While the Hollywood Foreign Press seems to be the only award-giving body to realize the merit in Showtime’s latest new series offering, at least someone is giving credit where credit is due – I just wish it came from a more credible award-giving body. But I’ll take what I can get. The Claire Danes starrer Homeland is one of Fall’s most surprising delights, delivering a cynical picture of American politics and the sometimes subversive techniques of the CIA and its parallel organizations. It’s a series that’s entirely patriotic, but in a way that it presents a complicated few who still believe that they can still do the right thing even if their path looks wrong to others. It raises questions about what it means to be a patriot, it pulls on heartstrings when we watch our mentally-unstable heroine break down, and it fills us with hope when one of our heroes is strong enough to question the status quo.
The series follows CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Danes), who after putting her career in danger one too many times is skating on thin ice with the agency. Based on a tip she received from an Iraqi informant, she believes the latest war hero has been turned and is working for al Qaeda. That POW is Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), who returns home to a few issues of his own – namely the fact that his wife moved on with his best friend. As Brody’s home life continues to be a struggle, Carrie’s unconventional tactics lead her to put his house under surveillance and it’s not long before her obsession skirts the line between patriotism and developing romantic feelings for the suspected terrorist. Without spoiling the entire season for those who haven’t yet delved into the smart series, her interaction with Brody only becomes more complicated and she draws closer and closer to convincing her CIA superiors that her time is up, all the while leaning on her mentor, Saul (Mandy Patinkin), for support when most of her colleagues think her theories are complete hogwash.
While the interactions between Brody and Carrie are strong – and Lewis delivers a wonderfully devilish performance as the Marine Sargent – the real glue of the series is the almost fatherly relationship between Carrie and Saul. As we wonder if Carrie’s crazy or if she’s just making us crazy or if under all her mental issues she’s actually brilliant and on the right track, Saul is along for the journey, enduring the same mental somersaults, but without the added benefit of television’s handy glimpses of characters behind closed doors. Patinkin’s not nominated for an award, but it’s a crying shame.
Danes, however, thoroughly earns her nomination, especially with the last heartbreaking scene of the first season, when it seems she’s really given up. No one can have a mental breakdown the way she can and few female characters call for such eloquent destruction as Carrie Mathison.
Finally, I must acknowledge a recent jab taken at the series. A New York Times journalist called Homeland out for being a slower-moving 24 reincarnate. While I acknowledge their similarities, I have to say, I was never a fan of 24. The pace, the writing, and Jack Bauer never did it for me. It always felt rushed and Bauer wasn’t a complicated enough hero for me. Sure he had his issues, but his problems can’t hold a candle to Carrie’s. Bauer may be hailed as one of televisions “coolest” heroes, but being the coolest doesn’t always make for great television. Carrie’s constant fighting with herself, her colleagues, her mentor, her family, her job, and anything else she encounters offers up a journey that’s just a little more engrossing than watching the CTU’s best agent be kick-ass just as we expect.
I acknowledge that as a new series, Homeland encountered a few freshman hiccups and that it may not the most polished of the Best Drama category competitors, but the fact of the matter is that with Breaking Bad left out of that race and a slew of other equally flawed series (and one severely flawed one – sorry, American Horror Story), I see no reason why a series that took risks the way Homeland did all season shouldn’t take home a shiny trophy.
Do you think Homeland deserves an award? Let me know in the comments or get at me directly on Twitter (@KelseaStahler)