The finale of Homeland attracted 5 million viewers and has received critical acclaim. It was a refreshing change to watch something on Sunday night British television that packed a hefty punch, unlike the usual rose-tinted rubbish that normally attracts large audiences. This really did take your mind off the Monday morning blues.
Originally based on the Israeli series Hatifun (English title: Prisoners of War), Homeland combined brilliant acting with a powerful script. Clare Danes shook off the ghost of Juliet’s ghost and delivered a strong performance, playing the character Carrie Mathison, a CIA officer who becomes embroiled in the compelling story of Nicholas Brody (played by English actor Damien Lewis), a U.S. Marine who was held captive by Al-Qaeda as a prisoner of war for eight long years. Mathison believes that Brody was turned by the enemy and now threatens the United States: a modern Gothic horror that affects us all. Mathison’s task is less about convincing herself and becomes more about convincing those around her who are cynical about her claims.
We are not sure whether to believe Mathison as she suffers from bipolar – which comes to a head in the finale – or Brody, for that matter as has been held in captivity and may have become ‘brainwashed.’
When we learn that Brody has turned to Islam we are not sure whether he has chosen the peaceful religion or the militant form that supports Jihad and threatens innocent lives. We cast judgement on him before we know exactly and then ponder at our own pointing of the finger. When we learn of his true motives we still don’t see him as the enemy as the character has grown and developed before our eyes (and more profoundly and troublingly because he is white and has an American accent). We actually want him to blow up the American politicians in the bunker, making us doubt our own opinions and our own version of ‘reality.’
If Homeland had one criticism it was the ending which left us hanging – even though we now knew Brody’s true intentions. This was a cheap shot at being commissioned for another series. It would have been much more effective for not doing this and after doing such a great job of deconstructing Western culture, it itself fell victim to the way American TV works which is extremely ironic.
I hope the series will not be made into six series as it will severely weaken all that it’s already achieved. Thought provoking, chilling and gripping, Homeland is a breath of fresh air and a triumph. Hopefully British TV will follow suit and realize that the best medicine for a Monday morning is a strong shot of realistic escapism.