Damian Lewis as Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody
In 1959, the film The Manchurian Candidate chilled audiences with the story of an army sergeant programmed to be an unwitting assassin for the Communist party. Judging by its first few episodes, Homeland takes inspiration from this film but contains enough originality and first rate acting to allow us to forgive those similarities.
After being held captive by the Iraqis for eight years and finally rescued, Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) arrives home a hero. However, CIA Officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) has reason to believe Brody is not all he seems, that he has been “turned” by the Iraqis and his imprisonment and subsequent rescue were part of a devious plot to plant him in the States as an Iraqi operative.
Mathison, who has some psychological issues she must keep hidden from her employers, becomes obsessed with proving her theories, going so far as to plant hidden cameras in Brody’s home without the CIA’s knowledge. Mathison's only true ally is Saul (Mandy Patinkin), a veteran CIA division chief who is also her mentor and boss. After discovering her subterfuge he manages to buy her time so she can attempt to get the information she needs.
Meanwhile, Brody’s wife and kids are doing their best to come to grips with this upheaval in their lives. It’s difficult for all of them, especially his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) who, having long ago given Brody up for dead, became seriously involved with Brody’s close friend Captain Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff), a fact Brody knows nothing about.
Brody’s unsettling and occasionally violent flashbacks give us a good idea of the torment he experienced while imprisoned. They also give credence to Mathison’s growing suspicions of his guilt.
The show is fast paced and relevant, and the storytelling never lags. Lewis, who portrayed a different sort of military hero in Band of Brothers, has his work cut out for him in this tale of psychological horror and its aftermath. Danes and Patinkin are also impressive in roles that showcase their formidable talents.
It’s no surprise that this is Howard Gordon’s baby. A supervising producer of The X-Files and show-runner and executive producer of 24, he is a pro at creating chilling stories that get under your skin. Also involved as an executive producer is Michael Cuesta, who directed and produced Dexter, another Showtime gem.
With hit shows like Dexter and Boardwalk Empire airing the same night, it might be easy to overlook newbie Homeland, but make sure you don’t. Mark your calendar, set your DVR, tie a string around your finger. Homeland is too good to miss.
Watch the premiere episode here:
Homeland airs on Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime.