‘Homeland’ Season 1 Finale Review

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Damien Lewis Claire Danes Mandy Patinkin Homeland Showtime Homeland Season 1 Finale Review

When Showtime announced they would be starting the new series Homeland from 24 producer Howard Gordon, the feeling was this take on US-based terrorism might borrow a little too heavily from the super heroics of Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer. Almost immediately after its premiere, however, Homeland revealed itself to be much more than a run-of-the-mill 24 clone, or anti-terrorism action program. In fact, over the course of its first season, Homeland has proven itself to be not only the best series on Showtime, but also one of the best dramas on television, period.

One of the unique aspects of the series lies in the way it explores the fragile lives and psyches of those tasked with preventing or committing an act of terrorism. All season long, the game of suspicion and betrayal between Homeland’s three leads Damian Lewis, Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin has managed to keep the interest in their separate stories as riveting as the overall threat of an American secretly turned against his country by the very people he was tasked in protecting it from.

What makes Homeland such a success is the way it layers the mysteries surrounding the three leads and their quest in protection, redemption or possibly vengeance, by leaving its audience in the dark just long enough to build suspense – but when the lights are turned on, each reveal cleverly leaves the viewer breathlessly questioning what will happen next. Case in point: Lewis’ Nicholas Brody, as the on-again-off-again terrorist threat that at first appears to be a troubled POW brainwashed beyond recognition, is briefly freed of suspicion, only to later be revealed as the ultimate threat.

What makes the turnaround, and the Brody character so interesting is the reveal that he is coming at an act of terror from a place of love and terrible heartache.

Similarly, Claire Danes’ role of Carrie Matheson is also driven by conflict; one that is equal parts her inability to come to terms with a past failure and a battle to contain a devastating mental illness. Like Brody, Carrie could have been a textbook character with a simple, straightforward objective, but here each character is elevated not only be the stellar performances of the actors, but also through the subtle shifts brought on by the confusion, self-doubt and guilt Danes and Lewis have been given the freedom to investigate and act out over the course of this first season.

However, let us not forget Patinkin’s Saul Berenson, who levels the series out as the quietly suffering, yet dutiful CIA agent who is so driven by his work that he is unable to maintain a presence outside of it. Much like Carrie or Brody, Saul is prone to extremes, but what drives him isn’t so easily labeled as guilt, fear or vengeance. It is something unidentifiable because it lives within him. In essence Saul is the best of the characters because he is propelled by something pure; the only problem is that unlike Carrie or Brody, there is no end in sight for Saul.

Instead of exploiting the various character defaults, Homeland chooses to explore them and delve into the tattered lives of those who are bound by a need to enact some form of action – whether it be harmful, or preventative – that ultimately impels the series and makes the endgame all the more potentially powerful – regardless of the outcome.

Damien Lewis Homeland season 1 finale  Homeland Season 1 Finale Review

Throughout the first season, the thrust of Homeland has been the question of Brody’s allegiance to the terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). The answer to this question has unraveled as slowly and diligently as the terrorist leader’s plan to assassinate the Vice President of the United States William Walden (Jamey Sheridan). The most impressive part of Homeland is that, even at the onset of the season finale, entitled ‘Marine One,’ the viewer is still unsure of how the events will unravel.

REVIEW

The 90-minute episode is briskly paced and follows the preparations made by Brody and his supposed-dead counterpart Tom Walker (Chris Chalk) in order to strike as the heart of the US government. Meanwhile, Saul attempts to help Carrie reconcile the fact that the life she knew is effectively over, and that her concern now is to deal with her untreated disorder.

Without too much ado, Walker finds an appropriate and safe vantage point from which his portion of the strike may be carried out. Meanwhile, Brody, wearing a bomb vest, waits until Walker’s assassination of Elizabeth Gaines (Linda Purl) – meant to look like an attempt on the Vice President’s life – helps to usher Brody into an enclosed room with not just the VP, but several high ranking members of the US government.

