Showtime’s terrorism drama Homeland is the television king of the hill. For its inaugural season it recently took the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, and Best Actor and Best Actress awards for its two leads. The final episode of season one was the most-watched finale of any rookie Showtime series, and it just kicked off its highly anticipated second season. But underneath its polished production values and top-notch writing is a moral muddle that may undermine its dramatic impact in the long run.
For those who haven’t been following–SPOILER ALERT–the show centers on a U.S. Marine named Brody (actor Damian Lewis), missing and presumed dead in Iraq since 2003, who is rescued and brought home to Washington D.C. to a lot of CIA self-congratulation and media fanfare. He rides his war hero popularity all the way into political office and by season two he is a Congressman being courted for the presidential running mate.
But that’s not all he is. CIA analyst Carrie (Claire Danes) rightly suspects that Brody is a sleeper agent here to carry out an attack from terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). That makes Brody a rather unique protagonist–“a whole new breed of lead character,” as the Los Angeles Times put it, “neither antihero nor villain.” Nor hero.
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