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.
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