‘Homeland’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Published 4 years ago by , Updated October 2nd, 2011 at 8:28 pm,

homeland showtime review Homeland Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Showtime’s international thriller Homeland, from 24 producer Howard Gordon premieres tonight. The main attractions include Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin in a tense story about a recovered American prisoner of war suspected of being a plantedĀ  Al-Qaeda operative. So, is Homeland worth cable viewers’ time? Read on to find out.

Homeland begins months before the story proper, when CIA field agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes, Terminator 3) is trying to commute the death sentence of a terrorist informant in Baghdad. The man has information on an imminent attack by fictional extremist leader Abu Nazir, and when the deputy director (David Harewood) refuses to interfere with the Iraqi justice system, she sneaks into the prison to hear his intel. Before Mathison is arrested and deported, the prisoner tells her a single sentence: “An American prisoner of war has been turned.”

Flash forward ten months. Working on CIA intelligence, an American special ops team takes down a terrorist cell and recovers Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis, Band of Brothers), a Marine who has been missing and presumed dead since the beginning of the Iraq war. Mathison, demoted to an analyst after creating an international incident, is instantly suspicious.

Brody is flown back to the United States and given a hero’s welcome, showered with adulation from politicians, military top brass and the media. After the better part of a decade spent in captivity, Brody is ill-equipped for the attention, throwing up on the plane, flinching at camera flashes and displaying nervous ticks. When he’s re-united with his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin, Firefly) and their two children, his son can’t even recognize his father.

homeland claire danes carrie mathison Homeland Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Working against the cautious instructions of her manager Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin, Criminal Minds), Mathison installs cameras and wiretaps into the Brody home, hoping to catch the Marine when his handlers make contact. Her continual failure to link Brody with Abu Nazir takes a toll on her already fragile mental state. When an associate confronts Mathison, she admits to psychological problems (probably a form of bipolar disorder) and that she’s been taking anti-psychotics heavily.

Brody visits the wife of his partner who died in captivity and lies to her about his experiences. Mathison continues to fail in her intelligence gathering, and after being caught red-handed by Berenson, tries and fails to seduce him. Just before she’s revealed to the CIA, she identifies what may be a coded message sent by Brody through television news cameras. The audience learns that Brody savagely beat and possibly killed his partner while in captivity – at the direction of Abu Nazir.

Homeland is to 24 and other terrorism thrillers what The Killing is to CSI. The show unfolds in a slow, thoughtful and deliberate fashion, allowing the audience access to the inner lives of Mathison, Brody and his family. Those looking for a repeat of Jack Bauer’s breathless chases and gunfights will be disappointed, but for viewers with patience and an appreciation for character development, Homeland is an unexpected treat.

homeland damian lewis brody Homeland Series Premiere Review & Discussion

For most of the pilot, the audience is left wondering who to root for. Brody is an undeniably tragic figure, a man whose life has been destroyed by America’s enemies. Whether or not he’s a sleeper agent, the experiences he lived through show in his interactions with other people, most notably his family. The scene in the airport when Brody and his wife meet for the first time is achingly tense, displaying love, grief, loss, joy and awe rapidly and with a skill that’s a major credit to both Lewis and Baccarin. Even the child actors playing the Brody’s children do well – a rare sight on television.

Conversely we have Agent Mathison, a ruthless and indefatigable pursuer who is convinced of Brody’s intentions. She breaks her superiors’ trust and privacy laws with reckless abandon, sparing absolutely nothing in her pursuit of the truth. Every time Brody shows his humanity and fragility to the audience, Mathison is there watching and criticizing, reminding us that she’s ready to swoop in at a moment’s notice. Her personal and professional habits paint her as a reckless and destructive person; she’d be a difficult protagonist to get behind even if she wasn’t hounding a scarred and decorated veteran. These make for a fascinating character who’s unpredictable in a number of ways.

Unfortunately there isn’t much space for Mandy Patinkin to shine in the pilot. The experienced actor is a favorite of mine, and seeing him relegated to a subdued middleman role is frustrating. On the flip side, fans of Morena Baccarin will finally be able to see her shine in a part with subtlety and grace, and she absolutely rises to the occasion. Her portrayal of a wife caught between lives is extremely sympathetic.

morena baccarin homeland jessica brody Homeland Series Premiere Review & Discussion

The tension displayed throughout Homeland‘s first episode keeps the audience keyed in, mercifully eschewing the jittery shaky-cam shots that seem to permeate the genre. Writing is tight without being preachy – the characters speak and act like real people, reacting to a real situation. Homeland‘s pacing is downright expert, slowing to take in big dramatic moments, then speeding up through well-handled plot advancement.

