This year, the U.S. recognized the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with the public opening of the World Trade Center Memorial. We live in a post-9/11 world — there was once a before, but this is the after. Showtime’s new drama “Homeland” takes a look at the landscape of the war in the wake of 9/11, as well as the toll it takes on individuals and the nation, through the eyes of two distinct characters.
Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a neurotic, strong-willed and intelligent CIA agent obsessed over a mistake from her past and driven by the desire to prove herself. Damian Lewis is Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a recovered marine sniper who went missing eight years ago in Iraq and was presumed to be dead. He returns to the U.S. with the military, CIA and government plastering his face across the media as that of a war hero.
Despite Brody’s all-American face, Mathison’s paranoia and obsessive-compulsive nature — along with a hunch — lead her to believe that he has been turned into a terrorist agent. Through the lens of illegal surveillance that Mathison places in Brody’s home, we are able to see where the faults and breaks begin to set in his hero façade.
Mathison watches from her couch as Brody’s has uncomfortable moments alongside his family. His son and daughter have grown up without a dad and are now living with him as a stranger. Jessica, Brody’s wife (Morena Baccarin), struggles to connect with a husband who appears to be haunted by the ghosts of war.
In the first couple episodes, producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (“24”), set up the intricacies of the lives of these two characters in a seemingly parallel manner. Mathison throws herself so far into Brody and his family’s life that she almost disappears into it. When he wakes violently from a nightmare, so does Mathison. As she settles onto the couch to watch video footage, Brody settles on his to watch television. They are filmed almost as if they were staring one another down, daring the other to make a move.
Brody is dealing with the secrets of whatever psychological weight comes with eight years of apparent torture, solitary confinement and possible defection. Mathison, meanwhile, is dealing with the secret of her closeted mental illness, which could cause her to lose her job if her bosses became aware of it.
Danes and Lewis portray the struggle of their characters not just through voice and interactions, but they also the characters show their internal struggles with their bodies.
Mathison gets dressed for a night out after an argument with her boss, and you can see every ounce of the fight weighing on her as she throws shirt after shirt on the ground. Brody sits in a corner of a room for over five hours and you wonder if he is trying to move on from his tortured experience or if he finds comfort in what he has known for the past eight years. It is the mark of good acting when the silent moments can be more intriguing than the spoken ones.
Gordon and Gansa have created something entirely different in “Homeland.” It isn’t a thriller in the sense that “24” was; yet it is just as much a nail-biter. The complicated nature of Mathison and Brody’s lives set up the audience with a psychological suspense story.
Every question the show inspires, leads to an intriguing answer. The possibilities are interesting and compelling rather than predictable and dull. We live in a paranoid world where the idea of voyeuristic surveillance is a very real possibility and the resonance of 9/11 still strikes a chord in the hearts of American homes. Showtime has created a compelling drama that draws the audience into two lives where those paranoia and emotions are very real. “Homeland” pulls you in just enough to make you want to sit on your couch to watch Mathison sit on her couch to watch Brody sit on his.
“Homeland” airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.