TV Rewind | Homeland: Claire Danes at her vulnerable best

Starring Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin and Damien Lewis, Homeland lasted for eight seasons.

America loves saving the world, especially in the post-9/11 world where they have taken it upon themselves to fight everyone, at least in fiction, to save the sanctity of humanity, which apparently exists only in America. The saviours in these stories were first fighting only on the basis of racial profiling (most seasons of 24), but later got a bit nuanced with the Showtime series Homeland.

Based on an Israeli series named Hatufim, Homeland starred Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin and Damien Lewis and lasted for eight seasons. Created by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, Homeland was a pioneer in its genre as it started the conversation of how America’s war on terror wasn’t the answer to solving the world’s terrorism problems. Despite receiving a lot of criticism for being Islamophobic and prejudiced towards certain communities, Homeland was a celebrated show through most of its run.

What is Homeland all about?

Homeland started off as an intelligence drama where a soldier, Nicholas Brody (Lewis), who has been missing in action for a few years, returns to the US and is feted as a war hero. But, in fact, he has actually turned to the other side and is now working with Al-Qaeda. CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Danes) is on to him but can’t really prove her suspicion but at the same time, gradually falls in love with him.

The story of Homeland largely revolved around Carrie and Brody for the first three seasons of the show but later diversified into various other missions that Carrie undertook in Berlin, Afghanistan, Russia, even after leaving the CIA.

For fans of the genre, this was the series that they had been craving for ever since the high-action drama days of Jack Bauer came to an end.

The Brody days

The first three seasons of Homeland were hands down the best days of the show, even though it continued for five more. The premise here followed a spy who had been turned by the enemies and was now trying to pull off a terrorist bombing.

Nicholas Brody, played by Damien Lewis, was a complicated man who had returned to his wife and kids after years, while hiding his true identity of being a terrorist who had also converted his religion. The relationship between Brody and Carrie started off as cold and calculated – with her on his tail, and him trying to bomb the CIA, but across the first two seasons, it was evident that the two had a weird symbiotic relationship.

The Season 2 finale at Langley was some of the best television that Homeland could ever offer, which is why the initial days of Season 3 could not generate as much interest.

Brody’s eventual exit in Season 3, and his love story with Carrie was starting to get overwhelming by the time she got pregnant. And as soon as Brody exited the show, it was clear that the show was desperately looking for a new anchor.

The Carrie-Saul dynamic

Homeland heavily depended on the relationship dynamic shared by Carrie (Danes) and Saul (Patinkin). Their presence gave the show its two polarising hero-figures who both wanted to solve a problem but chose to go about it in different ways. With Carrie’s mental health struggles, which got aggravated in the post-Brody era, Saul acted like a father-figure and in other professional aspects, he was like a mentor.

Carrie and Saul’s relationship is tested in almost all of the seasons but the finale where we realise that they will always have each other’s back was a truly fitting send-off to the eight-year saga.

The bad days of Homeland

Soon after Brody’s public hanging in Iran in Season 3, the show started to lose its footing. While the beginning of Season 3 was a little shaky, the show got back into its groove as soon as we learnt about Brody’s whereabouts. But this wasn’t possible for the show’s fourth season.

The fifth season, where Carrie was in Berlin and not an intelligence officer anymore, was intriguing at first but it was hard to sustain interest in a show that was a diluted version of itself by this point. Season 6 followed the Presidential election and was inspired by the real-life 2016 US election.

By this time, the show started to spend a significant amount of time in establishing new characters, new storylines for Carrie and Saul in a way that made Homeland look like a different series altogether.

The impressive bits of Homeland

Even though Homeland lost a good chunk of its audience after Brody’s exit, the show was still wonderfully written. With Carrie’s bipolar story arc and Claire playing it deftly, the show had her deliver applause-worthy performances over and over again. The episode where she hallucinated Brody was heart-wrenching to watch and the one where she gets Saul released after a kidnapping displayed her strength in full glory.

The final season

Even though Homeland was not the show that was a must-watch at this point, the show pulled out all the stops for its last season and fittingly enough, the show got its energy back with Brody’s spirit. The finale of the series drew comparisons between Brody and Carrie’s condition and it was evident that the show had matured a lot in the past nine years.

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Homeland is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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