Homeland, Channel 4 | TV reviews, news & interviews
Homeland, Channel 4
Is rescued US Marine Nick Brody a national hero or an agent of Al Qaeda?
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.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
From cloakroom attendant at The Cavern club to national treasure
Pungent Victorian crime drama returns to network television
The elaborate lives and loves of the exhaustingly self-obsessed Bloomsbury Group
David Walliams and Jessica Raine have fun as amateur sleuths in updated Agatha Christie
She's done Divine Women. Now for three thinkers: Socrates, Confucius and the Buddha
Meet the American right promoting 'family' values worldwide, resulting violence against gays notwithstanding
Gloomy French crime drama needs a shot of adrenalin
Queen of the soundbites serves tea and cacophonous alliteration
Strong opener for new black sketch comedy
The horrific testimony of captured women who miraculously got out alive
Armando Iannucci's sitcom returns and proves that swearing can be very clever indeed
Archive revelations revise our understanding of the reality of the institution