REVIEW: Homeland (Showtime – Sunday, 10:00 p.m.)

Who’s the hero – who’s the threat? When MIA Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody returns home to a hero’s welcome after eight years in enemy confinement, brilliant but volatile CIA agent Carrie Mathison isn’t buying his story. She believes that Brody has been turned and is now working for Al Qaeda. What follows is a dangerous game of cat and mouse with nothing short of American national security at stake. Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patankin star in the provocative, suspenseful new Showtime Original Series HOMELAND, from Executive Producers of 24.  - Showtime

Carrie Mathison’s unorthodox investigation of threats to U.S. security in Iraq leads to a serious diplomatic incident, and Carrie is stripped of her field status and assigned to a desk job. But along the way she learns from her sources that an American Prisoner of War has been turned. When Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, Missing in Action for eight years and presumed dead, is suddenly recovered in Afghanistan, the timing is too suspicious for Carrie to ignore. She must break protocol in order to prove her theory that Brody now poses a major threat to his own country. – Showtime

100 out of 100

Sorry about the redundant show descriptions, but this was the best we could do because of Showtime’s crappy webpage.

If you haven’t heard by now, yes, indeed, Homeland is the best new drama of the Fall 2011 season and as much as we love Dexter, it’s even better than Dexter (which, by the way, is fantastic this season, already).  It has earned the extra-rare and highly coveted perfect score from The ‘Tastic.

Why does Homeland work so well?  Simple: because it’s a story about a contemporary war with ZERO political agendas.  It’s not pro-war, it’s not anti-war, it’s simply a fantastic character piece and psychological thriller.  The show pulls no punches whatsoever and you literally have no idea where it’s going from one minute to the next because every time you think you have something figured out, they switch gears on you.

We’ve seen multiple comparisons to The Manchurian Candidate and to be honest, that thought never even occurred to us once because in The Manchurian Candidate there was no question from the moment the film started that Raymond Shaw was indeed brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin so any comparisons to The Manchurian Candidate are just plain lazy by the reviewer in question who brings it up. The whole point of Homeland is that we have no idea for sure whether or not Brody has actually been turned because if we did, it would be a very short series.

The characters are amazingly well-written, shades-of-gray characters all of whom have their own personal demons, motivations and agendas and you really don’t know who to trust at any given point during a given episode because your loyalties and sympathies as a viewer are in a constant state of flux.  To make it more interesting, they are adding new layers with new characters every week to keep the story that much more intriguing and exciting.

This is by far the best role that Claire Danes has ever played in her career and she is completely authentic as the brilliant C.I.A. operative with a history of mental illness. What’s interesting is that her mental illness doesn’t make you doubt her instincts, but what it does do is make you question her prudence and self-control.  How far will Carrie go to prove that Brody has been turned and is indeed a terrorist?  She could be absolutely correct in her suspicions about Brody but she could personally unwittingly undo any progress that she has made to prevent him from carrying out an attack because of her own erratic behavior. It’s hard for us to believe that this is the same actor that starred on MTV’s My So Called Life in the 1990′s.

As far as Damien Lewis is concerned as Brody… what can we say?  Lewis is just fantastic in everything he does.  He, of course, first caught our attention in the epic HBO World War II miniseries from Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks, Band of Brothers in 2001 and has continued to shine in every role since and in particular, Life (2007) on NBC and a little-known yet fantastic little film called Assassin in Love (2007) that we had the pleasure of seeing a few months back.  Lewis thrives as the understated hero (he has a very Jimmy Stewart-like quality to him) and that’s exactly what Brody is and because of the excellent casting and writing, it is impossible not to be sympathetic with Brody even though we know there’s a good possibility that he may indeed have been turned by the jihadist terrorists.

The supporting cast is amazing, with everyone perfectly believable and relatable in their roles and in particular, another favorite of The ‘Tastic, Mandy Patinkin in the role of Danes’ mentor at the C.I.A., a role that he was born to play.  It’s literally like the role was written for him.

The plot and subject matter, like the characters is incredibly complex.  As far as dealing with complex issues is concerned and presentations that are designed to make the audience reflect about implications of a vast number of policies concerning the war on terror (and warfare in general), it reminds us of the fantastic thriller, Unthinkable (2009) starring Samuel L. Jackson that never saw a theater due to its controversial nature and went straight to video (we saw it on Netflix streaming).  Now, the similarities between Unthinkable and Homeland really end right there but they both grab hold of you and don’t let go.  It’s all very compelling and having been produced by three of the producers from 24, it doesn’t seem like much of stretch to us that this crew has brought much of their experience from that series over to this one, albeit focusing a lot more on a psychological thriller of a plot and a lot less on the absurd “pew-pew-pew” week after week.  And they also brought Sean Callery with them to do the score for the show and we can’t thank them enough for that.

This show is a mental thrill-ride from one scene to the next and you find yourself being annoyed at the end of each episode that you are going to have to wait another week for the next installment.  We are seriously considering letting the next ten episodes just load up in the DVR and watching them all in one sitting so we don’t have to go through the torture of waiting each week.

Enjoy the (edited for a PG-13 audience) pilot below.

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About Shawn P. O'Halloran

Shawn is a married, 36 year-old father of three originally from Rochester, New York and has lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for nine years, now. Aside from being a huge fan of movies and television, he's a huge fan of Sci-Fi and in particular, Star Trek. Shawn's cousins, Matt & Brian Volke run the The Movie Brothers blog here on Wordpress and occasionally, he's been known to post a review or two.
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4 Responses to REVIEW: Homeland (Showtime – Sunday, 10:00 p.m.)

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