Season 1, Episode 12: “Marine One”
5. Claire Danes was magnificent in the finale of “Homeland,” playing Carrie with perfect tone of a brilliant CIA analyst besotted by bipolar disorder but still right about a larger plot against the Vice President (Jamey Sheridan).
4. Saul (Mandy Patinkin) finds the truth in Carrie’s madness and confronts an amoral VP about his order of a drone strike on Abu Nazier’s (Navid Negahban) compound but ills Nazier’s kid who was learning English from POW Brody.
2. “Marine One” deserves recognition for exemplary and accurate portrayal of mental illness — including the use of electroconvulsive therapy as a humane tool in the treatment of some disorders — and Danes truly deserves an Emmy on the strength of her performance as a woman on the edge throughout the series.
1. “Homeland” started slow and wandered off into subplots that became nothing — Saul’s marriage problems, for example — but it picked up in the final six episodes and turned into an outstanding thriller series that earned the preseason praise and beyond.
Episodes 9: “Crossfire”
Episode 10: “Representative Brody”
5. In “Crossfire,” Brody (Damian Lewis) is taken captive and drugged by Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) goons, relives his captivity — which he apparently spent as an ESL to a Nazir’s son, converted to Islam and embraced terrorism after the kid is blown up in an U.S. military strike — while Carrie (Claire Danes) tries to pressure the FBI and a Iman (Sammy Sheik) of the mosque that Walker (Chris Chalk) used to escape.
4. In “Representative Brody,” Carrie and Saul (Mandy Patinkin), who seems more and more edgy, squeeze a diplomat (Ramsey Faragallah) serving as Walker’s contact, the Vice President (Jamey Sheridan) gets Brody to run for office — a gig wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) is not on board with — until a suicide bomber paid by Walker blows up the diplomat in Farragut Square.
3. I’ve been very lukewarm to “Homeland” throughout its run, but the plot is finally thick enough to match the quality of acting and the story feels like it’s moving somewhere rather than wallowing in the inertness the series struggled with in the early episodes.
2. Three of the last four episodes have been markedly stronger and much more engaging, giving promise for the final pair of the first season.
1. I’m done trying to predict who is a good guy and who isn’t — that was a folly that gave me headaches early on — and I’m willing to let the story take me where it goes as long as the journey stays as intense and high-quality as recent outings.
Season 1, Episode 8: Achilles Heel
5. OK, now I’m just annoyed with “Homeland.”
3. The open the series by showing he obviously has been turned into a terrorist after eight years as captive of Al-Qaeda.
2. Then last week they dedicated a whole episode to proving he is not only to undo it a week later and show he’s actually on the terrorist mission.
1. I’ve decided “Homeland” is just a better-acted “Ringer:” a weekly jerk-around soap opera with more graphic sex scenes but a plot that makes me year for Jack Bauer to come in and start torturing everybody, especially super-annoying CIA operative Carrie (Claire Danes).
Season 1, Episode 7: The Weekend
5. Up until last week’s “The Good Soldier” and this week’s “The Weekend,” the Showtime drama “Homeland” had been a viewing chore — a joyless weekly exercise that I watched mostly out of loyalty to my friend Paul, a devout follower of premium cable channel programing, and, well, the occasional topless scene with Morena Baccarin.
4. But finally, after all the salad, we finally get to the hamburger with a pair of episodes that make the painfully slow drama finally click into place.
3. Carrie (Claire Danes) and Brody (Damian Lewis) play house during a weekend getaway, but she while off her medication accidentally reveals she was spying on him and he dishes on his time imprisoned by Al-Queda, including his jailhouse conversion to Islam, beating his fellow Marine, Tom Walker (Chris Chalk), to death and being truly, deeply, spiritually broken by his tormentors.
2. Carrie still believes Brody is a bad guy, but Saul (Mandy Patinkin) calls: Walker didn’t die — he was turned and he was working with Aileen (Marin Ireland), the rich girl homegrown terrorist in league with big bad Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban).
1. “The Weekend” is a relief on several levels: First, it releases the viewer to finally cheer wholeheartedly for Lewis’ nuanced portrayal of Brody, Carrie’s megalomania gets a much-needed comeuppance from Brody and the cliffhanger, at long last, leaves me looking forward o the next week.
