Captivating viewing

"Homeland" is still must-see TV.

Cast of "Homeland" at Emmy awards 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
Cast of "Homeland" at Emmy awards 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
They say cats have nine lives, but Nicholas Brody, the hero/ anti-hero of Showtime’s Homeland, seems to have even more. The sometimes improbable, always watchable series will air the final episode of its third season on Monday on YES Oh at 5 a.m. (it will be repeated throughout the week at more civilized hours) and on YES V.O.D.
The series, which is based on the Israeli show Hatufim (Prisoners of War), which was created by the Keshet network, is the most successful of all the American adaptations of Israeli shows. It has won dozens of major awards, including Emmys for Outstanding Dramatic Series, two Best Actress Awards for Claire Danes, and one Best Actor Award for Damian Lewis.
Danes will always be identified with the bipolar, idealistic, jazzloving CIA agent Carrie Mathison she portrays on Homeland. Lewis, a British actor who was not well known in the US, has made Brody – the US Marine POW who joined his captors’ cause – into an unforgettable character, perhaps the most sympathetic sociopath since Tony Soprano. Their confident performances and the show’s often brilliantly complex scripts has made it into – and kept it – must-see TV.
At the end of the second season, Carrie had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Brody (who had become a congressman and was tapped to be the next vice presidential candidate) was working for an Al-Qaida type group, gradually swaying her once-skeptical supervisor, the alternately defeatist and paternal Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin, in a wonderful career comeback for an actor who had developed a reputation for being difficult to work with).
But just as soon as she convinced Saul that Brody was a terrorist, she fell in love with Brody and convinced him to abandon his loyalty to the terror chief. At the end of Season Two, Brody was accused of bombing a CIA ceremony, killing dozens. He and Carrie professed their undying love as he fled across the US in the aftermath of the bombing.
Season Three got off to a rocky start, with Carrie off her mood stabilizing medication and being hospitalized against her will. Brody was nowhere to be seen at first, then popped up in a crumbling Venezuelan apartment complex known as the Tower of David, where he was given heroin by thugs who held him captive. A subplot involving Brody’s daughter, who fell into a suicidal depression after her father’s flight from justice, made dramatic sense but tended to drag.
Eventually, Carrie was released and helped Saul and his new CIA financial analyst (Nazanin Boniadi, a young Iranian-American actress who once dated Tom Cruise) blackmail a menacing and corrupt Iranian insider, Javadi (Shaun Toub), into working for the CIA.
Last week’s nail-biting episode involved Brody, determined to clear his name, sneaking into Iran.
The plan was for him to request asylum and then, with Javadi’s help, to kill an important Iranian government member who is the “single biggest impediment to peace,” according to Saul. But things “on the ground,” as they say, went south fast, and the episode was one of the series’ best. The three main characters are intermittently in contact but are always isolated from each other.
Homeland is at its best when it transcends the domestic dramas of its characters’ lives and concentrates on the culture of screens and surveillance that makes it possible to glimpse people’s every action but never reveals what is in their hearts.
Let’s hope that Homeland can keep the suspense going for the final episode, and that the three outsiders – Saul, Carrie and Brody – can bring peace to the Middle East, even if it’s only for an hour a week.
Channel 1 is showing Vice, the acclaimed HBO documentary series, on Saturday nights at 10 p.m. The show features subjects that most other programs ignore.
In its best-known episode, it went inside North Korea and followed the visit of Dennis Rodman and other basketball players to that isolated country. Other episodes have focused on vices and other issues such as addiction (it examines a controversial treatment center in Mexico), the international weapons trade and children who kill.
The show is hard-hitting and won’t be for everyone. To find out more about it, go to