Five Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Homeland

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“Hi, honey! Hi, kids! I was missing for 8 years and you thought I was dead! But guess what? I’m baaaaack.”


I have to admit…I came around to it reluctantly.  The premise seemed intriguingly simple enough – a CIA agent named Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) believes a recently rescued POW named Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) has been turned by Al Qaeda and begins 24/7 surveillance of his return home against the orders of the agency and against the sentimental tide of a nation that views him as a hero.  The first episode was okay…but there were hints of things that made me press on, and slowly but surely (and now, 9 episodes in, the pace is breathtaking) – I got hooked. 

I try to tell my friends and co-workers about it.  “Hey,” I say, “Are you watching that new show Homeland?  It’s like 24 meets My So-Called Life meets The Truman Show.  Yeah, it’s pretty good.”  And they look at me befuddled.  But it’s more than pretty good…it’s great.  And it’s more than just that reference-fueled sound-bite. 

Dare I say it’s a show like no other – and here are Five Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Homeland.

If you are new to the show or a faithful viewer still trying to catch up…read with caution…some minor spoilers abound below.

1.  Carrie Mathison is the most interesting character on TV right now and possibly the most dynamic female character ever to appear on the small screen.  She’s amazing at what she does, but she’s also quite literally batshit-insane.  She pilfers mood stabilizers from her sympathetic nurse sister because she has to keep her personality disorder a secret from the CIA or they wouldn’t let her work in the field.  She’s a cunning analyst but a loose cannon.  She disproves the idea that female characters have to be either an icy domineering career woman or an emotionally unstable wreck.  Carrie Mathis is both – and she wouldn’t be as driven as she is to thwart the next terrorist attack on American soil if she wasn’t both of these things.  It’s what makes her smart enough to follow her gut-instincts and reckless enough to do things no sane person in her position would do to get at the truth.  And Claire Danes plays her to perfection.  I had a bit of a crush on her from her My So-Called Life days when I wished my high school had an Angela Chase, and she’s an actress who I’ve now fallen in love with through Homeland.  Her quizzical stares, her girlish laugh, her cock-eyed smile, her blond hair and that look of determination mixed with “I might have missed my meds today” – she’s a thing of beauty and wonder.  And she’s scary as hell.

“I dunno, I was kinda thinkin’ of bringin’ sexy back to the CIA, ya know?”

2.  The show refuses to let you rest on your laurels, and I have no idea how the season will end.  Just when you think you have it all figured out – you’re thrown a loop.  There’s mystery and suspense and carefully placed revelations about characters and motivations.  The show has guts and isn’t afraid to show its cards early – but never all the cards, right?  After the first few episodes, I thought Carrie would be stuck electronically spying on Brody for the entire season…but no, they changed that up before it even had a chance to get stale and they instantly had to find new, daring ways for Carrie to infiltrate Brody’s life.  The ways relationships form among the characters are startling, but they fit based on what we learn about these people.  Just as we begin to feel like we know a lot about these characters, something else is revealed that throws a wrench in our view of them.  Who would’ve thought we would’ve learned the truth about who was turned so soon?  But was it the whole truth?  If the show proves anything…it’s that there’s no so such thing as the whole truth, motivations are a tricky thing, you can be made to feel empathy for anyone and there’s no screw that can’t be turned tighter.

3.  It took me awhile to realize – but the show gives you the giddy (and sometimes stomach-dropping) pleasure that you’re watching “24 – Behind the Scenes.”  Homeland is the days, weeks, months and years that build up to that shrieking moment – that singular terrorist attack or assassination attempt.  24 was just that one day – that single event/moment.  Homeland is all the rich complexity that builds up to it – and it’s a frightfully entertaining (and seemingly more realistic) thing.  There’s certainly that familiar feeling of a ticking clock and a time bomb about to go off on Homeland – but there’s no simple path to that point and there are countless emotional explosions in the lives of the people involved that make for high drama.  In 24 you would’ve never witnessed this level of character development and intimate insight.  In many ways it was all action, while Homeland is all suspense because you hold out hope that Carrie can prevent this from reaching that point where it becomes a 24-style disaster scenario.  All hell could break loose – but not yet…and that’s the genius of Homeland.

