TV Review: Homeland

Homeland is another new TV drama series from the states that centres around a US Marine, named Nick Brody, who served in Iraq way back when the so called ‘war on terror’ was instigated by Mr Bush. Homeland’s premise is innovative and somewhat a breath of fresh air in terms of settings – I don’t know of any other TV show that focuses on a soldier who served in Iraq.

What attracted me to this series, amongst the dozens of new TV shows that seem to come out of America, is that Nick Brody is played by Damien Lewis. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Lewis, you definitely haven’t seen Band of Brothers. I know this is a review about Homeland, but let me tell you that you’re missing out big time if you haven’t seen the 10 part mini-series directed by Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, Da Vinci Code, Castaway, The Terminal, and other greats) and Steven Speilberg. Band of Brothers is probably the BEST thing I have ever seen on TV.

It was Lewis’ portrayal of Major Richard Winters from BoB that has since been a magnet for all his other work. On the whole, Lewis’ work is nothing too great apart from when Lewis played a wrongly convicted cop in a short-lived TV show called ‘Life’ a few years back, and although that had a lot of promise, the TV network cancelled it due to poor ratings.

Fast forward a little while, and Lewis is back playing yet another American soldier in Homeland, but this time set in the present day. Back to the whole Iraq thing then… Brody, whilst touring Iraq, was captured as a PoW (Prisoner of War) to the terrorist organisation that work over in that part of the world. He was thought KIA (Killed in Action) and went unheard of for 8 years.

Then in 2011, during a raid on a bunch of homes or whatever in Iraq, Brody gets discovered in a locked room; hair and beard grossly unkept. Lucky to have not been shot on sight (we know the Americans are a bit trigger happy COUGH friendly fire), he proclaims he’s an American. So he gets put on a plane and sent back to the states, where he meets his family and eventually parades around telling his story to new recruits, becoming somewhat of a war hero.

OK so that’s the gist of it, so far not that interesting, but it gets better. This is where I introduce Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes, Kate Brewster from Terminator 3 and the ‘star’ from Stardust) who is a CIA agent. Whilst working in the field in Iraq, Carrie is told that an American soldier has been ‘turned’ by terrorist forces and is now working against the West. At the time, she knew of no PoW’s, but when Brody emerges, she gets her knickers in a twist (sorry, that sounded sexist didn’t it?) and goes in all guns blazing (there you go, that balances things) trying to catch Brody out.

The plot thickens… and this is where the audience is dragged along with the storyline. Brody himself has trouble adjusting to normal life, that and the fact that his best mate has been shagging his (very good-looking) wife. As well as suffering from flashbacks and showing obvious signs of mental disturbance (he was tortured whilst in Iraq), he’s converted to Islam. Yep that’s right, Homeland has a few snippets of Brody speaking Arabic and reciting verses from the Quran – even if it is the worst effort ever.

That’s the set up. Sounds great doesn’t it? Homeland basically follows Carrie and Brody and keeps the audience guessing as to what really happened over in Iraq and whether or not Brody is a double-agent. And as interesting as this sounds, as innovative the idea, as good as the actors are, I haven’t fallen in love with the TV series…

I’m a massive film and TV buff, so anything that has the ingredients of success, I stick to like shit on a blanket. But somehow, Homeland has failed to capture that essence – even if it has won a few awards here and there (Golden Globes for Best Drama Series, Best Actor and Best Actress for example).

My reasons are simple… it’s another Heroes. The premise and plot are great but I know it’s going to get dragged out like hell so that the media companies can rinse it dry and suck all the money they can out of it. Not much happens in an episode, and you’d be lucky to get a new snippet of information in the last 5 minutes of each show where the story progresses.

The opening credits are as dull as fuck and seem to go on for absolutely ages – just an observation. Then before any new material starts, you get a mahooosive recap of the story so far. To top it off, there’s a lot of useless scenes of people sitting around or shagging for no apparent reason – I can’t help but think someone, somewhere has decided to get as much tit action in so that us men keep tuned in. The sad fact is that I don’t watch TV drama’s for their sex scenes…

Overall, my initial excitement is short-lived. I feel a sense of lost potential with Homeland, the one that everyone experienced with Heroes. What seems to be a great plot will be ruined by a limited storyline (eventually, you’ll find out if Brody is a double-agent or not and then where does the story go?) and slow pace. The side line stories where the CIA try to catch terrorists are not that exciting and I’d say are slightly predictable. I wouldn’t tell you it’s not worth watching, give the pilot a go at least, but I can’t see myself tuning in every week for more than 2 series or so. I predict that Homeland, within 2 or 3 years, much like Lewis’ other TV show Life, will be given the chop by the TV execs because it’ll lose it’s audience the longer it plays out. As harsh as that is, I really hope I’m wrong.