After seeing Brody’s arrival and being chased off by the threat of arrest, Carrie finds herself seeking help from Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor) – hoping a call from her will persuade Brody from going through with the attack. Although Carrie is not there to see it, Dana does contact her father, and in one of the most riveting scenes of the season, manages to talk her father down – while remaining completely oblivious to the fact that she is doing so, or that he very nearly committed mass murder.

Back at Langley, Saul uncovers a redacted file implicating his superior David Estes (David Harewood) and the Vice President in the drone attack that killed more than 80 school children – and resulted in the current imbroglio they all find themselves in.

It is the final moments for Carrie and Brody, wherein Brody convinces Abu Nazir that his insertion into the government will be more powerful than any bomb, and Carrie’s willingness to undergo electroshock treatment that underscore the season (and the series) with new meaning. As Abu Nazir acquiesces to Brody’s suggestion he rhetorically asks “Why kill a man, when you can kill an idea?”

Jamey Sheridan Damien Lewis Homeland Showtime Homeland Season 1 Finale Review

What the audience is left with is a tense, well-written and superbly acted 90-minute season finale that not only answers the pressing points of ambiguity and reason, but also introduces Homeland’s ability to move beyond what may have been perceived as the corner it had been painted into.

The disarming of the bomb that literally and figuratively was Nicholas Brody served to be one of the most compelling and frightening aspects of a program that is essentially an anti-terrorism thriller. Through the power of excellent storytelling, the climax became the vessel in which a more thought provoking and disconcerting act of terror may be unleashed.

Homeland has an impressive batch of creatives that managed to tell a twisting and suspenseful tale, which surprised primarily through a willingness to be upfront with its audience, instead of treating them to series of tricks and off screen dealings to undermine the story that had been told.

Howard Gordon, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis are undoubtedly going to be recognized for what was a superlative first season. Any such accolades are certainly deserved and bring high hopes for the second season of Homeland.

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Homeland will return to Showtime for season 2 in the fall of 2012.

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  1. The bunker sequence is one of the most tension filled things I’ve ever seen on TV. I felt like I was in there with Brody. Just a really well done episode and a great show.

  2. What he said.

  3. Love Homeland. Danes and Lewis are shoe-in for the Emmys. just one rant (not Homeland-related), the white text against the black backdrop is just visually painful, really.

  4. The scene when Brody’s daughter called him was absolutely heart wrenching. When she wouldn’t let him hang up before promising her that he would come home had both my wife and I practically sobbing.
    Homeland had a great 1st season. I was worried it would be 24 with swearing and nudity because it was on cable but from the opening minutes of episode 1 too Carrie’s realization before treatment it proved to be a smart, tense and wonderfully written drama. I can’t wait until season 2.

  5. I love Damien Lewis, he’s been terrific in everything I’ve seen him in including “Life” and “Assassin in Love”. Couldn’t believe he’s actually British, he does American accent very well.

    Only thing about last night’s episode that bothered me is he’s in this bunker and obviously freaking out yet he’s able to pull off ‘yeah I’m fine’. You’d think security and or the people in the bunker would be eyeing him due to not knowing what’s going on, who’s done what, etc.

    Love this show, glad it’s not just sex, it really makes you think and gets you questioning everything. Wish season 2 was going to be sooner, next fall is too long!

  6. After having DEXTER fart in everyone’s general direction during it’s season finale, it was grand to see HOMELAND take the wheel and drive us for 90 minutes straight.

    True achievement and how television should be written for sure.

  7. Has everyone gone crazy? I have loved homeland since episode 1 but I can honestly tell you that the finale was awful, dragged out and un-realistic. No conclusion was reached, not many questions were answered. It was missing what any finale needs and that is to fell like a finale rather than a useless filler episode so the writers can continue to milk the story for season 2. Weak writers, weak. This was my favorite show of the season but I need to seriously think about even watching season 2.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. Weak, writers. WEAK.