If there’s one low point in the pilot, it’s an over-reliance on graphic sexuality. The short, unflattering scenes seem out of place surrounded by fifty minutes of subtle drama. Of course, I’m sure some viewers will want to see what’s on display, and at least one scene illustrates an important part of the Brody character.

Homeland is not your typical CIA thriller. Those looking for a Bourne-esque action ride or scripted versions of their Modern Warfare experiences should look elsewhere. But for viewers with the patience to follow a well-told story with a couple of deep leads and a believable, interesting world, the show delivers in a big way. If you’ve enjoyed Justified or The Killing, be sure to give the premiere a try.

Homeland airs Sunday nights at 10PM on Showtime, right after Dexter.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelCrider

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  1. Why bother rooting for Mandy Patinkin at all?
    He’s just going to bail when things start looking good, just like he did with Chicago Hope and Criminal Minds

    • I can understand your frustration, and I certainly wouldn’t blame you for refusing to support someone you object to morally. But as Gary S. says, if I stopped watching shows or movies based on my personal objection to the behavior of the actors, I’d soon be left with only Happy Days and Cheers reruns.

  2. If I judged the TV shows that I watch by the past behavior or comments of the actors involved ,
    I would barely watch TV at all.
    I thought that it was very intruiging and I will keep watching.
    Nice review Michael.
    But,I am VERY glad I read it AFTER I saw the Premiere.

  3. I liked the premier and will continue watching but am I the only one who thought to much detail was given away in the 1st episode? Maybe I’ve become used to shows like Breaking Bad and The Killing but I was pretty surprised at how much was laid out in the premier..

  4. Good stuff. Great first episode. I really hope that this series keeps going at this quality and it will be a really good series.

  5. Will be canceled soon,sadly !

    • Why do you say that?

    • why do you think so? its a pretty original and interesting concept that could actually happen. it won 6 emmys ,the show has so far became a hit

  6. I thought last night’s episode was a good one, I’ll definitely be watching. My one pet peeve is why is there always one of the main characters’ kids who needs a good smack?

  7. Glad to see Charlie Crews back on tv, even if it’s Showtime and I only have 2 more months of it for free.

  8. In the first episode he’s a Sgt but in the later episode his service alpha jacket has Gunnery Sgt chevrons? That’s a two rank jump, maybe I missed the episode where he got promoted but also even when he’s a Gunney they still call him Sgt. This just killed it for me, I could get over the fact that the haircuts are out of Marine regulations just like Battle Los Angeles but it grinds my gears as a marine. I have no interest if they want to show a Marine and do a poor job doing so, please show Marines as a Marine! Thank you.

    • well said.

    • I agree with your thoughts totally. The writers seem to have
      even found a way to make the CIA and all government terrorist
      investigators seem a little stupid.
      They miss more clues than a bumbling cop and they would not
      make me feel safe with the poor investigative techniques.
      If I were a terrorist and they had to find me. I could kill
      Romney and his 5 sons in a heartbeat and they would still be

    • This was what I came to find out! The main character and they screw up this bad!! I was a in the Marine Corps 25 years ago and would gladly, for free, consult them! Just get it right!

    • Well said. Oorah

  9. I’m a bit surprised that you guys aren’t reviewing this show episode by episode.

  10. Marine: I noticed that as well. A few episodes later they show him in his dress blues wearing sergeant ranks again.
    My only guess is that maybe the original script had him reenlisting, which would have given him the promotion, but then they rewrote it, using as much of the old footage as possible.

  11. i watch homeland every episode three times in one sitting.
    since when homeland turn to be a soap opera. i am a 61 years old woman from Thailand,please you guys can do
    better than this. what happen to Carrie, so weak and sappy..

  12. Homeland season two is crap!!! Too much focus on the daughter and where the hell is Broady?!!!! Season two as of now sucks and just lost a viewer! Not renewing my showtime subscription!

  13. What about the fact that Brody is a “Marine” who can’t even recite one line of the Marine Corps Hymn correctly?!?!