4.  Homeland is the best 1-hour drama with “Home” in the title since Homefront – and in some ways the shows aren’t that dissimilar.  Homefront attempted, in nighttime soap-opera fashion, to give us a nostalgic glimpse into what it was like for soldiers coming home from WWII and their families once the war was over.  Homeland gives us a similarly intimate but more sobering and timely glimpse into the lives of soldiers and their families when the war that is being fought is far from over and the lines between soldier and enemy, terrorist and target are increasingly blurred.

5.  Homeland is not only the best show on Showtime – a network I feared may have jumped the shark along with its once great but now deplorable Dexter – it’s the best show not on HBO.

So what the hell are you waiting for?  Do I need to do that math for you again?

((24 – gimmick + Truman Show)/(My So-Called Life x Homefront)) + A Luminous Claire Danes + A Squirrelly Mandy Patinkin + The High Production Values of Pay-Cable TV – The Usual Showtime Stank = THE BEST SHOW ON TV YOU AREN’T WATCHING YET

I hate to have been so long-winded.  I should’ve taken my meds.  Now just watch it.

Homeland airs Sunday nights at 10pm-est on Showtime with repeats on Monday nights at 10pm-est.  It is also available 24/7 On-Demand through your cable provider. 
Season One will end on December 18th, 2011.  It has been renewed for a second season.
Be sure to catch Claire Danes on Conan tonight (11/30/11) on TBS (11pm-est).


  1. Here I invite others to share their feelings on the current television landscape.

    My Top Five Shows Currently in Production:

    1. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
    2. Game of Thrones (HBO)
    3. Homeland (Showtime)
    4. Mad Men (AMC)
    5. Southland (TNT)

    Show that has not lived up to its potential:

    • The Killing (AMC)

    Show that I originally hated but now kinda like after it vastly improved in its 2nd season:

    • The Walking Dead (AMC)

    Show that used to be great but has “jumped-the-shark” and should be put out of its misery:

    • Dexter (Showtime)

    Thoughts? Opinions? What are you favorite shows right now?

    • Agreed! (Although, I have to say I have never watched an episode of Mad Men.) Homeland is excellent. It took a few episodes for me to really get into it but I am definitely hooked. Claire Danes is fantastic and Damien Lewis portrays Brody wonderfully.

      Megan – I wonder if it will be like 24 and each season will be a new “case” for Carrie to work…or if they will follow the story lines of Carrie and Brody wherever they might go over the course of the series. –DHS

  2. OK I’m sold. Last thing I really need is another weekly TV commitment, but this one sounds like it may be worth a look. Time to start catching up on old episodes…

    Mike – it’s definitely worth it. I didn’t want a new TV show to watch religiously either, but this thing is too damn good to ignore. –DHS

  3. You probably made a mistake by mentioning “My So Called Life” and “The Truman Show”. I can see a little bit of the latter in Homeland (though the surveillance period is over), but I see none of the former in it. Claire Danes’ presence doesn’t make it a substantial comparison. I’ve told my friends that it’s a less ridiculous version of 24 meets Mad Men with a bit of The Wire. That combination seems to get them intrigued.

    I will admit that this show’s twists and turns have officially become exhausting, and I’m not sure I like the path it appears to be heading down.

    My Top Five Shows of this year:

    1. Game of Thrones
    2. Louie
    3. Homeland
    4. Breaking Bad
    5. Friday Night Lights (though it’s no longer airing)

    Homeland could move up or down on my list, depending on the quality of this season’s last few episodes

    John – fair enough, but I see a little bit of Angela Chase in Carrie Mathison – almost as if Carrie could be Angela all grown up (and still all emo). I don’t see how it relates to Mad Men at all, though. –DHS

    • Brody is a mostly emotionless enigma (much like Don), and he’s hunted and damaged by his past. Also like Don, Brody is keeping a very big secret from the people around him. The way the show fuses work drama with domestic melodrama also reminds me of Mad Men.

      John – hmmmm…interesting. I think it’s a bit of a stretch, but interesting. –DHS

  4. Based on your recommendation, I started watching Homeland “on demand”. I was hooked at the very first episode. And to confirm your accolades of the show, The Golden Globes just awarded Homeland Best TV Series Drama and Claire Danes Best Actress TV Series Drama. Homeland also reminds me of a show from the 90’s, Nowhere Man. Does anyone else remember this show?

    Nowhere Man was a great show no one talks about anymore, and I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before in comparison to Homeland. –DHS

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