Rating: ★★★½☆

Showtime’s new psychological thriller Homeland stars Claire Danes as C.I.A. operations officer Carrie Anderson. Driven beyond conventional operational standards, Carrie was once a rising star in the C.I.A., but ever since her unauthorised field operation in Iraq went bust, she has been serving probation in the counter-terrorism centre in Langley. The last thing she learned in Iraq was that an American prisoner of war had been turned. Ten months later, the prisoner in question, U.S. Marine Sergeant Nicolas Brody (co-star Damian Lewis) is liberated by American forces and returned home, having spent eight years in an Al Qaeda prison. Once again Carrie’s obsession takes over, believing Brody to be her turned POW, she sets up an illegal surveillance of his home.

In this week’s episode, Carrie’s operation is now semi-legitimate, supported by her mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). They believe they are onto a lead connecting Saudi Prince Farid Bin Abbud (Amir Arison) to known Al Qaeda operator Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban), who is suspected of planning an imminent attack. Carrie has an undercover operative in the form of Farid’s escort Lynn Reed (Brianna Brown), who has been keeping tabs on Farid’s business with Nazir, but has recently expressed fears over her own safety. Due to the illegitimate nature of the operation, Carrie has been lying to her about a secret protection detail. Meanwhile the Brody family continue to deal with the realities of Brody’s return. Wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) was having an affair with Brody’s Marine buddy Mike (Diego Klattenoff) before Brody returned home. This has strained her relationship with daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor). Brody, having spent eight years away from home, tries to make sense of the world he has returned to. He sleeps on the floor next to the bed, and is uncomfortable to be intimate with Jessica. At the end of last week’s episode, Brody reenlisted in the Marines to help them gain favour for the unpopular war. This week, the family is involved in a CNN interview at their home, in which Dana refuses to partake.

After a strong pilot and second episode, I feel that this week’s episode hits a slight snag, the plot is sufficient and the closing act had enough to keep me interested for next week, but I felt it lacked the emotional suspense that made the first two episodes. This show does well when it conveys Brody’s vulnerability and the mental trauma he has suffered. Having been inundated with countless war films and shows that laud the exploits of soldiers at war, its refreshing to see a program the expresses quite well, the psychological damage suffered by these men, in particular, one who has endured extensive torture and lengthy imprisonment. When Brody is alone, you can’t take your eyes of the screen. Episode 3 falters in this respect because it deals more with Brody’s relationships with his family, which of course is important in its own right, but for me, lacks the same intrigue as his personal struggle.

Claire Danes does well with her character, who has the right mix of ambition and crazy. The way she can sit there at the monitor and watch Brody and his wife stumble through some awkward intimate moments is a great reflection on the nature of her work (and I supposed a reflection on the viewer, because we are sitting there watching with her). Of note this week, is a scene where she expresses frustration at the lies that come from the C.I.A., despite having herself set up two unauthorised operations, as well as concealing her own mental condition from the Agency. Co-star Damian Lewis really steals the show however, and his turn as the tortured soldier really gives weight to the gravity of the theme. No stranger to putting on the uniform, having been superb in HBO’s Band of Brothers, Homeland gives him the opportunity to portray the dark side of the soldier’s plight, and his performance is enough to keep me tuned in next week.

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This article was first posted on October 17, 2011