Am I the only person in Britain watching Homeland who can’t see what all the fuss is about?
The US drama has brought in impressive ratings for Channel 4 in its Sunday-night slot. My colleagues at Radio Times are smitten. Over in America, it boasts fans as diverse as Lindsay Lohan and President Barack Obama.
“Allow it one episode and you’ll be hooked,” warned RT’s David Butcher of the “smart, shadowy and nuanced” thriller series.
I wasn’t hooked. I was frustrated.
I’d started out with such high hopes for the show. It had a good writing pedigree. Its two leads, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, had turned in mesmerising performances in previous projects. The plot was intriguing (marine Nicholas Brody returns to the United States after being held hostage by al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan for eight years. But is he a hero – or the enemy?).
Maybe my hopes were too high. Because for me, the series never really gelled.
The central implausibility – that a man who’d endured nearly a decade of physical and psychological torture wouldn’t be offered rather more than just a quick, off-screen chat with a psychiatrist – fatally overshadowed the first few episodes. It’s hard to get drawn into a drama when your brain is doing its best Victor Meldrew impersonation – “I don’t BELIEVE it!”
And if that wasn’t enough of an irritation, then there was Danes playing “bipolar”. As CIA analyst Carrie Mathison, she’d supposedly kept her condition a secret from her superiors for years.
Danes, however, wasn’t given the chance to convince the audience, let alone her bosses, she didn’t have a problem – she was hyper from the word go. And what a one-note performance it was: the flick of the hair, the pout, the panicky eyes soon became maddeningly familiar.
I spotted the mid-series plot twist (Brody’s fellow POW, the man he thought he’d murdered, was still alive and planning a political assassination) long before it limped into plain sight. Chuck in some gratuitous female nudity and it all starts to look a little dull.
As I watched, I thought back fondly to the heyday of 24. You remember. Those first few series where, when the hour was up, you were tortured by the realisation that you had to wait a whole week to find out what happened next! I never experienced that feeling with Homeland.
Given all that, you’re probably wondering why I’m still watching. Well, that’s simple. Damian Lewis. He is just as compelling here as he was in Lodge Kerrigan’s 2004 movie, Keane (the performance that reportedly convinced Homeland’s creators they had to cast him). In it, he played a father apparently trying to come to terms with his daughter’s disappearance, but while sympathising with his jittery plight, the audience was continually questioning his motives and his sanity – just as we do in Homeland.
Also, I want to find out who the mole is. My money’s on Estes as the person who slipped Brody’s former guard a razor blade – but I’ll probably be proved wrong. So long as Virgil’s in the clear, though, I’m happy – it’s been a joy to see Due South’s David Marciano wisecracking on my TV screen once more.
Maybe tonight’s episode of Homeland will be the one that makes me a believer. Perhaps it will be a finale so explosive I’ll re-evaluate all that went before. I might even utter the words: “I can’t wait for series two!” Just like with Brody, you’ll have to wait and see…
They are currently shooting the second season in the States and no doubt the majority of people will be aching for more once this series does come to a suitably dramatic conclusion. I guess I’m just disappointed that I shan’t be one of them.
Contributed by Laura Pledger Follow Laura on Twitter