When Homeland first exploded on the scene, critics and fans loved the political spy thriller about a bipolar CIA operative who is convinced that a returning veteran has been turned by al-Qaeda and is planning to carry out another terrorist attack. The Showtime series would win eight Primetime Emmys including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, and Outstanding Drama Series. The show would last for eight seasons and though some may argue that Homeland lost its way once Brody was killed off, it did manage to veer back on track for the last several seasons. Ten years may not be an extremely long time, but in the world of Hollywood, it is. The culture has shifted since the pilot in 2011; Does the first Homeland episode hold up?
Homeland was a fascinating mix between 24 and The Americans. It could be argued that Nicholas Brody was the best character to ever grace the series, and the quality notable dipped once the show was done with his story. Immediately, the show thrusts you into action with the lead protagonist, Carrie Mathison. The CIA operative is storming through Baghdad spouting exposition that Claire Danes manages to pull off extremely well. More importantly, the opening scene highlights the chaos and urgency that comes with the world that Carrie lives in. She could die at any moment, and you get that adrenaline rush of danger thanks to Homeland not pulling any punches with the opening sequences. However, the key to the pilot itself is Nicholas Brody, who’s found alive after being imprisoned in Afghanistan for eight years. Brody’s story is the main draw for the first season of Homeland, and it surely doesn’t disappoint. Despite coming out in 2011, the themes and subject manner still remain fresh and raw in today’s modern society.
This is Carrie Mathison’s story. However, this is also Nicholas Brody’s as well. The show does an excellent job weaving the two characters throughout the episode. Getting an understanding of Brody’s home life before it’s interrupted by the shocking news that he’s returning after being presumed dead. The pilot sets up several interesting arcs for the season: the Mike/Jessica/Nicholas dynamic, or the mental scars that Brody has to deal with following the nightmare back in Afghanistan, and of course, the is he, isn’t he story over whether he’s the American that’s been turned. The pilot makes sure you understand the characters first, but never forgets the importance of its compelling story and masterfully pulls off a nice misdirect or two. However, Carrie is an engaging presence in her own right, clearly dealing with problems in her own life, and the distrust David and Saul has for her. If there’s one nitpick that was bothersome was Carrie trying to use sex to get Saul on her side. I understand that she was desperate to keep the operation going, but surely she’s smart enough to know that wouldn’t work? Saul has never teased any romantic interest in her so it felt out of place and demeaning for her character. Carrie Mathison is supposed to be extremely smart, so why not amp up the investigation before she’s served her court papers?
I’m no CIA operative but thinking that all men are willing to be seduced at a moment’s notice undermined her brilliance. Again, this is probably just me, but the scene just wasn’t necessary. Other than that minor hiccup, this was a tightly focused episode that established an intriguing world beyond the central arc. The question of whether Nicholas Brody has turned or not may keep you glued, but the other aspects about Homeland have you interested in the series as a whole. The complex nature of the series is the huge draw. This could’ve turned into a 24-like madness, but Homeland explores the effects war and politics has on Brody and Carrie. It’s not just them, but Brody’s family, namely his wife Jessica. She sees the scars on his chest and his mental state and understands that she can’t simply tell him that’s she’s moved on to another man. Much less his best friend Mike. Same thing with Carrie. She can’t just tell Virgil about her bipolar disorder. It would make her seem unstable and unfit to lead such a huge case like this. Homeland could’ve been a generic spy thriller and it does an excellent job going above and beyond being more than just the job itself. The pilot holds up perfectly well as it still feels fresh in the modern culture. It may have not ended as the perfect show, but Homeland is still one of the best to ever grace television.