TV Review: Homeland Episode 1
Posted on Tuesday October 9, 2012, 18:28 by Stephen Carty in Small Screen
While I caught the Homeland bug last year like many of you, I had a reservation. Not one about the first season itself, which offered compelling, moreish and unpredictable (yet credible) drama, but about the show's longevity. Built around a riveting is-he-isn't-he concept, the series was initially driven by the ambiguity surrounding a rescued soldier who might be a turned-by-the-baddies sleeper agent. And while most people would just sit back and enjoy this unreservedly, I found myself worrying that the concept couldn't be stretched for more than a season.
Happily, it seems like I was wrong. It's early days but even the latter stages of season one moved beyond the simple premise into a more stretchable will-he-won't-he situation - and the show remained gripping regardless. With season two's feverishly-awaited opening, The Smile, showrunners Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa concentrate on setting things up for the run ahead, but they do so in a way which suggests that Homeland is far from the one-concept pony I mistakenly pegged it as. More intelligent and well-crafted Obama-era spy thrills, here we come.
That said, Homeland is the sort of series which takes its time to build towards remote-clenching tension. Not quite to the same ultra-measured degree as the also-splendid Breaking Bad (which, for the last few years, has typically ‘built’ for four or five episodes), but it’s far more patient and carefully-crafted than the actiony likes of 24 (“The Thinking Man’s 24’ is quite a good comparison for this show). Here, the order of the day is very much that duty once again comes ‘a calling, as both Claire Danes’ Carrie and Damian Lewis’ Brody are called upon by the respective causes that they thought they’d put to bed. Spoilers, for anyone seeking intel, are to follow.
Following the (quite literally) shocking treatment which she received after her bipolar frenzy and subsequent binning from the CIA (ungrateful beggars), Carrie has taken to gardening. But while she’s pretending to be content with her new life, cooking vegetable lasagnes and teaching English to foreigners, we know that the life and spark from her is missing. But in true Michael Corleone style, just when she thought she was out, the CIA pull her right back in, as an old asset with vital intel is refusing to speak to anyone who isn’t Carrie. Stick that in your deep-voiced pipe and smoke it David Harewood’s Estes.
Soon enough she’s back in the foreign field (not permanently mind you, let’s hope that writers find a semi-plausible explanation for that), with dark hair, contacts and a jittery disposition which hints that she’s struggling to readjust. In one gripping sequence, however, we see Carrie outsmart a pursuer through headscarf misdirection and expert knee-to-groin tactics, but what’s more impressive is a small moment afterwards. Walking away, the former agent’s face lights up as we see the life and spark return to her face, and the ever-impressive Danes plays the moment brilliantly. Quite why she’s not regarded more highly in the industry is genuinely beyond me.
As for Congressman Brody, he’s – alert! Slight plausibility crack ahead – on the verge of a run at being vice-president (just go with it). Thing is, it turns out that Abu Nazir isn’t quite finished with him and soon has a go-between issuing Brody with some morally-questionable orders. This, it seems, will be the direction that season two will take for his character as a whole, with Damian Lewis’ soldier-turned-politician caught between a moral rock and a Nazir-influenced hard place.
On the home front, this inevitably ends up causing problems too, with Brody’s increasingly-unlikeable wife Jess (Morena Baccarin) blowing her lid when daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) lets slip that daddy practices another religion. It’s here that the brilliance of Homeland is really evident, as scenes like the one where Brody has to decide whether he tells Jess the truth or let Dana come off as a liar make for top-drawer drama. Elsewhere, there are a few other excellent scenes too (such as Carrie’s let-not-bother-being-polite reunion with Estes), so not bad for a season opener. My only complaint? Not enough of Mandy Patinkin’s Saul and his mesmerising beard.
But what about you guys? What did you make of it? Do you think Homeland can last now that there’s less ambiguity surrounding Brody? Or do you think this new ambiguity will do just fine?
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Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2012, 10:53
The first two episodes of the new season are stunning examples of Breaking Bad-esque tension-mounting TV. These are the only two shows around at the moment that are genuinely unpredictable and filled with actual exciting set-pieces - the train robbery in the last half season of BB being better than most things on the cinema screen in the last few years.
Totally agree that Claire Danes is completely undervalued, her smile at the end of this episode was sublime.
The ending of the 2nd episode is a bonafide jaw-dropping cliffhanging that normally other shows would end entire season on; Homeland likes to throw these little moments in at episode 2, that is how good it is.
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2012, 12:00
After the frustrating final episode of the first season, I was pretty happy with ep1 of the new season. Still wasn't 100% on Brody and he's sudden hesitation about being Abu Nazir's man...
But damn. The closing if the second episode just made me forgive all. Amazing. kojaksmoneybox, I can't believe they done did that!
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2012, 22:25
Quality review for a quality show. Very clever and you can almost imagine the confusion that Broady must feel. It's still no 24 which continues to occupy the number one spot for me but its up there. Judging by the review a the comments, Breaking bad has to be next on the list though....
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2012, 08:38
Still right on the money. Well cast and credible characters, gripping plot, well paced.
Agree with the comment about Claire Danes too.
Posted on Monday October 15, 2012, 12:57
I also like it & agree with them.
Posted on Saturday November 10, 2012, 22:53
the brilliance of this show is that you really don't know what's going to happen. you knew jack bauer was always going to get his man. you knew vic mackey was always going to bust heads to successfully close a case. but not here... carrie is unpredictable. **spoiler alert** when she went to brody's hotel room and revealed her hand it came totally by surprise. a real curveball. brody had to be arrested and there was only one outcome from that, purely for the show's longevity they had to turn him (which they did a touch too easily if you ask me). otherwise, this is a cracker of a show.