TV Review Catch-Up: Homeland

Having covered the UK premiere of American smash hit drama Homeland previously here on RhettMedia (available here: https://rhettmedia.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/tv-review-homeland/), it seems appropriate to follow up on how the show is progressing. After storming the Golden Globes in America and receiving an absolutely unmissable amount of advertising and media hype, the premiere on a mid-February Sunday night was met with a strong opening rating and all signs pointed towards the series continuing its success and maintaining an audience in a new market where it is sometimes difficult to keep hold of viewers due to local competition. Despite my projections that the time slot would shift on a weekly basis coming to light, the show has apparently been upholding its lofty opening ratings and even improving them since the pilot. Having been within the top four watched programmes for broadcaster Channel 4 each week since debuting (according to the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board’s website at http://www.barb.co.uk), Homeland is proving to be an unmitigated success in a situation where shows of parity in substance and quality often flounder.

The performance of the show ratings-wise has clearly been heightened immensely as a result of the publicity campaign that preceded the show, yet it is easy to see just why the show has this immaculate reputation at present. With episode four Semper I having just aired on Sunday, Homeland is well and truly hitting its stride with some excellent examples of drama and imagery that elevate the show greatly. The fourth episode opens with Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison character watching the brilliant Damian Lewis’ Nicholas Brody character on CCTV as she spies on the ex-navy man for the definitive sign that he has been turned after eight years in a PoW camp and poses an imminent threat to national security.

This has been a trend of the show, wherein Mathison has become almost perversely obsessed with watching the stream of Brody’s life to the point of numbing madness, which ultimately leads to something I’ll get to later in this article, but for the purpose of this scene is an excellent bit of television as Carrie begins succinctly narrating the footage of Brody getting ready for a televised speech as if she actually knows the man, and her ongoing big brother-esque surveillance acts as a damning indictment on this compulsive generation of CCTV and personal monitoring. The scene is absorbing and darkly humorous in its startlingly accurate depiction of the culture we’ve found ourselves in of cameras and monitors marking every street corner and is the type of intelligent observation that is making Homeland stand out.

On top of this, the tone is perversely intense, bristling with taut dialogue where you’re kept on your toes throughout in anticipating the reactions of certain characters to their surroundings. No character perpetuates this feeling moreso than the centric Nicholas Brody, whose complexities are utterly fascinating for the purpose of a television series. Throughout the first four episodes, there have been two distinctive sides of Brody, the public and the private face of the all-American hero and the emotionally-wounded and broken potential traitor respectively. It’s Lewis’ exemplary control of character that enabled such impressive duality in personality, yet what really sets the performance apart is how much the drama is driven behind the enigma of what has happened and what is happening in the mind of Sergeant Nicholas Brody. Every time Lewis appears on screen as the damaged Brody, there is an air of unease that rises out of the blatant understanding that it is impossible to predict which side of Brody will be present, and the uncertainty of what is running through his mind makes him utterly concerning in his unpredictability.

The show hints that Brody will snap and shoot his friend at a party for sleeping with his wife while he was away before revealing a gun shot heard was in relation to Brody killing an intruding deer that was mentioned earlier in the episode for ruining his wife’s flowers in the garden. The reveal is predictable, insofar as it was obvious that Brody was going to shoot the deer rather than his friend and is one of the few moments worthy of groaning at for its utter transparency, but is saved by a really good argument scene between Brody and his wife, played by Morena Baccarin who really stood out this episode after drifting through the first three episodes. In this moment though, it’s the lack of clarity and the unknown state of Brody’s mind and intentions that drive the show and while this particular moment was poorly executed, Lewis’ scenes as the sergeant have been excellent in their nuances.

These are all positive things that have helped the show create a niche and maintain a steady, impressive set of ratings thus far, but it can’t help but be mentioned as to how the narrative stretches through the eight episodes that constitute the rest of the season. Episode three in particular felt like an empty episode focusing on the fairly uninteresting family drama in Brody’s home surrounding the parental relationships with the daughter and concluded with the murder of a civilian agent under Carrie’s employ which she seemed inherently upset about for failing to protect at the end of the episode but was entirely forgotten as a non-issue for this week’s instalment. In this sense, the show obviously has to be episodic like any other TV show, yet I get the feeling that some episodes may drag the overall quality of the show down in the sense that nothing much exciting or especially important will happen until the last few episodes. A slow burn in a television drama is fantastic, but pacing is absolutely key – there’s only so long Brody can be doing unpredictable things before the audience grows tired and need to see him actually do something. Obviously it is still very early days for the show with it being intriguing to see how it continues to develop on screen, and perhaps more importantly, just whether or not it can continue to maintain such an impressive rating score as ultimately that is what is most vital to the success of a show like Homeland.

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~ by jrhett on March 13, 2012.

One Response to “TV Review Catch-Up: Homeland”

  1. […] that the show had become. I wrote in a review of the fourth episode Semper I (available here: https://rhettmedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/tv-review-catch-up-homeland/) that the show gave me the feeling that ‘some episodes may drag the overall quality of the show […]

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