Customer Review

82 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Solid Storytelling and Character Overall., May 15, 2012
This review is from: Homeland: Season 1 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Howard Gordon, the co-showrunner of 24, and Alex Ganza, also a veteran of 24 as well as THE X-FILES and ENTOURAGE have crafted an extremely realistic, compelling, and tense journey into the hunt for a terrorist who may or may not have allies on US soil. There have been several comparisons to 24 in that both shows are about hunting terrorists, but that is where the comparisons end. 24 was an adrenaline blast of gunfights, car chases, explosions, conspiracy, super-technology and an indestructible government agent from a fake government agency named Jack Bauer. And while I miss Jack Bauer, I welcome the addition of CIA Case Officer Carrie Mathison (the INCREDIBLE Claire Danes) to the hunt. I also welcome the distinct lack of orgiastic violence (not knocking it, necessarily) and chases and "action". What THE WIRE is to most cop shows like SVU or CSI or NCIS, HOMELAND is to 24, but the main difference is while shows like SVU and CSI are lame and cliched procedurals, 24 was actually quite a powerful show. HOMELAND and 24 are both terrific shows, but for different reasons. We like 24 because it gives us that immediate sense of satisfaction of knowing that the bad guys are going to end up very dead just about every episode; we like HOMELAND because it takes the same concept to a much grittier, much smarter and MUCH more realistic conclusion.

With this show, we have Mathison, informed years prior by someone on the inside of a terror network, that a U.S. soldier that is being held prisoner has been turned by master terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban, another veteran of 24) and intends an attack using this soldier. Years later, Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Masterfully played by Damian Lewis) is rescued from an Iraqi compound after eight years. Not only does this affect Carrie, who has kept her ear to the ground ever since, but it also affects the family of Brody, who some time ago were told that he was dead. Just recently, his wife Jessica (the talented and extraordinarily beautiful Morena Baccarin of FIREFLY fame) started dating Brody's best friend and comrade-in-arms Mike (Diego Klattenhoff). His kids Dana (an excellent Morgan Saylor) and Chris (Jackson Pace) have largely not even known him. Before he gets to see them, though, he has to be debriefed by the CIA, and naturally Carrie is there to confront him indirectly about his captors. She is certain that he is the lynchpin to Nazir's attack. So certain that she has her friend Virgil (THE SHIELD's David Marciano, great here too) install illegal surveillance in his home. Virgil discovers also that Carrie has been taking anti-psychotics because of her rather severe bi-polar disorder. She obsessively watches Brody and his family, and then her mentor/father figure/superior Saul Berenson (the always fantastic Mandy Patinkin) finds out about her illegal surveillance. She pleads with Saul to allow her to keep it but only for a short time since he had to blackmail a federal judge for the warrant. Carrie then begins her obsessive watch of Brody, looking for any clues about his behavior that might give him away as a sleeper agent while also avoiding her superior, the bureaucratic, scheming David Estes (excellent work by David Harewood).

Meanwhile, Brody seems to be exhibiting all of the classic symptoms of a soldier released from years of captivity and torture, both physical and psychological. His behavior is erratic, and there are definitely things that he's hiding from his loving but guilt-ridden wife. He's trotted out in front of the cameras to present himself as some sort of recruitment poster-boy at first, but it soon becomes apparent that the government and the present administration have different plans for him. While all this comes at a surprise to the family, there may be a bigger scheme at work here. Really the question becomes: Has Brody truly turned, or is there simply nothing there other than a human being whose suffered a great ordeal?

Seems simple enough from a plot perspective, and maybe a little reminiscent of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, and that actually works in its favor. The existence in the popular consciousness of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE causes people to look at this show and the character of Brody in one direction, but the show is really going somewhere else with Brody. Gordon and Garza are smart enough now to keep things mostly contained to the major plotlines, without allowing (as we saw several times in 24's run) several different and unrelated subplots to arise. They're also smart enough to contrive a situation in which Carrie and Brody have to meet with one another that seems totally organic and not just a total deus ex machina.

The best episodes of the show and the best moments for Danes and Lewis are their characters in the outside world with one another. They're essentially reflections of one another: both living and lying to one another and the people around them, and they're both broken people. Danes plays Carrie as strong and confident in her work, fully aware of her abilities, but also is seriously damaged and isolated in every other aspect of her life. We're also briefly introduced to her family and particularly her father (the great James Rebhorn), who is also suffering from the same condition. After seeing people in manic states, I can honestly say that her portrayal of bi-polar disorder is absolutely flawless. I'd never been particularly enthusiastic about seeing Danes in anything due to her more teen-oriented roles, but after seeing her in HOMELAND, I can honestly say that her performance is genius. Lewis also plays Brody with an earnestness and believability that is almost unmatched in current television. Patinkin plays Saul with the kind of wisdom and world-weariness that you'd expect from someone who's been in the game for as many years as he has, but he refuses to ever become a cliche. Just when you think he's going to say or do one thing, he does the other and it's another great performance from him in a career full of them. The supporting cast, being particularly impressed with Baccarin and Saylor, is also excellent. By the end of this season, you really understand the characters and you get a real understanding of them as well aso sometimes feeling for them, which is a very fine line to walk when you're doing a show about terrorism.

The directorial team behind the series with directors like Clark Johnson (who directed the feature film S.W.A.T., but also did some of the best episodes of THE WIRE as well), Michael Cuesta (who has worked on DEXTER, TRUE BLOOD and a terrific indie feature called L.I.E.) and Jeffrey Nachmanoff (who made a very similar feature film called TRAITOR with Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce) keep the show moving at a very good clip all throughout. Stylistically, this is a rather straightforward program with the exception of when it delves into Brody's period of captivity. Harsh lights and dull focus is used primarily, giving the viewer a good feel of disorientation.

All in all, the only complaint that I could make about this excellent first season is that I think they could have really shaken things up in the finale, but it became more about preserving the narrative of the program rather than taking a real chance to do something that would cause even more interesting potential plot lines for the future. That's not necessarily a complaint, but more of a personal preference.

HOMELAND is one of the strongest new shows on television and hopefully Season 2 will be, at the very least, on par with this season's excellent work.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 17, 2012 6:51:54 AM PDT
K. Otik says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2012 2:20:51 PM PDT
I'm sorry, but I re-read this review from top to bottom and I see literally NOTHING that is spoiler-ish. All that's here are plot points that anyone who reads just about any other review on this site would see. If there is a "spoiler" here, I'd appreciate you pointing it out so that it can be corrected or excised from the review, or if it can just be judged as a over-reaction. Thank you.

Posted on Oct 17, 2012 9:12:57 PM PDT
Howard Gordon was not a co-creator of 24. That was Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran. Gordon was an executive producer, and eventually show-runner after Season 4.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2012 10:00:22 PM PDT
Wow. My bad. I coulda sworn he co-created with Surnow. Oh, well. Appropriate corrections have been made. Thanks for the heads-up.
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