Duty Calls

This is my review of Homeland – Season 1 [DVD].

Homeland is based on a compelling scenario. Marine Sergeant Brody (Damian Lewis complete with no doubt convincing American accent), for eight years presumed missing in action in Iraq, is discovered imprisoned in the compound of Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Abu Nasir, and returns to a hero's welcome in the States. Darker currents soon emerge. Desperate to show loyalty, his wife seeks to hide that she was on the brink of marrying his former best friend. Brody is also haunted by memories of having been forced to kill his fellow prisoner and best friend Walker, as the price of his own survival. To cap it all, working on a warning from an informer, driven CIA operations officer Carrie Mathison is convinced that Brody has been "turned" and only allowed to resume his old life in order to undertake some act of terrorism or betrayal. She is prepared to go to any lengths to prove her case, even bugging his house illegally with private cameras – but these do not reveal what is afoot in his garage. Also, Carrie's severe bi-polar disorder (the portrayal of which may irritate some sufferers) undermines her credibility.

In this slow-building but ultimately gripping drama, you are left guessing to the last episode what Brody's true intentions are, and whether and how he will carry them out. There are fine performances from all the major actors, in clearly defined and well-developed roles.

Most remarkable is the fact that this drama, although made in the States, appears anti-war and does not hold back in portraying a corrupt Government and security forces, violating human rights and trying to conceal the evidence for their own ends. Terrorists such as Abu Nasir are by contrast portrayed with a degree of understanding. It is not a simple case of enlightened western world right versus Islamic wrong, or of the good guy winning out in the end against the odds, as is often the case with American drama. Just as some of the characters may have been subverted, the viewer may for an instant understand the justice of the "wrong" cause. Relationships, such as Brody's attempts to reconnect with his children after eight years, are handled realistically without too much sentimentality.

The ending leaves the way open for a fresh series, which may be good for commerce, but not art, since it is usually best to be left wanting more of a drama. In this case, there are just enough intriguing loose ends to "get away" with one more series.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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