Season 1, Episode 6
4. A memorial service is held for the other Marine captured with Brody, the one he apparently beat to death, and Brody pounds Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) for grinding with Jessica (Morena Baccarin), Brody’s wife, during his eight-year captivity.
3. Everybody takes a lie detector tests after the terrorist kills himself and Brody passes despite obviously lying about being unfaithful to his wife and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) struggles, possibly due to nerves over his crumbling marriage or is it some darker reason.
2. It turns out bored, spoiled rich girl Maggie (Amy Hargreaves), rather than husband Afsal (Waleed Zuaiter) is the terrorist plotter in the family, but it doesn’t stop him from getting gunned down in a cheap motel while the couple is on the run from the feds and their fellow plotters.
1. This might be the turning point for “Homeland,” a show I’ve dogged for a while, but for the first time this season I found myself consistently engaged.
5. “Homeland” continues to vex me.
4. I can’t decide who to root for — Brody (Damian Lewis), the Marine sergeant held prisoner in Afghanistan for eight years and possibly turned against his country, or Carrie (Claire Danes), the mentally unstable CIA agent who is obsessed with preventing another 9/11 and believes Brody is the key.
3. I further can’t decide if my indecision on this matter is due to the success of the writers and show planners or the fact that two leads are so wildly uneven they lack any empathetic qualities.
2. This much I do know: I love Mandy Patinkin’s portrayal of Saul Berenson, who seems like the only adult in a CIA unit overrun by politics and hotheads.
1. Another credibility question: Would the CIA really invite a Marine who shot and killed a deer on his property a few days earlier to a terrorist interrogation?
3. Dana reveals she knows of her mother’s dalliance with Brody’s former commander, Capt. Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff), while needy, hyper-manic CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) continues to watch Faber with secret cameras and tries to patch her wounded relationship with her spook mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).
2. CIA snitch Lynne Reed (Brianna Brown), a member of a Saudi prince’s harm, is outed and then eliminated as terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) pawns the prince’s crown jewels to buy a house on U.S. soil.
1. Patinkin is gripping in his scenes, but Danes is grating and Faber is positively sedate and “Homeland” is remains a mess of mildly interesting, wholly unsympathetic characters.
5. I want to like “Homeland” and be like all the smart critics who always pick out the dense, plot-driven dramas on the premium cable networks and hold them up to the rest of us in the drooling masses and say, “Look! This is what you should be watching instead of ‘Two and a Half Men‘ and ‘NCIS.’”
4. But I’m just not feeling it and I’m not sure why.
3. The acting is top notch: Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent who battles an emotional disorder, with intelligence and a manic, rude energy, Damian Lewis as rescued Marine POW Nicholas Brody is intense and mystifying as a man apparently turned against his country and Mandy Patinkin offers a quiet, thoughtful menace as Saul Berenson, a CIA boss who mentors Mathison.
2. Yet, I feel eerily as I did after watching highly-praised “The Killing,” I know this is supposed to be good, but, call me stupid, I’m board watching Mathison watch Brody on black-and-white TV and Brody spend hours sitting in the corner.
1. SPOILER ALERT: Brody has clearly broken bad — at the end of episode one we learned Brody beat to death a fellow Marine in captivity and in the second we see he apparently converted to Islam while a prisoner – so I’m wondering what the big mystery is, other than when something — anything — is going to happen.
5. If producers wanted “Homeland,” the new original series from Showtime, to be seesaw mystery over who is telling the truth, they may have shown too much in the pilot.
4. “Homeland” opens with hyperactive CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) botching an effort to save an Iraqi contact from execution and learning an American prisoner of war has been turned against his country.
3. Mathison gets reprimanded for her failure, learns troops rescued Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who spent eight years as a POW in Iraq, suspects he’s been turned and illegally bugs Brody’s home.
2. Meanwhile, Brody is wooden in his reunion with wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin) and kids, Jessica is forlorn because she’d begun a relationship with Brody’s buddy, Capt. Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff) and Mathison, as it turns out, has an emotional disorder which worries her spy pals.
1. The show is set up as a “what is real” kind of back-and-fourth, but the final scene of the pilot seems to tip things squarely in Mathison’s camp, which may or may not be true, but it lets a lot of air out of the mystery.