The good thing about US Television is that whenever a quality TV show comes to an end, there are usually a host of new ones there to replace it come September.
Every year viewers look forward to the new US television season to not only see the return of the shows they already love, but new ones that might well be even better. Sometimes promising new shows with huge Network support fall by the wayside (like the Jimmy Smits law drama – Outlaw – which should have been a lot better than it was) and other times shows on minor networks become massive critical successes.
Needless to say there isn’t enough time in our lives to check out every new show that comes along, and one that passed me by was the tense political drama Homeland on Showtime – the network that brings us Dexter.
But as I noticed it winning award after award for being the best new TV show of 2011 – and in some cases, the best TV show of 2011, period – I decided to give it a go.
And I’m glad I did.
What’s Homeland About?
Claire Danes – having emerged from the rock she’s been hiding under since the 1990s – plays Carrie Mathison; a CIA intelligence officer called who has been informed by a trusted source that a US prisoner of war has been turned by Al-Qaeda, and is planning on carrying out a terrorist act on US soil.
Within days of finding that news out, a routine military operation in the Middle East unearths Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) – a US Marine missing-presuned-dead for 8 years – locked up in an underground bunker.
As Brody returns to the US to a hero’s welcome, Mathison believes something isn’t right about him and that he has been turned. So with the help of her mentor at the CIA she surveilles him privately, without the knowledge of her boss.
And as she suspects, there’s just something not quite right about Brody.
Sometimes it’s very easy to say too much or expand upon things for the sake of filling out space.
But I don’t think too much needs said here.
Spread over eleven 55 minute episodes and a 90 minute finale, Homeland is the best new TV show of the 2011 season that I have seen.
The brilliance of lies not just in good story-telling but also in the depth given to each of the key characters in the story and in the quality of the acting that brings those characters to life.
Particular praise must go to Danes, who is almost uncomfortable to watch at times as a CIA officer who goes way beyond obsession with her job. It’s not just her though, as Damien Lewis and the oddly named Mandy Patikin (I say oddly named because Mandy is a big bloke with a beard) also put in classy performances as Brody and Saul Berenson too.
Another noteworthy thing about the show is that it doesn’t necessarily show the CIA vs Terrorists relationship in the black and white way we’ve come to expect from US drama output. That’s a pretty bold and brave move.
There is a lot I could say about the plot and the amount of tension, twists and turns that it brings, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you enjoyed shows like the West Wing or 24 then you will enjoy this.
To give it nothing but praise would be wrong though as I felt it slowed down a little bit in episodes 8-10 and there were also some loose plot threads that were just kinda dropped (highlight the hidden paragraph to see what I’m talking about if you’ve watched it already)
Examples of things that I felt were quietly dropped without any real conclusion included Estes asking the guy working with Carrie to keep an eye on what else she’s up to, the leak inside the CIA and a firm resolution on who passed the guard the razor blade. Maybe they’ll be returned to in Season 2?
Homeland will return for a second season later on in 2012, and I can tell you without spoiling anything that if you give the first season a chance (and for people in the UK who like to get their TV output from their…well…TV, it’ll be shown on Channel 4 either later this month or next month) you’ll be counting down the weeks and months until you can see it.