Is he a terrorist or am I crazy?
Okay, so it's TV programme and not a film, whatever. It's till great.
I haven't been into a TV drama series like this in a long time. The fourth season of Lost really burned me and I've never really wanted to commit that much time to something that could eventually just turn out to be the work of someone who's clearly making it all up as they go along. Mad Men came and went, but by series 3 (I'm starting to think I might have an attention span problem, actually), but even with its beautiful cinematography and slow burning grounded drama, I just needed something to start actually happening. You can only stare at an oil painting for so long. Shows like Breaking Bad or True Blood are tempting, but I'm not sure I want to commit to anything with so much to catch up on.
Then there was Homeland. I can't believe I didn't get into it from the get go just over a year ago now, after falling so in love with a previous series that Homeland's co-lead, Damien Lewis, was in: Band of Brothers. Now, Homeland is good, but it's not Band of Brothers. BoB is something truly special that everyone should check out. A ten part series following the real events and lives of the men of Easy Company in WWII, BoB is essentially ten hours worth of Saving Private Ryan level WW2 drama. I've never met anyone who's seen it and done anything less than love it.
Clearly Damien Lewis' agent knows what they're doing. Even if he's not exactly a household name, every time he's top of the bill something gets knocked out of the park (another example being Stolen, a one-off BBC drama about child trafficking in which Lewis plays the cop in charge of stopping a ring of traffickers). As does Claire Danes', the star of this series playing opposite Lewis. The two play off each other outstandingly throughout the series.
In Homeland, Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a CIA intelligence officer who was recently told by a trusted informant that an al-Qaeda cell had successfully turned a US prisoner of war to their cause. Soon after, Damien Lewis' Sergeant Nicholas Brody is found alive. He and his scout sniper partner had been captured in Iraq eight years ago and assumed dead until Brody was unexpectedly rescued during a US military raid. Upon his return, Brody is hailed as an American war hero, an asset to the government as a symbol for why these wars are worth fighting, but Carrie is concerned as the only known American prisoner returns home and acts somewhat suspiciously. The central conceit is whether Carrie is being crazy or if there is something to her claims. Either way, it's clear that there's a storm coming, it's just where it comes from that she needs to find before it's too late.
It'd be easy for the series to fall into the pratfall of constantly faking out on Brody's true colours, but Homeland only has a handful of bait-and-switches and they tend to filter out quite early on. Lewis takes us on a magnificent journey with Brody: he is a complicated and conflicted man that it's almost impossible to get a read of. Some of the twists and turns the character injects to the series leave you raise questions about just how jumpy we might be bout terror and what judgements society is quick to make, the very obvious one being that Muslims, especially those who convert to Islam are instantly under more scrutiny than the rest of us.
Claire Danes deserves just as much, if not maybe more than Lewis, for her role as Carrie Mathison. Carrie is a brilliant and driven hard worker with some hefty emotional baggage as well as certain other difficulties that become apparent as the show progresses. Danes gives us a woman who is certainly unstable but manages to keep herself upright by applying more speed and pushing headlong into any and every piece of work that she gets. Her gradual descent as she struggles to prove something she knows to be true, not just to be right but to try and save her country's people, is profound and emotionally draining in the best way possible.
The fantastic writing collides with the two impressive leads to produce something great. Homeland is written in such a way that it takes a long time to see the true colours of everyone involved but it's done in such a way that you don't feel messed around. The truth comes out slowly but surely and everything is accounted for. Going into the final few episodes of series one, everyone's footing is clearly identified, but the waters are clouded with a number of sympathetic but conflicting motivations. By the end of the first series there aren't clear cut good guys and bad guys, and that's what makes it feel so real and intense. It's no 24, where all-American hero Jack Bauer saves the day and punches middle-eastern (which in that shows equals 'evil') people in the face for a couple of episodes.