    • This is the DEBUT season, why would they tie up all the loose ends when there’s still plenty of story to develop. Brody’s relationship with Issa, who was leaking the intel from the CIA, will Carrie remember the Issa/Brody deal after the therapy or w/e is over, what will Estes do now that Saul is turning on him, will he become an outlaw working with Carrie behind Estes’ back…

      Im sorry, but Im glad homeland didnt separate seasons into different cases or situations, there’s a lot going on still. Does it suck that we got a few answers? Yes. Should we stop watching a series which has been THE BEST new series of 2011? I dont think so.

    • I agree, very weak. Building up to a climax that never comes. Instead the cute family survives.

    • Could not agree more with you. Really. Loved the show, until the final episode. Unrealistic. Would have been much better if he actually blew up the bomb, it got more and more obvious that he was never going to accomplish his goal, and the “good guys” won (as always). Plus, now they get to milk this for another 9 seasons.

  8. Homeland completely exceeded all of my expectations this season, I can’t wait for season two.

  9. The finale kind of bummed me out, I just got so freaking mad at how dumb his daughter was. Also, no way would Brody have come home without being psychologically debriefed. Normal soldiers have to go through it and they let him go home immediately with no psych follow up? And really, electro-shock therapy? I think they went way over board on Carrie, but I’m pretty sure Danes might actually be crazy in real life. Something is off about er eyes, haha.

  10. The season finale was the only episode I saw and I found it absurdly unrealistic. I don’t know why the Brody character became a traitor and a terrorist (like I said, the finale was all I saw), but that plan to pretend an attempt to kill the vice president so that Brody could be ushered past the tweeting metal detectors and into a secret holding room with the vp and other top government officials was absolutely ridiculous. Really now, what were the odds of something like that actually coming off without a hitch? And then, after all this meticulous planning, and after all Brody’s apparent pent up hatred, and after his coming to terms with offing himself for the cause (whatever that was), all it took was a call from his suspicious daughter to make him back out of the whole thing. How freaking absurd! Would someone in that position (let alone a lowly Sargent) even be allowed to accept an outside call? What kind of Secret Service was that supposed to be? Well, I could go on about all the unlikely events in this series, but I won’t bother. Suffice it to say that I won’t be watching season two!

    • You should start a blog where you only watch the season finale of shows and then determine if the show is any good. I imagine the ending of Rosanne and Newhart will really annoy you.

    • You only watched 1 episod and it was the finally of the season – so what are you giving an opinion on anything- u know not what u say about anything- I.e. he gets the phone because through the season he became very close to the V.P. n a popular man – for example of 1 of the topics u brought up of which u know not of what u say. It’s a great show, why don’t u watch the rest of season 1 & get back to us.

  11. Ron, if the finale is all you saw, then you wouldn’t understand why Brody was allowed in the bunker. Pretty silly rant, especially when you don’t know the back story that had been told for the previous 11 episodes…

    • I don’t need the back story to know when I see something dumb. Having never strapped explosives on my body in an attempt to kill myself and many others, I can’t say for sure what kind of commitment that would take. But I’ve got to think it would be a commitment of the absolute highest order. So wouldn’t Brody have already seriously considered and have come to terms with how his family, especially his daughter, was going to suffer after his ill-conceived plan? So with that said, how could his daughter talk him down without even really knowing what he was about to do? Makes no sense at all. Dramatic, yes. Sensible or believable, no!

      And like I said, the secret service would have to be truly inept to allow people into a “safe room” with high ranking government officials, including the Vice President of the United States, after said people were setting off metal detectors like fireworks on the forth of July. It just couldn’t happen! And for the secret service to allow a sergeant accept an outside call while the situation was critical and the service was on the highest possible alert, is just plain ludicrous.

      And seriously, how much background do I need to know how over the top it was for that former agent lady to go to Brody’s house and plead with Brody’s daughter to call him? Makes for great melodrama, but it’s truly beyond the pale.

      By the way, explain how Brody can meet his partner (a partner who is dead set on blowing his head off) and then somehow turn the tables on him, a guy who was apparently as an accomplished killer as Brody or anyone else? And if this silly turnabout wasn’t bad enough, after Brody blows the guy’s brains out he just stands there and admires his handiwork. This was in a fairly exposed part of the city! You don’t shoot someone in the head with a loud bang and just stand there!

