Homeland – Season 1

I missed watching any of this series until almost 8 days ago when I finally thought – ok, this is getting lots of awards and rave reviews plus it’s got both Claire Danes & Mandy Patinkin; two actors who I greatly admire so I must check it out. And I must say WOW! This is one series that does not hold back on anything. The series is loosely based on the Israeli television series Hatufim (Prisoners Of War) created by Gideon Raff and is developed for American television by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. The show is about a CIA ops officer Carrie Mathison (Danes) who has come to believe that US. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a recently freed POW has been turned and is now working for al-Qaeda, specifically a terrorist leader named Abu Nazir.

Mathison was in Iraq where she heard from one of her sources that al-Qaeda chief Abu Nazir Abu Nazir has turned a captured American soldier & brainwashed him into working as a sleeper agent. She is sent back from Baghdad for angering the Iraqi government in her methods of getting this information. 10 month back in the US, Carrie watches along with her team at Langley as US Marine sniper Sgt. Nick Brody, long thought to be dead in Iraq, is rescued by US troops during a raid on a terrorist compound. He is brought back to the US and declared an American hero, back from 8 long years in captivity. Carrie begins to suspect that he is the turned American that is working for Nazir. Brody comes back to his family – his wife Jessica (Morenna Baccarin) who after waiting for 6 years has been having an affair with Nick’s close friend Captain Mike Faber, his daughter Dana now 16 and son Chris who was too young to remember his father. As the rest of the government believe Brody to be a returning hero, Carrie takes the help of former CIA agent now working for private, Virgil (David Marciano) & begins an illegal audio and video surveillance of Brody’s home hoping to catch him at something to prove her suspicions correct. They see Brody having difficulty in adjusting to life back at home initially unable to be intimate with his wife and taking her roughly sexually or masturbating to her naked body as Jessica sits uncomfortably next to him. Carrie, after getting caught by her mentor & CIA’s Middle-East Division Chief Saul Berenson (Patinkin) she convinces him enough to get a temporary 4 week approval to continue the surveillance legally. In his garage, unseen by anyone, Brody does namaz.

However other than Brody’s difficulties and odd behaviour (including sitting in a corner & crying for an entire day) that is usually associated with long periods of torture & captivity, the surveillance by Carrie uncovers no incriminating evidence and is eventually shut down by Counterterrorism Center director David Estes (David Harewood).. We do see him to be lying when questioned on several fronts as flashbacks let us know that he had met & befriended Abu Nazir and that Brody was forced to kill his friend & fellow sniper Tom Walker. It is later revealed that after 5 years of torture, Brody was sold to Nazir who treated him with kindness. Brody converted to Islam and formed a bond with Nazir’s youngest son, 10 year old Issa, who was later killed with 81 other kids in a drone attack, that was sanctioned by current Vice President William Walden who was then CIA chief, at his Madrasa. On seeing Walden deny on American tv that any children were killed by he drone attack, Brody swore revenge on Walden and agreed to kill him in a suicide attack. Carrie purposefully bumps into Brody outside and starts a flirtatious fling with him that soon sees them having sex after a bout of drinking. They meet again when one of Brody’s former jailers is captured and Brody is brought in to observe the interrogation. Brody convinces David Estes to allow him to have a moment to confront his former jailer, but the meeting ends violently when the man spits in Brody’s face. Later, the prisoner is found to have committed suicide with a razor blade. Carrie believes Brody passed him the razor. She arranges for polygraphs for all those who had access to the prisoner. Brody passes, but Carrie suspects he is lying when he is able to deny that he has been unfaithful to his wife.

Meanwhile, Lynn Reed, an asset of Carrie’s who works as a courtesan for a Saudi prince, contacts Carrie with video of Abu Nazir meeting with the Prince. Shortly afterwards, Lynn Reed is murdered and an expensive necklace given to her by the prince is stolen. Suspecting that the necklace is being used to fund a terrorist operation, the CIA tracks the funds to a local couple, Aileen Morgan and Raquim Faisel, who have purchased a home near the airport where Marine One is based. After being tipped off by an anonymous contact, Aileen and Raquim go on the run where Raquim is killed by an unseen assassin while Aileen tries to escape to Mexico where she is captured by Saul. Aileen reveals that they met a terrorist who is a sniper, later identified to be Tom Walker, who was thought to be dead, even by Brody. Brody, on finding out about Jessica & Mike, reacts violently and hits Mike, leaves the house and proceeds to have a romantic sexual weekend with Carrie at a cabin. But she slips and he finds out that he was spied on by her and they talk. He reveals that he admits to having been converted to Islam by Abu Nazir, whom he met while being held captive. He explains that Nazir was kind to him and that he came to “love” the terrorist leader, but denies working for al-Qaeda. Carrie is called back to the office as Walker is identified as the turned terrorist and she apologizes to Brody, who leaves angered.

The CIA almost capture Tom Walker by having his wife appeal to him but miss capturing him, instead shooting two innocent men at morning prayers at a mosque. Through the imam’s wife, Carrie gets to know that Walker was meeting with Saudi diplomat, who is then blackmailed to help the CIA. However Walker sees through the setup and has a lookalike meet the diplomat & blows them up with a bomb in a briefcase, injuring several people including Carrie who ends up in hospital. Her concussion & injuries flares up Carrie’s bi-polar disorder which is news to Saul. Brody has a surprise meeting with the Vice President, who recruits Brody to run for the seat of a local Congressman, who is resigning due to a sex scandal. Brody then makes contact with Abu Nazir, revealing that he really is, in fact, a terrorist and spy for al-Qaeda. On a family trip to Gettysburg, Brody meets with a local tailor who gives him a suicide vest. All seems to be going according to plan, but his odd behavior begins to worry his daughter, who sees him praying in Arabic. Brody tells her how he came to convert to Islam and she decides to keep it a secret. When an unstable Carrie calls Brody and tells him  that her unsanctioned research has found a gap in the timeline for Nazir, Brody subsequently reveals to the CIA that Carrie spied on him illegally. As a result, David Estes has her removed from duty and ignores her warning that Abu Nazir is planning something much worse than the sniper attack that they expect.

The VP invites Brody to an event where the former is supposed to reveal his announce his intention to run for President. At the event, Tom Walker assassinates one of the Vice President’s aides, forcing all the dignitaries, including Brody, to flee into a secure bunker. Realizing that Brody is likely working with Walker, Carrie attempts to contact the CIA and then Brody’s family, which leads to her being arrested. Brody attempts to detonate his suicide vest but it malfunctions. He repairs it and is about to try again when he receives a phone call from his daughter Dana, who begs him to come home. He is unable to go through with his mission. Brody & Walker meet and speak to Abu Nazir via telephone and Brody claims that his vest malfunctioned, but argues that he will be better able to advance Nazir’s cause as a U.S. Congressman. To prove his loyalty, Nazir has Brody kill Tom. Brody then meets with Carrie, who apologizes for suspecting him of terrorism (not realizing that she was right about Brody all along). He declines to press criminal charges against her but warns her to stay away from him and his family from now on. Having lost everything and tired of her bipolar disorder, Carrie decides to seek treatment by checking herself into a mental hospital and receiving electroshock therapy. Just before she is subjected to the treatment, which can cause memory loss, she realizes that Brody had met Abu Nazir’s son. But the electroshock therapy proceeds, possibly eliminating this important clue from Carrie’s memory, at least temporarily.

Wow, all this in just 12 episodes but this short season has episodes at an average run time of 50-60 minutes so a lot can be showed. Awesome acting from Danes, Lewis & Patinkin espcially but the others are great too. I cannot wait to start watching season 2 soon.

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