Paranoia on the TV Front
The current season of television hasn’t exactly been kind to new shows (or to returning shows for that matter). Many dramatic shows have fallen by the way side, like Pan Am, or Hell on Wheels. But through all of this there is a shining, very paranoid star, Homeland.
Starring Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin, Homeland centers around Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes), a CIA analyst who is convinced that Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) a newly returned American POW, has been turned into a double agent by Al-Qaeda. Mandy Patinkin plays her mentor Saul Berenson, who begrudgingly allows surveillance on Brody.
Life During Wartime
Right from the word go, Homeland has displayed a confidence that is rare for a new series. It only has twelve episodes, and it sure knows how to use them. The pacing is flawless, with every episode featuring major plot points and numerous character moments.
Homeland constantly gives us reason to believe in Carrie’s theory, whether it is Brody’s incredibly strange and contradictory behavior at home, or the flashbacks that reveal what happened to Brody in the POW camp. But Brody was tortured for years, so is his behavior rational? Clearly there is something wrong with Brody, but at this point it is not clear whether he has actually been turned by Al-Qaeda, or is instead suffering from years of imprisonment.
No Sign of Cracking Under Pressure
Claire Danes and Damian Lewis really drive the show, especially in later episodes when they begin to interact, and find a relationship developing. But is it an actual relationship, or are they just using each other? Again, there’s cases for both sides.
Claire Danes specifically does great work as Carrie. She is stubborn, aggressive, flawed and broken in many ways (mostly dealing with various psychological disorders), and always believable. It is also quite nice to see that she is not constantly dolled up and made into some sort of sultry government agent a la any James Bond heroine.
The writing is aggressively sharp, and displays great focus and control. After nine episodes I cannot think of one that has been anything less than stellar (though a more recent plot has Brody running for public office, which has a slight odor of predictability). While the dialogue doesn’t crack along, it is used effectively, and the writers are very good at revealing whole backstories in just a few sentences.
The paranoia is almost palpable as Carrie does her best to intercept Brody, and discover his plans. There is not a large amount of action, but Homeland is definitely from the minds of 24. As early as episode two Brody nearly kills a reporter by slamming his hand into the reporters throat, and later on there is a rather epic explosion, and many, many scenes of torture.
The Actual Paranoia
As Homeland finishes it’s twelve episode run, the only issues is whether or not the show can continue into later seasons. Plots converge in a well-executed way as season one closes, but it is still not enough to show that Homeland could sustain itself past a second season. Being on Showtime does not help, since they have proven that they can never cancel a show, even when it’s far passed it’s prime (cough…Weeds…cough).
Besides that issue, Homeland is easily the best new show on television. The acting is amazing, the writing is stellar, and the paranoia is almost palpable.
My Rating: 9/10