Tuned In

Dead Tree Alert: The Post-Post-9/11 Drama of Homeland

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This week in the print edition of TIME, I review what was pretty easily my favorite new series of the fall, Showtime’s Homeland, starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis and debuting Sunday night. It’s subscription-required, as usual, so I can only steal so much from my employer to give to you here, but in brief: the drama is a psychological terrorism thriller, in which Lewis plays a recently liberated U.S. POW and Danes, the CIA investigator who has reason to believe that he has been “turned,” Manchurian Candidate–style, into an al Qaeda sleeper. The hitch is, we don’t know if she’s right, and her zeal may be influenced by (1) her drive to make up for having missed evidence before the 9/11 attack and (2) a psychiatric disorder that she’s hiding from the rest of her colleagues.

The result is an intense, subtly written cat-and-mouse game, but also one that has something implicitly to say (on a weekend with another hit on an al Qaeda leader) about where America is post–Bin Laden’s death:

the questions the series raises reflect a decade of post-[Jack]-Bauer change: Will this war ever end? Has 9/11 made us more vigilant and pragmatic? Or has it left us–like the principals in this absorbing, nuanced drama–damaged and maybe a little crazy?

And that’s about all I can reprint from the paywalled review, but I can’t recommend the series highly enough, particularly for the phenomenal performances by Lewis and Danes. Maybe the most distinctive thing about the show is that the pair of them, by the nature of the plot—Danes’ characters is secretly having Lewis’ surveilled—hardly meet in the course of the show, yet they develop a strangely intimate connection. As the one watches the other over the video monitor, we come to see that—whether he is in fact an agent or not—they are both well-meaning, damaged characters who have given up a great deal in their different arms of the homeland-security effort.
I don’t know how often I’ll be able to blog about this show; Sundays are crazy for a while as it is, with Breaking Bad still on the next two weeks, Boardwalk Empire and The Good Wife besides. But I’ll be keeping a close eye on it. The first episode is previewing for free at Showtime’s website. If you’ve seen it, let us know what you thought. If you haven’t—well, if you have Showtime, you have your assignment.