Homeland: Series 1 – Midway Review

Last Sunday, Channel 4 hit halfway in season 1 of Homeland, the hit US drama from Showtime about a marine who returns from eight years captivity in Syria, amid CIA concern that he’s been “turned” by his terrorist jailers.

That’s the premise, as introduced in the first episode, and after six weeks, we’re still there. So, brilliantly executed suspense, or running on a treadmill?

The central mystery, suspicious CIA analyst Carrie Bradshaw (Claire Danes, here resembling a more talented Kirsten Dunst) and her dogged insistence that Brody (Damian Lewis, Englishman pretending to be American) must be a traitor, could easily get wearing. We’re only halfway, so there’s plenty of time, but so far, they're steering around that risk with some skill.

Mostly because every week brings a new complication, most recently Carrie’s ill-advised drunken car encounter with her subject. Which complicates her professional life massively, and we don’t even know if she engineered it to trap Brody on a later polygraph test. Yet another tiny-yet-massive moment beautifully played, by the way.

There are other storylines to stop that one wilting under our glare. Mandy Pantinkin’s Saul is by far the best other element, the kind of warm father figure that every troubled outsider needs, although they seem to be implying he might be a mole. Hopefully not, as that’d be like discovering Santa explodes toddlers, but at least I’m invested.

I’m not as convinced by Terrorist Aileen on the run; it’s nudging into obvious action movie territory, rather than the subtler provinces Homeland has been occupying. Also, it would be nice if Estes was less of a generic disapproving boss, but they only have so much space. Maybe he’ll get his moment soon.

But halfway through, Homeland is living up to its promise, making the viewer feel like they’re witnessing a slowly unfolding conspiracy. As long as they can keep this up for another few episodes and deliver a killer ending, this could be a great season of TV. So not much left to do, then.

Homeland airs on Channel 4 at 9PM on Sundays, more information on the official Channel 4 site, and the last few episodes are available on 4oD.

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