Wednesday, January 4, 2012

REVIEW: Homeland

 Created by the same guys who created 24, Homeland focused on the return of a US Marine held captive in Iraq for 8 years, who may or may not have been turned by al Qaeda.  Each episode is quick paced and fast moving and full of twists and turns.

The resemblances to 24 are strong, and it runs like a 13 episode shorter season, only better written and better acted.  It doesn't fall to the same unbelievable constraints as 24, but it maintains the tension and conflict that defined that series.

1. Does it entertain me?
Overall, yes it does.  Very much.  The episodes were a breeze to watch, and they never struggled to make me question my insanity or intelligence.  Mandy Patinkin's CIA agent Saul and Claire Danes' crazy CIA analyst Carrie were well written and well-acted, even if Carrie drove me bonkers at times with her actions that could feel forced, but more appropriately, could be chalked up to her being certifiably insane.  Which is always fun to watch.
There existed throughout the whole season the question of "Is Sergeant Brody actually working for al Qaeda" that never really gets answered until the very end of the first season, and that's fun to play along with.  Plus, in true 24 fashion, there are side quests and turns that all come back to the main terrorist plot.

There has always been certain emenies that every American movie watcher loves to hate: Nazis, Klingons, Orcs and Terrorists are the big 4.  Homeland uses the last one, and this makes everyone on the same side.  No one wants terrorists to win, and everyone understands that if someone wants to be a suicide bomber and use that as the method to inflict destrution, that cannot be a good thing.  What Homeland does, is try to show that there might be a reason for these bombers, and they very definitely try to humanize them.

This isn't to say that they are justified in their actions, just that there may be more reasons behind what is going on.

On the whole, I would recommend Homeland to anyone who is looking for a good thriller.
2. Is it realistic?
There are some Idiot Plot points (when the characters do stupid things just for the sake of advancing the story), but in general, it is realistic.  There are reasons given for almost everything in the show, and the plot is woven together very artistically and intricately.

The only thing that I don't buy, however, is the chracter of Carrie, who has risen the ranks of the CIA despite being nuts.  Many of her deisions and choices in the show are stupid and irresponsible, but they could be chalked up to her craziness.  So I guess they at least try to explain it.

Other than that, I believe every other character in the show, and I believe and understand their motivations.  It's not possible for everyone in every show to do everything correctly, but I find myself more often getting angry at the decisions characters make rather than the writing behind those characters, which is an important distinction.
3. Are immoral actions defended?
There is sex, as in almost every other show, and it is passed off as normal and commonplace.  But there is not an overabundance of sex, and very rarely is it used as a tool other than to advance the plot (which seems like a flimsy excuse or defense, but it's much better than sex for the sake of sex).  There is some violence, and some gory scense involving violence as well, but none of these are seen as good actions.

The depiction of war and terrorism is always going to be a delicate task, but one that Homeland handles fairly well.  They never once make a pronouncement that certain actions are justifiable or objectively good: it's really more of a presentation of the world and what happens within it.
4. How does the show deal with the family and traditional family values?
The first time we meet Brody's wife, she is having sex with Brody's best friend (Mike).  Doesn't look good for family.  Turns out, though, that Brody was declared legally dead, and has been missing for 8 years.  Mike had been essentially raising Brody's kids in his absence, and has done a pretty good job with it (aside from the oldest daughter's rampant drug use).  But this could hardly be counted as an affair, since Brody was dead.

The affair does come, though, with CIA agent Carrie.  And that cannot be justified or explained so easily.  Except that she's crazy.

Brody and family are still seen taking a vacation together, playing cards together, and eating dinner together, so there are at times flickers of a family unit.

We see Saul's job getting in the way of his marriage, a young couple finding refuge in each other while living in a foreign land, and we see people fighting to protect the American way.

But there is no indication that the immoral behavior throughout the show is a good thing.
In a week 2011 freshman class, Homeland stands above the rest.  It's not the best show on television by a long shot, but it's also not the worst (which many of 2011's shows were fighting for the title of).  Homeland comes recommended with slight reservations; it's not a family show, but it's also not morally offensive.  And the bottom line is that it is entertaining.


  1. Hey I read your review when it came out, and am just getting to the last DVD of season 1 via Netflix. Thought you might find my Homeland post interesting:

    1. Thanks for coming back. I'm glad you're enjoying the first season, and I will say the second is still worth watching, although there are a couple of "24"esque plot devices that doom its overall quality.