If throwing curveballs was an Olympic sport, the writers of Homeland would be assured a place at the very top of the medalist’s podium this summer. For weeks the drama has kept us gripped; teasing us with titbits of information, toying with our minds until we feel a bit like the troubled heroine Carrie Mathieson during one of her manic episodes.
In the beginning it was just a question of figuring out if former POW Sergeant Brody had been turned during his period in Al-Qaeda captivity, returning home to carryout a terrorist attack under the mindful eye of Abu Nasir. But other possibilities soon infiltrated our minds; the rich-girl-turned-extremist-supporter, powerful men with diplomatic licence plates and, of course, the surprising resurrection of Tom Walker. But it was the moment that I started to entertain Saul as a suspect that I realised that Homeland had succeeded where so many others had failed. The paranoia was now in my head, and I was left questioning everyone and trusting no-one.
Amidst our angst over who sits on which side of the fence, viewers have been left with a conundrum. We wanted to place our faith in bi-polar suffering Carrie and her frenzied approach, but it became a particularly tough feat after she started sleeping with the enemy – quite literally. Claire Danes has shone as the mentally unbalanced CIA spy, showing her to be both vulnerable and yet mercurial in the same stroke. The scene where Carrie spent time preparing for Brody’s imminent arrival at her flat, only to then be told by the marine to keep her mouth shut about their affair, was particularly heart-rending. But as she races around Langley becoming all the more personally desperate, it seems likely that Carrie is nothing short of a ticking time-bomb herself.
Perhaps it is just that remarkable depth of character development that has set Homeland apart and kept us watching week after week. There have been moments where we have been kept waiting, often episodes have been padded out with a lot of ‘family time’ at the Brody’s house, but the fact remains that this American drama has captivated us with both its psychologically troubled heroine Carrie and its many antiheroes. There – I’ve said it. Not a single villain has been unearthed as a dark, twisted extremist out to bomb everyone in the Western World. The seed out of which their hatred for America has grown is explained rationally, and never more convincingly than in the case of Terror Lord Abu Nasir, whose son Isa was killed by an American drone that has since been covered up by none other than the CIA themselves.
It is exactly this representation of both the Western World and the enraged Middle East that has ultimately shown Homeland to be brave. It has boldly tackled a subject matter very sensitive to it’s audience, showing the nature of each side’s convictions, and the end result is nothing short of enthralling. It considers its viewers intelligent, capable of solving their own puzzles and for that reason has catapulted them week after week into ambiguity – pushing them to reconsider their own judgements. Fundamentally, it has dared to present America’s relationship with terrorism as cyclical rather than just a one way street. My only concern is that as we head into the final episodes, knowing that a second series is already in the pipeline, how far can the writers continue beyond this.