Homeland: Season 1 – Final Review

The final episode of Homeland aired on Channel 4 last night, and for much of the season, including a mid-way review for this very site, I’ve been saying cautiously that a lot of how we look back on this season will depend on how it ends.

Well, it’s over now, so how did it go? Will I be forced to jump off the fence and have an opinion? Let’s find out! (Inevitably such a piece will contain spoilers, so be warned.)

Homeland has quickly carved out a niche as a well-characterised, intelligent espionage thriller, a thinking person’s 24. A decent serving of gung-ho spy action, but coupled with a more nuanced view of who the “good guys” and “bad guys” might be. And right up to the end, it kept the twists and turns coming.

But, and this is the mark of a good surprise espionage show, there were some unexpected developments, a few really clever reveals like the true nature of Abu Nasir’s plan, but nothing which felt like it had come out of nowhere. All the major decisions made by characters, especially Carrie and Brody’s big moments, felt very much in character and established.

Valid criticisms: Nasir stands out as a one-dimensional terrorist villain, in a show where everyone else is nuanced and well-drawn. It looks like he’ll be around a bit longer, so hopefully more development will follow. And yes, the finale did leave a lot of questions unanswered, but with a second season to come, it always seemed a stretch that they’d let one of the main characters blow his own head off.

And I am curious where they go next. Carrie is now out of the CIA, Brody a confirmed terrorist sympathiser, surely new places must follow? Brody might be lying to Nasir to buy time, so they could stretch out the plot about his allegiance even longer, but I’d rather see them take off in new directions like the good TV shows do.

But even if next year does become a hollow repeat, that doesn’t change the fact that this first season of Homeland has been excellent. Careful pacing of a single mystery, thoughtful character work, restrained acting. Yes, it’s a terrorism-based espionage show, but it’s good enough that, unless you really hate them, it’s worth taking the time. Recommended, now with finale validation.

More information on Homeland available on the official Channel 4 site, the last few episodes are available on 4OD.

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