Homeland wasn’t the big winner at this year’s Emmy Awards. That distinction went to Breaking Bad, which is concluding its final season, but Claire Danes did go home with her second Emmy for her performance as Carrie Mathison, the unstable but very intuitive and brilliant CIA analyst in Homeland, which just began its third season.
It is showing on YES Oh at 10 p.m. on Mondays (with reruns at 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday). It’s also on YES VOD and will be available soon on iTunes.
The program, which runs on the Showtime network in the US, is an adaptation of the Israeli series Prisoners of War, which was created by Keshet Broadcasting. Of all the American series that have been adapted from Israeli programs, Homeland is the most successful, in terms of both its popularity and the acclaim it has won.
The ingenious premise of the Israeli and US versions is that a prisoner of war, held and tortured for years, eventually turns and begins to sympathize with the cause of his captors. When the prisoner is released, an intelligence agent (Carrie in the US version) suspects his motives and has to fight the perception of him as a war hero in order to prove her suspicions.
It seems obvious that it is easier to imagine an American Marine, who may not have had particularly strong feelings about the war in Iraq to begin with, coming to identify with the terrorist holding him than to believe that an Israeli soldier would do the same.
Another reason for the runaway success of Homeland is a twist that the US version added: Carrie is bipolar, an illness that she somehow managed to conceal from her superiors in the CIA for more than a decade.
Carrie is one of the most memorable female characters in the history of television and, if the first episode of Season 3 is any indication, she will continue to evolve in complexity and vulnerability. Carrie’s bipolar disease and her management of it has always been one of the most interesting parts of the show.
Unlike so many dramas that deal with bipolar syndrome, Homeland doesn’t sugar coat it. Mania is shown for the debilitating nightmare that it is: Not just energy or enthusiasm but surges of adrenaline that lead to anxiety, hysteria and destruction. The fact that the medications that control Carrie’s disorder lead to a flattening of her affect and her perception is one of the truths that Homeland acknowledges. And Claire Danes, who was also brilliant in the television movie Temple Grandin, as a woman with autism, plays Carrie with an endearing passion.
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, read no further.
Season 3 of Homeland opens with an investigation into the explosion that killed more than 200 members of the CIA, for which Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), the former POW, is thought to be responsible. Carrie, due to her personal relationship with Brody (in other words, their slightly creepy romance), is being treated by the congressional investigators with suspicion. It doesn’t help that she blames herself or that she isn’t taking her medicine, which her father, who is also bipolar, suspects and confronts her about.
Carrie admits she has stopped her meds but insists that her regimen of sleep, exercise and meditation will keep her healthy. Her father is skeptical, and we soon learn that alcohol and sex with strangers are other components of her selfmedication.
But along with self-sabotage, Carrie has to cope with the very real threat of sabotage at the hands of her colleagues, particularly Saul Berenson, the wise father-figure boss who is played brilliantly by Mandy Patinkin.
Brody is on the lam, but his family has had to face the music after he fled, and it hasn’t been easy for them. Dana (Morgan Saylor), his teenage daughter who has had to come to grips with her hero father being exposed as a terrorist, has attempted suicide and has been in rehab.
Claire and Dana – two troubled young women – dominate the episode. The two are among the only characters we know we can trust, and we’ll have to wait and see what the more devious men on the show have in store for them later in the season.