      I don’t watch much TV, and especially not many series made for HBO or Showtime, but I did see the complete set of The Sopranos (many years after the fact) and found it one of the best written, acted, and produced series I ever saw. And that makes it a far cry from what I saw of Homeland!!!! The difference was like night and day.

      • They weren’t just letting random people into the bunker. It was the VP’s staff. Brody was to be speaking at the summit, personally invited by the VP.

        The call getting through to Brody is the most unrealistic part, that is a stretch I agree.

        Carrie going over to Brody’s house – over the top in what way? This is certainly not out of character for Carrie. She is a ‘former’ agent for good reason :)

        • Okay, I admit that coming in on the finale didn’t put me in the best position to judge the entire season, but I’m just going with what I saw. Hey, some of the acting was terrific! It’s just that some of the situations seemed a bit unrealistic, even bazaar.

          By the way, I didn’t think the secret service was allowing random people into the bunker. But even so, with some people (Brody in particular) setting off the metal detectors like slot machines in a casino, you’d think the secret service might have been a little more careful about who they let through without a more thorough examination. Oh well, I guess it’s just a TV show.

          • I didnt see a single random person there. Only the VP, the head chief of the CIA, the secret service people, and a future senator of the US along with the highest members of the US Military as well as the secretary of defense who he met in the bathroom.. Who was a random there? Like they say in my country, stop searching for the cat’s 5th leg, it’s just not there. This was a very impressive show with possibly the best debut season Ive seen since Prison Break.

          • EVERYBODY was setting off the detectors with their belts, keys, and what not. There’s a sniper outside blasting, and who knows what other attacks are coming, they couldn’t care less about the metal detector.

            • That’s too bad! That stupid oversight by the incredibly thorough Secret Service could have, and should have, cost everyone’s life in the bunker, including the Vice President’s. I’m not in the secret service so I don’t know their procedures, but I’m betting in a case like that they would get the VP to the nearest bullet proof limo (like the one he came in) asap. But then I guess they couldn’t have had that ridiculous scene where Brody’s daughter calls him (in this battened down, safe bunker, and talks him out of killing himself and everybody else without even knowing he was going to do it. Too funny!

      • Oh I didn’t know u continued your rant- silly man. Really, how can u discus the show on any level , even by claiming ‘logic’ as your reason for the issues u have with any parts of the seasons finally without watching the seasons setup for it? It’s kinda foolish that you write almost volumes on it????? You are either bipolar- or just bored. !!!!!

      • For the love of God man, it is a TELEVISION SHOW. First of all, a television show’s first priority, if that show expects to be good, is to be entertaining. In other words, that means it has to be unique and original. Some times that means bending the rules in terms of plot development and character sensibility sometimes. The Sopranos, for example, is well regarded as one of the greatest tv shows ever to be made, and yet it has it’s list of detractors, among them many people who claim that there are certain elements that are “unrealistic.” In Homeland, you have to remember, the entire reason and back story for why Brody seriously considers the idea of sacrificing himself in the name of terrorist Abu Nazir is because of the relationship he had with Nazir’s child Isa, who was unintentionally killed in a drome strike ordered by the same VP that is considering Brody to be a candidate for congressman. Granted, realistically, of COURSE it must be a serious butt bending commitment to become a suicide bomber psychologically. However, I believe Brody is more of a tormented soul then a brainwashed terrorist. His choice to sacrifice himself became more possible as soon as Isa died in his arms, and could be said to be the sole reason for why he continues to follow Nazir. When his daughter calls him, I saw it more as a realization for Brody. He had still lost Isa, but in that moment just before he is about to pull the switch, he finally realizes the power that his own child has over him, and it overwhelms him and all his other motives. In that instance, Brody is a changed man. A tormented man, but changed. If the show wanted to be realistic, sure, I guess killing Brody off like that would deliver on everyone’s expectations and wouldn’t be so unrealistic that it wasn’t in some ways believable. In terms of entertainment value, however, I think it would have been a catastrophic disaster for the show for a few reasons. The first reason being Brody is still the main character. Killing him off in the first season would take the show in another direction for a few reasons. Also, his relationship with Carrie. It’s still left in question, and there are enough loose ends and seeds for the writers to continue to plant that could lead to the rekindling of their relationship in the second season.

