Before I start, I’d like to state that I was probably in the same boat as anyone looking for a reason to watch Homeland. I had never heard of it, I didn’t care to hear about it, and when it started winning awards, I still didn’t care for it. To be honest, it never piqued by interest because of the title of the show. How could a boring name like Homeland be interesting in any sort of way; to me, it could have meant anything. I think I even looked it up once and was still not convinced because I don’t even remember what I thought about it then. So how did I get into this show? By listening to the radio.
One of my favorite morning shows briefly mentioned this as a must-see and fellow listeners kept agreeing and raving about how “their view of television has changed.” It came up so often in the following days that it was hard to ignore so I finally succumbed and decided to give the first episode a go. After all, it was just one hours worth and I was curious to see why everyone and their mother seemed to put this show on a golden pedestal.
I put this show on a golden pedestal – no, a platinum pedestal or even a platinum throne. I felt like I was watching gold and it was pouring out of my screen like the Gold Rush was starting again. Everything Claire Danes and Damian Lewis touched turned to gold. So gold that Homeland, Claire Danes, and Damian Lewis were each respectively nominated for Best Drama Series, Best Actress in a Drama Series, and Best Actor in a Drama Series at the 69th Golden Globe Awards. The show ended up taking Best Drama Series and Danes nabbed her 3rd Golden Globe Award. With Emmy season approaching at an alarming speed, viewers and critics alike are naming this show as a clear frontrunner and clear as day it is.
I’m getting way ahead of myself here. What is this show even about? I’ll give you a quick synopsis. Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer and Damian Lewis plays Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine who was rescued after eight years of being held captive as a prisoner of war by Al-Qaeda. Mathison received some information that an American prisoner of war had been turned and she immediately believes it to be the now instated war hero, Brody, who in turn has become a cultural phenomenon. Knowing no one would believe her source, she desperately searches for evidence of Brody’s perceived treason on her own. Is he a threat to national security or just a man trying to return to his family and mend the wounds that his absence had cut?
Before we jump to any conclusions, just know that this story is beautifully crafted. There was not one moment where I thought things could have been sped up or slowed down. The pacing is spot on and unlike many shows, Homeland is very generous with the amount of information they decide to reveal. We as the viewers know nothing more and nothing less than Mathison herself. As she discovers pieces of the puzzle, so do we.
For instance, Mathison and Brody have their fair share of problems. Early on, Mathison is revealed to be bipolar and Brody is a battleground for almost every disorder you can think of. After all, how would you feel if you were stuck in a hole and tortured for eight years? Not great I would imagine. Did I mention his son has never met him, his daughter has turned to drugs, and that his wife held out for six years until she finally gave up and found “comfort” from his best friend? Yeah, his life doesn’t seem that great even after he got rescued (Don’t worry, you find out all these things within minutes of the first episode via Mathison’s “attempts”). These tidbits of information make Homeland rich with tension and ripe with urgency.
Speaking of urgency, Danes’ portrayal of an obsessive Mathison has been widely considered as nothing short of sensational. Mathison isn’t characterized as a typical “strong female lead” as her imperfections are often as dire as Brody’s. She knows her superior’s would call her blasphemous, she knows the country is essentially against her hidden accusations, and on top of that, she’s psychologically unstable – a condition that a CIA agent can never possess. As a thriller series, Mathison’s attempts at uncovering and piecing together Brody’s eight years of isolation had me on the very edge of my seat while my eyes were superglued to the screen with an expression of pure suspense I didn’t know I had – imagine how truly ridiculous I must have looked if someone had walked in.
This masterpiece of television is what all “puzzle-like” shows should aim to be. Many promising shows these days try and extend their life on the screen by inserting random bits of filler that only serve to pique the disinterest in a viewer. As stated before, Homeland knows what the viewer wants and wastes no time in delivering. I couldn’t recommend this show enough and this article does it no justice. I cannot simplify the depth of the stories and characters into a few paragraphs. Only by watching it will you understand why this show really is a homeland.
Season 2 will premiere on September 30, 2012 on Showtime – you better start catching up. You won’t regret it.