fri 28/10/2016

Homeland, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Homeland, Channel 4

Homeland, Channel 4

Is rescued US Marine Nick Brody a national hero or an agent of Al Qaeda?

Damian Lewis as Sgt Brody, scarred by eight years in terrorist captivity

Homeland, originally aired on the American Showtime network, has been praised by US critics for bringing some nuance and insight to its portrayal of 21st-century wars and counter-terrorism. It makes many sharp observations about how the price is being paid, not least in the way authoritarianism and paranoia have become such corrosive intrusions into the daily life of supposedly civilised nations (David Harewood as CIA boss David Estes, pictured below).

To muddy the moral waters further, Homeland's writers have established a subtle balance of uncertainty in their key characters. The story Brody tells during his CIA debriefing is brutally undercut by searing flashes of memory, which reveal that he did come to know Abu Nazir only too well (having denied ever meeting him), while the death of his Marine partner, Tom Walker, was - horrifyingly - seemingly by Brody's own hand. A nod to The Manchurian Candidate perhaps, surely one of the inspirations for Homeland

At the same time, Carrie Mathison makes a disturbingly flawed poster girl for the intelligence community. Prone to trawling for guys in bars while chucking down Clozapine capsules to combat a bipolar disorder she keeps hidden from her superiors (though it's difficult to imagine how that could have got past the CIA's screening procedures), she's obsessive to the point of self-destructiveness.

We know that past mistakes have damaged her career, but she still won't think twice about playing off her immediate boss David Estes (played with gravitas by David Harewood) against venerable Middle East expert Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin, pictured left with Danes). It emerges that Estes had an affair with her which wrecked his marriage, while Mathison's response when Berenson threatens to have her indicted for the unlawful surveillance on Brody is to start rubbing up against him suggestively. He recoils in disbelief, and she's left deflated and full of self-disgust.

The amount of information packed into this pilot episode, which still managed to sustain an urgent dramatic pace while creating a shivery sense of foreboding, is a testament to the quality of the writing and performances, which have already won Homeland a couple of Golden Globes. On this evidence, you'd be mad to miss the next 11 instalments.


It's all a touch fast and furious with a big acknowledgement, unacknowledged so far, to "The Manchurian Candidate". Damian Lewis apart, at present I find the only believable characters are Many Patinkin and "Carrie's" home-bugging helper. The scheduling mistake that I believe C4 have made is not showing double episodes as BBC 4 did recently for #Borgen. Will give it another go next week.

I did mention the debt to The Manchurian Candidate in fact, Trevor. Quite agree about the, er, bugger - played by the dependable David Marciano. Hope we'll see more of him. 

Great first episode, although I can't help but feel the series might have worked better if the suspicion on Brody came later on - perhaps they've played this trump card too early? We'll see.

The continuity is dreadful. Edwards Air Force Base is in California not just down the road from Langley. Later it is called Andrews Air Force Base which is in Maryland again not just down the road from Langley. How does the one green capsule keep reappearing in the aspirin bottle especially after one is taken by the technician? There was snow on the ground when the wife left home for the reunion but none at the airfield where the homecoming took place. And there's more.

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