  12. Just watched the whole season on demand in a few days with the wife. Of course it is one of the best shows, but I agree with another post about the ending going nowhere, to some extent. It did take us deeper into the lives of these amazing characters but at least they could have had the decency to give us some closure for a season. The cliffhangers are great for in-season but as a finale they just seem like a cheap grab to hype the next season. I’m really thinking about waiting until season three to start getting into shows so if they get cancelled I don’t have to waste my time (Camelot, Chicago Code) and the story will be established more in depth. But, who am I kidding? I need instant gratification.

  13. I have to say that I was very disappointed with this show… It seems like Claire Danes & Mandy Patinkin, with their long list of television shows, could sign on to something that has a little more interest… Seems to me like its just a cheap T&A weekly series with a tiny bit of storyline thrown in.

    • Just when you think you’ve heard it all…

  14. Besides the daughter’s phone call getting through, my problem was with the metal detector scenario. I can buy people being rushed through on the way in. But they would have walked out individually and we have to assume that after a big scare, the Secret Service would just wave everyone through. Apparently, there can only be one security threat per day.

  15. Homeland is good allright, but best drama on tv period? Damn, what about Breaking Bad??? That show is so much better dan Homeland.

  16. Very dissappointed in the finale. It was an anti-climax that took a whole season to reach.

    OF COURSE America could not produce a show where a terrorist attack harms the VP and members of government. What a rot this finale was.

  17. I’ve got to disagree that the finale was lousy. This show blew me away pretty well the whole 4 days it took me to watch all the episodes. And the finale was excellent. It was very frustrating that Carrie falls asleep and remembers something so important, but too late. But I don’t think Brody’s daughter convincing him not to explode is very unrealistic. If it’s one reason this show is about a MILLION times better than 24, it’s because it’s populated with PEOPLE, realistic people with complexities, doubt, emotions, indecision.

    Only correction about the review: Breaking Bad is actually the best drama on television, bar frigging NONE! Homeland a close second.

  18. Great programme , but as usual with American dramas , an absolute rubbish ending , that guarantees a second franchised moneymaker . The terrorists again made to look incompetent while and the questions have to be asked ” Why didnt Brodie just set of the vest when the target arrived ? And why didnt the sniper just shoot the target .

  19. well i haven’t finish it yet but it is highly recommended!!!

  20. Very intense characters…loved the build up all season up to the very end…and then an awful ending. Why build up an amazing character like Carrie only to parade her as a fool in end. Huge downer. A few too many rediculous near misses. Great acting though, Claire…and the rest of the cast.

  21. Got hooked on the series watching on on demand. What hooked me the most were the intense, complex characters. Damian Lewis hasn’t changed since Band of Brothers. The only gripe I have is the main characters who are supposed to be Marines, Brody and Mike don’t look like Marines at all because their hair is way too long. Why don’t some actors agree to get the mandatory buzzcuts if they are playing Marines? Gillenhaal did it in Jar Heads and he looked the part, Kevin Bacon and Keifer Sutherland were very convincing in A Few Good Men. Brody and Mike look like prime time TV Marines straight out of the A Team series from the 80′s or something with their long hair, I know its a minor thing but I think if they don’t look like Marines it takes alot out of the realism the show is trying to portray. But hey, I’m still hooked for season 2 though!.

  22. The ending episode I felt was anti-climatic, whilst i like Brody i wanted him to blow them all up.

    I haven’t really considered many aspects of the story the main one that stood out to me, is if the sniper has a clear shot the the VP why not just take it? they’re all still going into the bunker either way. This avoids any dramas involved if Brody chickens out. Why kill the random lady standing in front of the VP and not just the VP? To me it makes no sense what so ever.

    • The point was to get as much of the staff as possible. They were also involved in the decision to order the drone strike.

