|Homeland - "Pilot"||2 out of 2 users found this review helpful.|
Homeland has a great pilot, certainly the best of this current fall season. It’s fantastic at slowly developing its characters without resorting to info dumps or clunky exposition and also does the hard work of taking them to places that are not pleasant to follow without making them repellant. Its narrative is well paced and tightly structured to give the viewer exactly what they need by the end of the pilot story-wise without forgetting to focus on the characters involved. The only potential stumbling block now seems to be the fact that Homeland’s premise doesn’t particularly lend itself to the long term, a season or two most certainly, but beyond that it might start to hit some issues. That’s compounded by the fact that it’s on Showtime, a network that isn’t shy about keeping shows on the air well past their prime if they’re still pulling in ratings, yes that means you Dexter and Weeds, but luckily that’s a problem for another day.
The story begins with Claire Danes’s CIA analyst Carrie Mathison rushing against time to stop the Iraqi government from executing a terrorist who claims to have information about an impending attack on US soil. She’s shut out by her boss David Estes, but bribes a guard to get inside the prison and brokers a deal to protect the terrorist’s family if he’ll give up what he knows, and he consents, telling Carrie that an American POW has been turned by an Al-Qaeda leader named Abu Nazir. This is a strong early sequence, particularly when Carrie refuses to leave without the information even though the prison guards catch her. It causes an international incident, as we later learn, and also does major damage to Carrie’s career. The moment nicely establishes how dogged and uncaring Carrie is when it comes to her work, willing to sacrifice others and risk anything if it furthers her goals, and that it does so without having to resort to someone saying as much is impressive.
Cut to ten months later and Carrie’s no longer working in Iraq, she’s in Washington DC away from all her contacts and resources half a world away. She perks up though when the unexpected occurs, a marine is recovered after he’s been missing for eight years. Surprised to know there even was a captured POW still in Iraq, she’s determined to figure out if Damian Lewis’s Nicholas Brody is the man she was warned about. That’s where the pilot kicks off from, following Carrie and Brody as they return to their former lives, Carrie descending back into her obsessive, dangerous need to protect the US and Brody to his family.
The pilot has a fantastic way of dealing with Brody’s family, comprised of Morena Baccarin as his wife Jessica, son Chris played by Jackson Pace, and Morgan Saylor as his daughter Dana. Many of the conflicts the family is dealing with are as old as family drama gets, the rebellious daughter, the son who can barely remember his own father, and a wife that is having a new relationship with her husband’s friend. The show doesn’t fall into cliché in depicting these conflicts though; Morgan Saylor is especially strong in her portrayal of Dana. Saylor’s Dana is a strong, assured girl who is kicking back against her mother most likely because that’s what teens do, but she’s also self-possessed in an ingratiating way. Her and her brother’s quick conversation about whether Chris even remembers his father is beautifully underplayed as Chris simply admits that he really doesn’t. Dana’s not all reserved though and she beautifully carries across the emotion of finally seeing her father again when the family is reunited and she meekly butts into her parents’ reunion with a tentative, “Dad?” It nicely shows the real person underneath the posturing and paints a rounded picture of her character in a minimum of time.
Carrie is developed nicely as well, in an early scene there’s a moment where another show might choose to dump all of her checkered history on us as one of the brothers she has hired to place bugs in the Brody household asks the other what kind of person they’re working for. The show pulls back though, merely telling us that she’s, “intense.” It’s smart because the rest of the pilot fills in just enough that we really don’t need to know every last detail because the picture starts to fill itself in organically. The revelation that Carrie’s on anti-psychotics, that she had an affair with her boss David which cost him his marriage, her cruel and transparent attempt to manipulate her mentor Saul, played ably by Mandy Patinkin, and the reveal that the ring we see early in the pilot isn’t a symbol of an earlier failed relationship, not that we know of at least, but rather a way to screen out men who might want a relationship with her when she goes trolling for company. Every character detail emerges during conversations where they would naturally emerge or from story developments that relate directly back to Carrie’s need to catch Brody, it’s elegant writing that goes a long way to keep the tension high and the plot moving along.
The conflict the series is building is similarly well constructed. It’s smart enough to make Carrie’s need to right what she sees as her own personal mistake, not catching 9/11 in time, seem as crazy as it might. Carrie’s drive isn’t softened over the course of the pilot, even when we find out for certain that Brody has been compromised to some degree. He’s sending out signals via hand motions whenever he’s on TV and the viewer learns that he beat his fellow captive and marine to death due to Nazir’s influence. The extent to which he has been compromised isn’t explored though, and it seems safe to say that his struggle between what he’s been programmed to do and the life he once had will loom large in Brody’s story. Both Carrie and Brody are damaged people who have the potential for destruction within them, by contrasting Carrie’s destructive tendencies in her relationships with Brody’s possibility for actual destruction the show neatly and effectively muddies the waters. It’s hard to know just who to root for when the two leads are a returned war hero who has been subjected to horrific tortures that may have turned him against his country and a woman so laser focused on what she thinks is right that she’ll betray her only friend to achieve her own ends. Brody may have been turned into a sociopath, but the more we learn about Carrie the more it seems like she always was one.
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|Date of 1st Airing||Oct. 2, 2011|
|Date of Last Airing|
|Original Air Day||Sunday|
|Original Air Time||10|
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