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By Film Team
Creepy bursts of jazz music, obvious parallels to current US foreign policy and a potentially psychopathic ginger? Sunday night viewing doesn’t get much better than Homeland, currently building up towards what’s sure to be an epic finale on Channel 4.
Edgy and unpredictable, the show draws on the familiar territory of the spy drama only to completely subvert it: the CIA may be on a mission to protect the USA from evil terrorists (so far, so typical), but they’re also cold, ruthless PR experts who are more than happy to use the public’s fear of terrorism to cover up their own mistakes. Throughout the series the show has worked hard to move away from standard cultural stereotypes, and the casual coldness of “call him a terrorist” completely throws out any lingering assumptions we might have that this is a case of good America versus bad Muslim terrorists.
The real genius comes in just how far the plot and characters have been de-glamourized: this isn’t a James Bond-style romp, it’s James Bond gone all dark and twisty. The acting in Homeland is simply outstanding, as the characters are presented as human, flawed and all too real. Claire Danes portrays the kick-ass CIA agent Carrie Mathieson with such intensity that it’s easy to get carried away with her intricate theories and rash methods as she veers between brilliance and recklessness. Danes expertly treads the line between intensity and vulnerability as Carrie clearly struggles with that crucial work-life balance- was she sleeping with Brody for information, or because she’d developed feelings for the man she’d so devotedly been stalking? Danes’ perfectly pitched performance means that these two motives are combined in one flawed, but endlessly compelling, character.
As viewers, we experience Carrie’s uncertainty as her search for the truth in a world of lies, hostility and politics is brilliantly evoked. The only thing that’s clear is that Brody isn’t your usual, bog standard ginger villain. We still don’t really know who the principle bad guy is as our perceptions about Brody’s character constantly shift and change, and Homeland is an expert on pulling the rug from under its viewers’ feet right when we least expect it. At the end of the last episode, things were just starting to make sense: Brody’s not the bad guy, turns out Walker is… and then with just a few words, “Tell him its over”, we once again have no idea of what’s going on.
The series’ creeping tension and perpetual uncertainty means that this definitely isn’t a show to turn to if you’re looking for a laugh, and as the story is dragged out over 12 episodes the plot progression can veer on the tortuous. But if you’re looking for the sort of slow-burn, intricately plotted drama that will leave you constantly second-guessing your assumptions and looking over your shoulder, this is the show for you.