Showtime Bolsters TV Resume with Psychologically Thrilling “Homeland”

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James Cullinane

Showtime Bolsters TV Resume with Psychologically Thrilling "Homeland"

Showtime appears to have mastered the art of producing hit television shows in an incomparable fashion.  Already boasting one of the most illustrious television resumes of the 21st century, this highly-praised premium channel seems to have yet again struck gold with “Homeland”, a Fall breakout drama surrounding the return home of an ostensibly heroic American prisoner of war and the suspicions of a mentally unstable CIA agent in the post-Bin Laden world.

Nicholas Brody, played convincingly by Damian Lewis (“Band of Brothers”), is the recently rescued USMC Sergeant who has returned home after eight torturous years in an Iraqi prison camp.  Supplying the conflict of “Homeland” is the arguably paranoid, yet undeniably gifted CIA agent Carrie Mathison, who believes Brody may in fact be internally assisting Al Qaeda in a terrorist plot against the United States.  Claire Danes (“Romeo+Juliet”) shines in the role of Mathison, delivering a startlingly effective portrayal of this conflicted CIA agent.  Carrie’s mentor and closest confidant at the agency is Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), a seasoned veteran whose resume earns the respect of all including the ever-critical CIA head, David Estes (David Harewo0d).  The interactions between Saul and Carrie thus far in the series showcase a turbulent, yet utterly solid relationship between master and prodigy.  Harewood also delivers a strong performance, playing the role of the control-hungry boss to a tee.  The brilliantly casted ensemble of “Homeland” will almost certainly have an impact on the next Emmy Awards.

Coming from the same minds who produced “24”, the intricate plot twists of “Homeland” may be the only similarity between these two series.  For example, “Homeland” is not action packed; it is a slowly developing psychological thriller that relies more on current events than special effects.  Although fictionalized, “Homeland” delves into real current events including the death of Osama Bin Laden, giving the series a realistic, up-to-date feel.

In the early-goings on “Homeland’s” debut season, Carrie, with the help of Saul’s less-than-ethical practices, is able to gain a month long surveillance warrant on Brody.  I doing so, Carrie is enabled to watch Brody’s difficult homecoming unfold in front of her eyes.  It soon becomes apparent to Carrie that Brody’s wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), has been romantically involved with her husband’s fellow marine and closest friend, Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff).  By filming Brody’s life at home through the use of hidden cameras, Carrie soon grows an evident emotional dependency on him.  In the more recent episodes, after the aforementioned warrant expires, Carries begins to essentially stalk Brody and eventually finds herself in the midst of a drunken affair with him, an act that could jeopardize her career.  Carrie’s maniacal desire to prove Brody’s guilt, along with her apparent obsession with him, contributes heavily to the psychological appeal of “Homeland”.  Due to its cliff-hanger endings and unpredictable plot,”Homeland”, like so many other Showtime series, possesses the rare quality that leaves viewers longing for more.

At this point in its young life, “Homeland” is unparalleled in regards to suspense.  However, fans will begin to get restless if Brody’s intentions are not revealed during the show’s debut season, as patience frequently runs short when it comes to television plot-lines.  In the defense of its writers, one should keep an open mind regarding “Homeland’s” deliberately slow pace, as the series could very well be intended to revolve around Carrie’s guilt driven paranoia stemming from her inability to stop the 9/11 attacks.

Suspenseful, intelligent, and relevant to the modern world, “Homeland” is like no other program presently on the air, network or not.  The only question at this point is whether or not its writers will be able to establish the ever-elusive element of staying power.  The swiftly expanding fan base of “Homeland” certainly hopes the answer to this question will prove to be yes, however, the fate of Showtime’s latest breakout series remains to be seen.