Upon learning that Showtime (which is home to two of my favorite shows - Dexter and Weeds) had developed a dramatic series about domestic terrorism, I was intrigued. Showtime usually manages to captivate their audience well, and Homeland -- a thriller adapted for American television from the Israeli show Hatufim (translation: Abducted) -- was no exception with its too-short season.
Homeland follows the life of a much-older-than-I'm-comfortable-with Claire Danes (who doesn't still see her as the gawky teen from My So-Called Life?) who works for the CIA. It's also one of the first television series I've seen that stars someone who believably plays a character who is both flawed and mentally ill. There's so much stigma and bad acting decisions surrounding mentally ill characters that it's refreshing to see someone play a relatable, well rounded mentally ill series lead.
Courtesy of Showtime
Due to her mental illness - bipolar disorder - it's rather hard to tell if Danes' character, Carrie Mathison, is right on or right off her mark when she believes that an American POW (Nicholas Brody, as played by the epic Damian Lewis) has been turned by Al-Qaeda into a domestic terrorist. The decisions she makes and the ways she goes about trying to prove that Brody is a terrorist leave the viewer wondering if, in fact, Carrie is simply acting out from her mental illness or actually onto something.
The series begins as Carrie is told by a captured terrorist in Iraq (on his way to be executed) that there is an American POW who has been turned by Al-Qaeda. Years later, she's called into a briefing in which she learns that an American POW has been found in a compound belonging to the known terrorist Abu Nazir. Carrie puts two and two together and begins to suspect that Brody is the POW-turned-terrorist.
Homeland leaves us hanging. And hanging. And hanging more. With each episode, we learn a bit more about Brody, who appears to be the perfect American hero - toward the end, he even announces his run for Senate. But we're always wondering - is he a bad guy or is this all in Carrie's head?
Most of her collegues and family believe that this terrorist plot is all in her head - which causes Carrie to spiral downward, her mental illness taking us the a convincing, harrowing ride along with her.
The series ends with Carrie about to undergo electroconvulsive shock therapy - a last-resort treatment for treatment-resistant depression, known to cause memory loss among other side effects.
Much of the thrill behind the show is watching the characters play out - it's less stressful and action packed than a show like 24, but also more interesting. It's hard not to get invested in the lives of these characters as we watch their lives unfold in front of us. The character flaws are what make these people interesting and believeable - they're damaged in the same way we're all damaged.
Homeland keeps us guessing and invested in the plot - what happens next? It's no wonder that the show has been critically aclaimed - even winning the 2011 Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Drama.
Showtime has thankfully renewed the show for an additional twelve episodes, set to begin production this spring.
Until then, I'll watch the reruns of the show, looking for any important details I may have missed the first time around, and wait (semi-impatiently) for the second season to begin. The season ended months ago, but I can't stop thinking about this show. There's a gigantic, dramatic hole in my heart where Homeland once lived.
Maybe I should dig up [Israeli predecessor] Hatufim while I wait. Got any good suggestions for shows for me to watch to fill the void?
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