Homeland Review: Star Spangled

HOMELAND: Sunday 19th February, 9pm, C4

The next big, fat American drama import to blast our home-grown variety to smithereens has two Golden Globes to its name and is packed with enough suspense to keep you on the edge of the sofa from now until the end of the 12 part run (without loo breaks).

Written and directed by the men who conceived Jack Bauer and his adrenalin-fuelled escapades, this sophisticated new series still features the same thrusting action but with less shouting, less rolling on the floor and less smashed glass.

Homeland is set several years after U.S. forces retreat from Iraq and opens with the discovery of Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) in a dark hideout. His beard may be straggly and his breath may smell but, god dang it, he’s American and is whisked home to a hero’s welcome. Meanwhile disgraced CIA agent, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), has a hunch that “hero” Brody may have been turned into a flag-burning terrorist by his captors. The race to prove herself is on despite the tsk-tsks and increasingly furrowed brows of her superiors.

British actors Damian Lewis and David Harewood MBE put in sterling performances as Brody and the head of the CIA respectively. But it is Danes who steals the show as the obsessive Carrie, our complicated and confusing protagonist. As a woman who is evidently in love with her job we heartily applaud her reckless abandon in pursuit of the truth in a Baghdad jail. But when she plunges from secret conversations to illicit bugging on American soil, we (along with her bosses) begin to call her judgement into question.

And still Homeland does not relent in challenging its beleaguered audience. A further, but surely not the final, twist in the first installment of this tale is the revelation that Carrie suffers from acute mental problems. Is this all paranoia? Can Carrie prove herself without getting arrested? Is David Harewood supposed to be speaking in a Welsh accent?

If anything, there were too many questions left dangling after last night’s breathless action (Harewood’s accent excluded – it is American). The problem now will be tying up all the frayed ends within the 12 hours allocated.

Tantalising glimpses into Brody’s past as a naked, dangling captive may suggest that he is the rat Mathison suspects him to be. But, with such fine drama pedigree at the helm and such depth reached at the end of the first episode, one suspects that nothing will be straight forward in this drama series. After just one hour this has become unmissable television – and just when we thought Sunday nights were safe.

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