he not only has to watch but also participate in a friend and fellow prisoner's torture.

The overall question is whether or not Brody's participation was successful in turning Brody against his country, either by ideology, which is unlikely, or by fear and guilt, which is the most probable, and making him an agent for a terrorist named Abu Nazir, played by Navid Negahban who also had a role in Brothers. Carrie becomes obsessed and she goes to extremes to spy on him and essentially stalk him. Her boss, Saul Berenson, played by Emmy winner Mandy Patinkin (Chicago Hope and Dead Like Me), confronts her because he's worried she may be going over the edge.

This is where Danes shines. Her performance is one that makes you feel her anxiety and her paranoia. Her character Carrie has 9/11 issues and Danes does a terrific job of handling them. Director Michael Cuesta (Dexter and Six Feet Under) crafts a slick and cinematic-looking piece that feels thoroughly authentic and is consistently enthralling and exciting.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLSV.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Originally Aired Sundays at 9PM.
Available on Showtime on Demand.


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