Hey there! Can you believe it? I’ve been promising this review for at least a month now – and here it finally is! My completely untimely thoughts on the first season of Homeland. As usual, it contains SPOILERS and is highly subjective.
Maybe I should at first write about what came before – that is, what my expectations for Homeland were. I was a huge CSI-a-holic (and Miami and New York), but since around 2010, that has markedly cooled down and I’m not as much into crime procedurals anymore. The first time I heard about Homeland was in 2012 when Damian Lewis snatched Jon Hamm’s Emmy for his role as Brody and the series also won the Emmy for the best drama. Naturally, I was intrigued – a series that was better than Mad Men? I should watch this. I had also read bits and pieces about Claire Danes’ performance (who I only remembered as Juliet next to Leonardo Di Caprio). Oh, and the show had Mandy Patinkin who I loved on Criminal Minds. In essence, my expectation were quite high.
When it comes to the question whether they were fulfilled – I’d say not completely.
It took me a while to get into the series. For a thriller about terrorism, its pacing is almost painfully slow. Okay, I’m comparing it to my big fave 24, but I think even CSI had more stuff going on in 45 minutes (is it 45?). The last two episodes are where the action actually sets in, and admittedly I almost gave up before that – which would have been my second time with a Showtime series, I previously did it with The L Word.
Presumably, I wouldn’t have noticed the pacing that much if I had somehow been able to connect with the characters. But they pretty much escaped me:
Carrie – she seemed interesting (as in: a woman that kicks ass), but for a long time I didn’t understand her illness. She says she needs her medication, but then she’s completely fine in the hut by the lake? So she doesn’t really need it? I mean, sure, by the end of the series we see that she does indeed need her pills, but by then I didn’t really care any more. I also found it tiring that no one ever really listens to her theories – okay, sometimes, but it kind of get repetitive, her being rejected by her bosses.
Brody – another character I didn’t really care about. I mean, yes, I understood what he went through and how it changed his attitude to his country etc. But he’s just not a guy I would want to spend time with. He’s neither sympathetic nor unsympathetic, he’s – meh. Which is probably the worst thing you could ever say about a lead in any fictional text… One thing that annoyed me was that he didn’t really need much time to re-adjust himself to life in freedom. Already by episode two he was driving a car again! There is so much talk about veterans facing difficulties after returning and a tortured ex-POW is (almost) perfectly okay? Or is that an effect of his secret mission?
Saul – lives for his work, I get that. But shouldn’t there be more to him? Why did his wife fall in love with him in the first place?
Another thing I didn’t like were the side stories that sort of got too big: the stripper, the terrorist girl, Estes’ plan to have Carrie’s colleague spy on her (did that ever have any consequences?)… I mean, sure, in 24 you always had those everyday Joes who get involved with the major story, but in Homeland it felt like bits and pieces loosely hanging together rather than a tightly knit story.
Last but not least: I found the opening just so annoying. Maybe it’s because I don’t like jazz. I know, it’s probably meant to reflect Carrie’s state of mind, but it’s really tiring to watch it more than just once.
Conclusion: Obviously, I’m pretty disappointed. I might watch season two (if my brother ever gets to finish the DVD set) about which I (again!) heard that it was very good, but I’m not really looking forward to it. To comment on the Emmys: I think Claire Danes’ one was well desevered – she really did a great job playing the psychopathic version of Carrie. As for Damian Lewis – not so sure. He was great in the last episode (for which he got the award), but part of that was also du to the make-up department (as I see it). I still would have given it to Jon Hamm, but then I’m biased… As for best drama – there were better ones in 2012, but this is again my personal opinion (as you know).
Of course, it’s possible that I don’t have the “American soul” required for this drama. I would say that 9/11 had a large impact on my life, but maybe in a different way than had I been living in the US. Maybe our European perspective on the war on terror is different from the US one (the ratings of Homeland on German television were also not really great).