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Homeland: 10 reasons why it was so brilliant

Homeland

Feature by Rob Carnevale

HOMELAND concluded on Channel 4 on Sunday night (May 6, 2012) with a final episode that was both gripping and emotionally absorbing. Here’s 10 reasons why we thought the series was so brilliant…

1) Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, the heroine we loved to hate. Danes was fearless as the driven CIA officer at the centre of the story, delivering a warts and all performance that frequently tested viewer loyalty (even though she was often acting in her nation’s best interests). From episode one, she did things on her own terms, no matter who she pissed off, or how far removed from protocol they became. She did eventually get burned for doing so but the beauty and complexity of her performance was such that come the final episode, as she struggled to keep a lid on being bi-polar, we genuinely did sympathise with her, especially once she took the painful decision to subject herself to electric shock therapy in order to bring about some personal balance.

2) Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, the returning Iraq veteran and suspected turncoat. We read early on that Lewis’ performance as Brody was unreadable – and that was meant as the highest compliment. We genuinely couldn’t tell whether Brody had been turned. Yet perhaps even more magnificently, once we knew that he had, we didn’t stop liking him any less. Lewis was incredible as Brody, pulling viewers this way and that as the reasons behind his decision to attempt to blow up the US Vice-President and his main chief of staff became painfully (even scandalously) clear. Part of you wanted him to succeed, another part wanted you to back down for the sake of his family (and his daugher in particular). And another part of you hoped he would do exactly as things played out so that he could still be around for a second series!

3) Mandy Patinkn as Saul Berenson, the wise old head in the CIA. In a series where it was difficult to pick out any single one performance as the best, Patinkin’s arguably came closer than most. His Saul Berenson was a fascinating study of experience tempered by regret and personal investment. He remained the wise old head of the CIA, a dedicated and fearless officer for good. Yet, incredibly, he wasn’t about suspicion himself at around the halfway mark of the series, particularly given the personal toll that his years of loyalty to the CIA had cost him (a marriage in tatters). His loyalty to Carrie, too, was often touching, even when he knew she was acting out of control. But his bullish determination to stick to his own guns and do what he felt was right, whether that meant compromising Carrie’s efforts to save the day in the final episode or laying his cards on the table before the vice president during the finale’s final exchanges, was never less than compelling and sometimes even heartbreaking. He was the quietly spoken giant of the show.

4) Morgan Saylor as Dana Brody, the teenage daughter and unlikely saviour. For most of this first season, Dana had appeared as the archetypal ‘moody teen’, albeit one who consistently remained fiercely protective of her dad’s best interests (and feelings) against those of her mum’s. But in the final couple of episodes, this young actress really came into her own, as suspicion got the better of her and she resolved to become involved in trying to really find out what was going on with her father. Hence, whether it was the discovery of him praying in ‘Arabic’ in the garage, or talking him down from setting off his explosives in the containment bunker during those tense final moments, she was a study in fear and affection, expertly balancing the need to understand and not judge her father with a daughter’s need to keep her father alive. It was an extremely mature performance and one that provided some genuinely moving moments between Saylor and Lewis during that excellent final episode.

5) The complexity of the writing – This was a water-tight series in so many senses of the word, albeit one that was based in part on an Israeli series. Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff and company kept us guessing throughout, while testing our loyalty at every opportunity. Thanks to their intelligent screenplay, the war on terror has seldom seemed so complex. There is good and bad on both sides and nothing is black and white. The scenarios that were created were all too real, yet reminded us that for all the easy headlines that accompany this ongoing issue, it all comes down to flesh and blood people in the end, who are as flawed and complex as any one of us.

Homeland

6) Balancing the need to leave questions unanswered with satisfying viewers – Where some series fail to wrap things up in a satisfying manner because of the need to lay foundations for the future Homeland even got this right. The finale was as gripping and tense as we could have hoped for (sometimes breathlesssly so, particularly once in the bunker) but it also set things in motion for the sophomore run without feeling like it had compromised too much. Hence, the prospect of having most of the key players back remains an exciting one, while the uncertainty surrounding many of them continues to remain intact.

7) Standout episode 1 – The Weekend The episode where Carrie and Brody spent the weekend together in a secluded log cabin. The interaction between the two of them was incredibly tense, if only because we never knew whether Brody would crack under the pressure being exerted by Carrie… or, as it turned out, vice-versa. It pulled our loyalties this way and that, particularly during the last act revelations, while dropping in a pivotal clue that went unnoticed almost until the very final seconds of the series. Brilliant stuff!

8) Standout episode 2 – Crossfire: The episode in which we learned more of Brody’s history while in captivity and the relationship he formed with Abu Nazir’s doomed son played out against the context of the CIA and FBI attempting to cover up the truth behind the fatal shooting of innocents at a mosque. It’s here, once again, that loyalties began to shift and the grey areas the show resided in became even more vividly realised.

9) Standout episode 3 – Representative Brody: – As Brody lays the foundations for his final acts, Carrie and Saul try to turn Saudi Arabia diplomat that appears to be Abu Nazir agent, culminating in an explosive conclusion that carried not only massive ramifications for the remainder of the series, but also the next. Have we figured out who is pulling the strings from within the CIA yet? We think not…

10) Keeping those questions interesting: As previously mentioned, the excellent series finale put forward some questions we genuinely can’t wait to hear the answers to. Primary among these are whether Carrie will be able to remember the pivotal piece of intelligence that went through her brain prior to being electric shocked and how far the US government (ie, the vice-president and Carrie’s boss) will be prepared to go to cover up their own involvement in the killing of 82 innocent children. Is Saul safe if he goes up against them? And just how dedicated is Brody now that his daughter [and family] appears to have turned him back? Who continues to leak information to Abu Nazir from within the CIA too? And just where will the twisted relationship between Carrie and Brody go from here? It’s a mouth-watering prospect finding out…

Homeland second season to return to Channel 4

Watch the second season teaser trailer