49. Homeland: Season 1 (2011)

It’s Got: Brody keeping us guessing, Saul asking Carrie what the fuck she’s doing, Claire Danes doing that thing with her neck.

Subtlety is a tool in the arsenal of 24 showrunner, Howard Gordon. Who knew? But subtly he does indeed bring to Homeland. The first year, anyway. After that, the show turns into a season of 24, and then it turns into a REALLY BAD season of 24 (at least from what I’ve seen, I didn’t make it to the end of Season 3).

Season 1, at least, has complexity and a clear eyed outlook. The show doesn’t really go for grand, preachy statements regarding the war on terror. Rather, it simply shows that there’s blame to go around, and there are real three dimensional humans with their own motives on all sides. Who’s right, who’s wrong, who ought to be held responsible for their actions and to what degree, Homeland leaves it all up to you.

That extends to the smaller character stories in Season 1 as well, which involve a P.O.W. (Nicholas Brody, played by Damian Lewis) being brought home and a CIA operations expert (Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes) who believes he might have been turned. Carrie is extremely tenacious and has a tremendous eye for detail. But she deals with being bipolar, faces doubt from her colleagues, and suffers realistic consequences as a result of her pursuit. Unlike in most shows like this, you as a viewer can’t be sure if her suspicions are going to be validated.

Damien Lewis plays a character who, at least initially, seems like Dick Winters transplanted to the 21st century. We innately like and trust Brody even if we’ve never seen Band of Brothers, and the storyline takes advantage of that trust. The Brody family face very real struggles, as they find out they can’t pick up where they left off. I don’t know if the drama in this story has much of a shelf life beyond the first season, but it works wonderfully here.

Homeland Season 1 has great acting, it gives you a lot to think about, it’s a simmering thriller, and the payoffs build slowly and are always worth the wait.

If I Had to Nitpick…: Mandy Patinkin is great, but I got a bit tired of the subplot about his wife growing distant. Nothing horrible, really, but everything else was so much more interesting.

Notable Episodes: Gotta single out either end of the season. The Pilot was one of the most confident I’ve ever seen. There were no growing pains at all, it was like the first hour of a really great movie. And the finale, “Marine One,” I don’t think I’ve ever felt so helpless watching a TV show. There was some serious shit unfolding, Carrie was barely in a position to do anything about it, and all you could really do was watch it play out.

#50 | THE LIST | #48

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