Homeland – Pilot
Though this new show from the makers of 24 opens with an adrenalin fueled rush through the streets of Iraq to stop a possible terrorist attack on American soil it is not, in nearly any way like it’s predecessor. It is really the subsequent scene – set ten months later, making this action something of a prologue – that best sums up what makes Homeland the best pilot of the year (to date). Claire Dane’s character, Carie Mathison, rushes to get ready for work in all the usual ways: she takes off her pajamas, swallows back a pill, brushes her teeth, wipes between her legs and throws on some office attire. That penultimate move is a revolutionary one as far as my recall is concerned, such an adult one but it is also, quite obviously, an everyday for most real women; and this is exactly what separates Carie and Homeland from both 24 and nearly every other show that has debuted this season, they feel real.
Though I may have mentioned that Homeland is the opposite of 24 this isn’t entirely true because conceptually they are quite similar, it is just that the execution differs so greatly. The story of the show is this: Carie Mathison comes into some secret intel during that initial showdown in Iraq, information that an American POW has been turned and will be used to execute a major attack on the US. Given that there are no more POW’s still in captivity Carie disregards this news, that is until ten months later one shows up. Damien Lewis’s Nicholas Brody has been held by a terrorist cell for upwards of eight years and would have remained so had a team of special forces troops not accidentally found him during an off the grid raid; the media paints him as a hero but Carie can only see in him the potential for vast villainy. Thus the show has its conflict. Homeland is not, however, as conflict driven a show as one might imagine from that synopsis; If i had to compare it to anything else out there then I would say that it seems more akin to In Treatment than anything else.
There is a definitely more of a focus here on uncovering those hidden psychological tenets of the characters rather than their great conspiratorial plots plus they are also both adapted from an original Israeli format, that one Be’Tipul this one Prisoners of War. As a psychological drama – and that is the term, not Thriller, not Actioner – the show works wonderfully,it imbues these characters with such depth so briskly that I almost began fearing the Benz. The key to this character work seems to lie in its predilection for not shying away from the deepest darkest areas of its characters lives like their sexual mores; so much is said by the way in which Brody and his wife, played by Morena Baccarin, adjust positions of power in their central sex scene or by the way Carie chooses an outfit in a fit of rage. These scenes, though certainly well written, rely heavily on the actors to deliver them and that is exactly what they do; this is an absolutely outstanding cast from the four leads (Danes, Damien, Baccarin and the loveable Mandy Patinkin as Carie’s mentor) through to the ridiculously fascinating bit-parts like Carie’s employee’s brother (who shouldn’t be fascinating at all in a pilot for godssakes).
It is because of this depth that the show has that aforementioned realism and it is because of this realism that the characters are all very grey and because of this greyness the mystery at the core of the show is made so much more compelling (A plot is only as good as its characters). Certainly we treat Lewis’ ex-POW Brody as suspicious given what we know of the intel (and the nature of television), however Claire Dane’s protagonist is just as cerebrally screwed up as him and, to be honest, she is just as likely to be the psychotic one rather than the obvious white hatted underdog that say Jack Bauer always was. In 24 we always knew that Jack was right because we always knew and saw exactly what was going on; when he said that there was a conspiracy, there was one. With Carie though we don’t have that trust and we havn’t seen anything that couldn’t be easily explained (the final shot was certainly very effective, but I didn’t feel that it was at all as conclusive as some others may) so the show could yet go any of all possible ways and that’s an exciting place to be in. Of course though the show will still likely go the one expected way, but even if it does the journey should be a riveting one.
Check this out when it airs, for sure.