  23. To me the show was over when the VP appeared…The show started out strong, but I thought that it will be set in our timeline/reality, then the VP appeared and it clearly isn’t Joe Biden…LOL…so is this an alternate history show? Is it a show that mixes both real and fictional reality? Who the hell is the President then, Santa Claus? I agree that this isn’t a “24″ clone, but as with “24″ “Homeland” has locked itself into a corner with its current plot/storyline. “24″ did that, great first season…and it then degenerated into a really crappy series with more and more weird and outlandish set-ups…I swear…all that show was missing was an alien invasion to make it one of the worst..is “Homeland” heading that way, it looks so! Too bad, wasted potential, and a waste of good actors…

  24. “Game Of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” are the top of this new crop of shows, bar none, “Breaking Bad” and “Homeland” are not even in the same universe…

    • I’ll give you Game of Thrones but The Walking Dead needs an asterisk that says something like “not counting the middle portion of season 2″. Breaking Bad is not technically a new show and is generally considering to be the best show on TV right now (some might make a case for Mad Men or Justified).

      • *considered

  25. I have just watched the 1st episode and couldn’t wait to find out the story line, what a great programe and I can’t wait to see more

  26. Just finished watching Season 1 on On Demand. Also watched Season 2 but won’t comment until later. Have to say Season 1 was much better than S.2. Anyway, I digress. But there are so many things that were unrealistic. Carrie could NOT hide her disease from her employer; hence she would never be allowed in the field. Second, Brody comes home after just 3 days??? Please. Suspension of reality there. Three: Funny how no one mentioned how the Saudi ambassador was involved in the storyline for both the “terrorists” and the government. The show is being set up to eventually show that the real terrorist(s) is in the CIA or other government agency. It is not Brody. But he has his own demons why he “turned”. But in all reality: Is Brody any worse than the lying former CIA chief/current Vice President who killed all those children and then hiding all the evidence and lying about it? Who IS worse? Finally, when Brody’s daughter called him – that is when Brody started leaning towards being the American he really is and not a terrorist-lite. He was doing the bidding of the Al Quaeda guy only as revenge. Not because he believed in the “cause”. Season 2 was not as good as Season 1, but ended with an opening for Season 3, the final season. As I understand, Season 3 isn’t even written yet.

  27. I too agree that the season 1 finale of Homeland was a complete farce. I was thoroughly hooked on the show and it was a complete let down. For me the most annoying part was that Brody was ushered in by a number of the secret service security detail, how did none of them feel the bomb jacket he had on underneath his uniform. I mean they had their hands all over him. But as someone else mentioned, it’s just wouldn’t be prudent for a tv show to be blowing up the VP and other important heads of states. I mean at the end of the day, we all knew he wouldn’t do it. After all the show is about his character. Just wish they had found a more satisfying resolution. Interested to see what’s in store for season 2. Can’t wait for the truth to finally come out and for Carrie to be vindicated. Hope we don’t have to wait endless seasons for this or it will become tedious. Hats off to Claire Danes, her performance is outstanding. So good it is actually sometimes quite eerie.

  28. A compelling, nuanced Season One finale, to be sure. For me the only note of discord (or maybe it’s irony) is Carrie’s assurances to Saul about the immanent electrocution of her brain. Yes, some people have positive experiences with ECT. The majority, I believe, don’t. According to Linda André’s superb exposé of the ECT industry, “Doctors of Deception,” the “new shock” doesn’t differ so much from the old, and always causes memory loss. Of course, at the end of this final episode, that’s what we’re left wondering: what will Carrie remember? I’m watching the series on Netflix and so haven’t seen Season Two. I hope the writers bring some honesty and balance to the depiction of ECT. By all accounts, she shouldn’t remember.

  29. Having viewed the final episode just tonight, I too have been watching this via Netflix. I have enjoyed it and think it is very well done. The thing that strikes me a screamingly unrealistic is a VICE PRESIDENT of the US who has SO much power. Have I missed something? Is the President disabled in some way, or dead? I have been around quite a few years and cannot imagine a VP with as much power as this guy.

    Can anyone enlighten me?