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A Prisoner of War Has Been Turned
Homeland - Season 1 (DVD)
Member Name: caseybrady1992
Homeland - Season 1 (DVD)
Date: 26/06/12, updated on 26/06/12 (70 review reads)
Advantages: Amazing performances; great storylines; highly addictive
Disadvantages: Some spoiling weak moments
Producers: Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa
Release date: 1st October 2012
Original UK air date: 19th February 2012
A review of the series; a preview of the DVD...
Working on an illegal mission in Iraq, Carrie Mathison, a CIA officer, is told that an American prisoner of war "has been turned" before being arrested and eventually relocated to Langley under probation. Sometime later, a group of American soldiers find a white man held prisoner, long-haired and bearded, dirty and shielding the light from his eyes. This man is Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine that went missing some eight years before, and believed dead. He is rescued and sent home to be reunited with his wife and family.
In a fantastic pilot episode, the main plot and ideas of "Homeland" are introduced and explored. Carrie (Claire Danes) tells her associate and close friend Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) of her fears regarding the POW, and how she believes it to be Brody. Meanwhile, Brody is returning to America a hero and the U.S. government plans on using him as a symbol of hope, ultimately abolishing Carrie's chances of the CIA hearing her suspicions out. Brody's wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), in the meantime, has been dating Brody's best friend Mike (Diego Klattenhoff), and is sleeping with him when she receives the call from Brody. Carrie plants cameras and microphones in Brody's house with the illicit and reluctant approval of Saul, while the family are meeting Brody at the airport upon his return. Brody, reunited with his family, must attempt to readapt to life, but having been a prisoner of Al-Qaeda for over eight years and with underlying tension stemming from Jessica and Mike's relationship, this is inevitably no easy task - and Carrie is watching over.
"Homeland" is loosely based on an Israeli series called "Hatufim" (translates to 'Prisoners of War') created by Gideon Raff (who also worked on this series), and is developed for American television by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (two of the guys (mainly the former) who brought you "24"). It was produced by 'Fox 21', and although originally shown in the U.S. on channel 'Showtime' in early October 2011, it was eventually aired in the UK on Channel 4 from February 19th, 2012, due to an outstanding response from American viewers. It also went on to win the Golden Globe for Best TV Drama. The first season has recently finished in the UK, but a second season is well underway and is due to be aired only a few days after the Americans, this autumn. Let me tell you why this is excellent and exciting news, if the above plot hasn't already done that for you...
There are two dominant reasons why "Homeland" is one of the most exciting, thrilling, addictive and superb shows about at the moment. First is the fantastic premise, story and plot development - the writers have created a truly fascinating show. Second, the series is anchored by some sublime acting performances; most notably, Claire Danes and her portrayal of a Bipolar and reckless, but intelligent and brilliantly shrewd CIA officer. Her character is hugely absorbing; her work - and the dangers that it entails - is her life, and she is acknowledged as being extremely good at it. Yet she is hasty and impulsive, and deceiving - she's hiding at least one thing from everyone, including her boss David Estes (David Harewood) and close friend Saul. And most notably hidden is her disorder. But the Bipolar disorder, which in this case is hereditary (her father has it too), overrides and affects her mind, arguably for the better in some cases (I am in no way stating that Bipolar disorder is beneficial here - I completely understand the seriousness of the illness). She is shockingly sharp at times, and her recklessness often pays off (other times, not so much...). Claire Danes is just magnificent in the role, conveying the unstable yet energetic state of her mind perfectly. She would eventually win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
The shows main motive is to get the viewer suspecting everything and everyone. The main question is 'Is Brody good or bad?', or rather, 'Is he a turned terrorist!?'. His character is more mentally unbalanced than Carrie's (which is saying something), and this is mainly due to his experiences in the past eight years, which, importantly, we are shown in dribs and drabs, the length and insights of which grow as the series progresses. Damian Lewis (his most notable role prior to this being Cpt. Winters in "Band of Brothers") is almost as good as Danes, playing Brody. He portrays a sick man well; a man who is lost and disturbed. He can sit in the corner of the bedroom doing nothing for hours on end - it's natural to him. And the way in which he treats his family, most predominantly his wife, fluctuates to say the least. His actions are mysterious at times, but not completely unjustified, and the viewer is confused as to whether one should feel sympathetic towards him. Do we believe Carrie - is Brody in fact a turned POW? Or is he simply a damaged solider, returning home to be given a second chance - a new life? Lewis was also nominated for Best Actor at the Globes.
The characters underlie the entire plot. The two leading roles are drastically opposed, but drawn together by parallels, and the result is engrossing. The series moves at a very fast pace and is constantly interesting. Carrie is ultimately the protagonist. To an extent, we know everything about her - Brody is the one with the secrets. His experiences hold the key to the golden question. Political themes are addressed, and sometimes beautiful messages are conveyed while nations are at war - but other subtle themes can be found too. Jazz overtones are omnipresent, hinting at the irrelevant (the first series doesn't give the viewer much reason to worry about it) disclosed past life of Carrie, but are often used to unify certain characters psyches. Emotions are evoked effectively through the use of montage, lighting and music throughout, and the producers often look to other methods in expressing characters' mindsets. Callery's soundtrack is pretty consistently spot on in this respect, although pre-existing music is used when necessary.
It's astonishing how much is packed into this series, both in terms of content (as aforementioned) and genre. Primarily, it is a political thriller, yet not so political that it is inaccessible to many. But also involved are elements of psychological study, action, spy, romance, violence to name but a few. Also worth noting is the sex in the programme. There are scenes of a sexual nature that become almost defining in the first half of the series; it almost appears as a selling point due to its insistent inclusion in consecutive episodes. But it rarely feels massively out of place, and adds to the appeal of the show. It's such a massive shame, however, that there are moments in "Homeland" that let it down. 95% of the time, it is absolutely enthralling. The other 5% is bogged down by some contrastingly poor acting (chiefly on Morena Baccarin's part) and some completely misguided scenes - cheesy moments, poor script etc. In overview, the show is flawed - too much so to award it anything more than 4 stars.
Despite some few, albeit obtrusive, drawbacks, I would completely recommend "Homeland". This is an absolutely superb first season, from the absorbing 'pilot' to the epic final scene - and every addictive moment in between. It is enormously exciting, and the wait in between each of the twelve episodes was almost unbearable. Lucky for you, this is out on DVD on October 1, 2012, so the waits between are unnecessary and avoidable. I would definitely urge you to purchase (or pre-order) this.
Also available (soon) on Blu-Ray.
Summary: An enthralling and superb first series that speaks volumes amidst the War on Terror