Homeland starts on Channel 4 tonight – episode one review *SPOILERS*

by Lisa McGarry

TV has already tried to deal with the war on terror in different ways recent UK attempts included Occupation and The Mark of Cain which looked at troops serving in Iraq. However in the US the programme that is best known for looking at terrorism in a post 9/11 America is 24 although some people have criticised it for its portrayal of foreigners of bad guys there’s no doubting that it was a big hit in its earlier seasons.

Two of 24’s producers, Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, are back with another twist on terrorism and suspicion in their new drama Homeland. The programme begins with Claire Danes’ CIA Agent Carrie Anderson in Iraq trying to get information from a prisoner about a possible traitor before she can get all she wants she is dragged out by the Iraqis and criticised by her superiors. Many years later Carrie is still with the CIA when news that a Marine, Damian Lewis’ Sgt. Nicholas Brody, has been found in Iraq after eight years missing presumed dead. Carrie has her suspicions about Brody mainly due to the information she recieved in Iraq and also to do with her intutions. She arranges for cameras and wiretaps to be assembled in Brody’s house and on his cellphone so she can watch for any suspicious movement. At the same time the plot looks at Brody’s return home and the effect this has on his family – a wife who was having an affair with someone else, a teenage daughter who has started smoking pot and a son who barely recognises him.

Probably my favourite thing about this programme was the fact that we the audience don’t know who to trust. On the surface it seems that Carrie is doing what she feels is right in terms of protecting her country and possibly preventing another national disaster but throughout the episode elements of her character start to be revealled. We find out that she has a psychiatric problem that she has been dealing with for years and is controlled by medication but to what extent is this affecting her judgment? We also are lead to believe that she has slept with at least one of her superiors in the force again possibly to advance her career status. Similarly Brody is presented as the all-American hero a loving family man who wants to forget his time in Iraq and move on but as Carrie gives us reasons to not trust him we are always fairly suspicious of his motives. I have to say that Claire Danes is brilliant in the lead role, returning to television after getting her big break on My So Called Life seventeen years ago, she revels in playing a multi-layered character who has severe difficulties in trusting anybody and at times seems to have problems with social interaction. Damian Lewis is also great as Brody he doesn’t give anything away to do with his character’s motives and plays the hero side of his part with aplomb. There are also some great supporting turns from Mandy Patinkin as Carrie’s mentor and confident and from the always reliable David Harewood as Carrie’s suspcious boss.

I have some minor criticisms in terms of content. Obviously being Showtime they can get away with swearing, violence and sex and wihle the first two are worked into the plot with little problem the story seems to slow down every time Brody’s wife has sex with her new partner. But overall this was a sharp-plotted, well-acted conspiracy thriller and of the new programmes I’ve watched so far this was definitely the best.

This post was written by me, guest blogger Matt Donnelly!

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