Have You Been Watching….Homeland?

We live in an age of anti-heroes. No one gets to be a good old-fashioned knight any more: strong, true and brave. The only thing you can be sure of is the nagging suspicion that even the best person out there is only marginally better than the alternative.

Enter Homeland, which is all about shades of gray and features a hero so flawed she’s basically a villain. Claire Danes plays the lead, Carrie Mathison, a FBI agent so damaged she makes Lindsay Lohan look like a model for well adjusted living.

She has a schizophrenic-esque mental disorder, no regard for legal propriety, doesn’t care about her colleagues, uses her sexuality as a  desperately blunt tool to advance whatever she thinks is a good idea at the time, is a raging egomaniac and she likes jazz.

Jazz, for God’s sake!

It’s a career best performance from Danes, (yes, better than My So-Called Life, Romeo and Juliet …even Mod Squad) as she imbues Mathison with a brittle, fractured personality that only holds together because of her will to succeed at her job. Yep, she’s effectively the opposite of the Tellysquawks team.

As the series starts she’s on the verge of being thrown out of the FBI: her arrogance and drive having alienated one too many colleagues. But she’s then tossed a lifeline due to the fact that one of her more outlandish hunches might just turn out to be true.

Nicholas Brody is a US marine who’s just returned home to America after spending eight years imprisoned by al-Qaeda, during which time he was assumed dead. Now this is a pretty fascinating concept on it’s own. Eight years is a long, long time. And for Brody (played with an exhausted anger by Ginger Prince Damian Lewis) he comes home to find his wife has moved on and his kids barely remember him. Sucks to be you, Brodster.

But seriously, it’s a pretty terrible situation. If you think about the person you were eight years ago compared to the person you are now and then throw in a crazy level of trauma you could even argue you’re not the same person who married your spouse.  Though I don’t imagine that excuse worked for John Terry.

But Mathison believes Brody isn’t just shattered by spending eight years with a bag over his head getting hauled around Asia by Muslim extremists, she thinks he’s been turned to their cause and returned home as a sleeper agent. To prove this, she illegally installs cameras in his house to watch for signs that he’s actually a traitor (note to self, remember to pitch Big Brother: Guess The Sleeper Agent to Channel 5 tomorrow).

From that point on a lot of the show is watching Mathison watch Brody and his family. When you recall that this is a woman who is mentally very unstable to begin with, the reality of what you’re seeing on screen becomes a very engaging question.

For bonus hippie points, I’d like to point out that we the audience are watching a woman on a screen watching a man on the screen so really aren’t we also part of the surveillance? Aren’t we? Yeah, you’re Dick Cheneny and your television is Guantanamo Bay!

Think about that. Not too hard though, a mind is a very hard thing to unblow.

LSD drenched theories about the nature of the modern surveillance state aside, this is a seriously good show. The challenge with this sort of drama is whether or not it can stick the landing  when it finally reveals what’s actually been going on, but I’m looking forward to finding out if it can.


Homeland is on Channel4, Sundays at 9pm. You can catch up on 4od here.


About Ian Dunn
I love avocados, WH Auden and dinosaurs but I don't like effort.

2 Responses to Have You Been Watching….Homeland?

  1. coolishstuff says:

    Really interesting review.
    It’s an enoyabale show but has it’s flaws.
    So far my favourite character is Saul.
    I have been doing my own episode by episode blog at http://coolishstuff.wordpress.com/tv-reviews/homeland-series-blog/ and would love any feedback.

  2. Pingback: Catch Up With…Homeland « Tellysquawks

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