This is the first of several essays I will be posting about Homeland. The two posts about Season 1 were written before watching season two. These essays are full of spoilers. You have been warned.
A List of Things About Homeland
- Putting aside politics and plot, the first season of Homeland is a masterpiece of structure and plotting. It is very rare that I find myself enjoying thrillers or mysteries, even when Homeland tends to do a thing I hate in television. In the last few moments an episode, there is a big reveal or twist. It is one of those things TV programs would do in order to get people to come back for the next episode. But Homeland is able to pull off those moments organically within the pacing of the episode. Homeland has so effectively used the tropes of a thriller that the last-moment-twist does not seem like a crutch. This is key because like 24, Homeland must ramp op the tension each episode in order for the show to work. It is the mystery that makes it not only an interesting show to watch, but what makes it great entertainment art.
- There is a moment in one of the late episodes when Mandy Patinkin’s Saul figure starts to see the pattern of Abu Nazir’s actions. There is a slight push in as Saul studies Carrie’s research. It’s a small, simple thing but it is in that moment of realization that the audience knows that Carrie is not crazy. Top notch acting.
- While we are talking about acting, Claire Danes’s and Damian Lewis’s performances in the final episode is nothing short of astounding. It is no wonder they won all of the awards.
- I know several people who are strongly critical of the shows politics; describing it as a liberal polemical counter to 24. While I can see that reading of the show, the ideology and politics of both shows are far more complex then this argument lets on. The "polemic argument" is driven by two plot points. First is the sheer
hawkishness of Vice President William Walden. He could have easily been a VP on 24. At one point even saying, “it doesn’t matter why terrorists do what they do because they are terrorists” . Second, is the anti-drone war politics. The use of drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and North Africa has been one of the liberal-left’s biggest criticisms of the Obama administration. Both are valid arguments. Walden is cartoonish in his actions; CIA Chief Estes’ is the worst sort of political climber. But the use of drones-as-motivation goes a long way in demystifying terrorism and The Terrorist as a modern character type.