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Homeland: The Complete First Season (2011)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/28/2012

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/4/2012

Over the years, we've seen may televisions shows which were based on movies. Classics such as M*A*S*H, The Odd Couple and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and stinkers like Delta House and Ferris Bueller were all TV shows which came from theatrical hits. Conversely, we've seen dozens of theatrical films which had their origins in a TV show...and most of these movies were awful. But, when was the last time you watched a TV show and thought to yourself, "This simply isn't working as a show, but it would make a good movie."? That was my reaction to Showtime's series Homeland.

As Homeland opens, a condemned man tells CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) that an American POW has been turned to become a terrorist. Ten months later, a group of U.S. soldiers find Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a Marine who has been missing for eight years and long-since thought dead. As Brody is being brought back to America to be reunited with his family, Carrie attempts to convince her superiors, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and David Estes (David Harewood), that Brody is the sleeper agent about which she'd been warned, but they won't allow her to pursue the case. Carrie ignores this and has cameras installed in Brody's home.

Meanwhile, Brody comes home to his wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin), and his children, Dana (Morgan Saylor) and Chris (Jackson Pace). The transition is not easy, as Brody must adjust not only to his family, but modern life. As Carrie continues to monitor Brody, other strange things begin to happen around Washington, DC, and it becomes obvious that some sort of terrorist activity is at hand. Even as all of the evidence points away from Brody, Carrie refuses to let go of her bad feelings about him.

Homeland is a show which mixes many genres. First and foremost, it's a political thriller which presents stories ripped from recent headlines. The use of the war in Iraq provides a common topic about which viewers will be aware, and despite the fact that we are now over a decade removed from September 11, 2001, the paranoia which many Americans still feel about terrorists is easy to understand. In Carrie, we have a government agent whose dedication borders on obsession, and whether or not she's right, we want her (and her colleagues) to protect the citizenry. The show is also a drama which focuses on Brody's tenuous relationship with his wife, who went into the arms of another man when she became convinced that Brody was dead. We also get some serious moments when the show focuses on Carrie and the unique situation with her sister (Amy Hargreaves) and her father (James Rebhorn).

Homeland is based on an Israeli TV series called Prisoners of War, but it actually owes a lot to the film The Manchurian Candidate (specifically the 2004 remake of the 1962 original). It's ironic that it has this pedigree, as the show would have made a great movie. I can clearly see Homeland being a fast-paced political thriller where the Carrie character must race against time to expose the sleeper agent and stop a terrorist act. We get elements of that in Homeland, but in the 12 episodes of Season One, we also get a lot of filler. There are many moments where the show drags, as we watch another scene with Brody and his wife, or another scene where Carrie argues with Saul. These moments are meant to add depth to the characters, but they simply feel needlessly repetitive. I had hoped that Homeland would be suspenseful, but every time the show creates some tension or offers a good twist (and there are a few), the momentum is killed by a dull scene.

The show's poor pacing gets no help from the problems within the story. The show brings up and drops plot points right and left, as if those writing each episode had not seen the previous ones. For example, at the beginning of the series, it's mentioned that the Brody's have financial problems, and this will be a way for interested parties to exploit them...and this is never brought up again. About halfway through the season, a terrorism suspect is pursued and caught...and never mentioned again. The relationship between Carrie and Brody becomes a pivotal part of the show, but its trajectory makes little sense. The show is full of red herrings, which is fine, but the real revelations often have little impact. The finale is a real copout, as it answers few questions and feels more like a setup for Season 2 than anything else.

I was actually interested in seeing Homeland as it was shot in a city where I spent much of my life, which was standing in for Washington, DC. As the season wore on, I found myself looking for familiar landmarks more than I was paying attention to the story (And I did spot a few). Homeland could have been the television version of something like a Jack Ryan movie, and a taut political thriller would have been well-accepted. What we get is a muddled, sometimes poorly written show which offers little satisfaction. I may check out Season 2 to look for more familiar sites, but I won't expect much from the series.

Homeland: The Complete First Season has strong opinions about pen color on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The three-disc set contains all 12 episodes from the show's first season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good (although some scenes are intentionally washed out) and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows a nice amount of detail, although I did not a few soft shots. There were also some shots which showed some mild blurring. The image shows adequate depth. In short, this rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For a TV show, we get good sound here. The stereo effects are detailed and show off sounds coming from off-screen. The surround effects stand out in the crowd sequences. Explosions show brief, but effective subwoofer effects.

The Homeland: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. Disc 1 offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY on the "Pilot" with Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, and Executive Producers/Writers Howard Gordon, and Alex Gansa. We also get two DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. The second of these is actually an extended version of a scene from the show. Disc 2 contains two DELETED SCENES which run about 3 minutes. Disc 3 kicks off with "Week Ten: Prologue to Season Two" which is a 4-minute scene which offers an epilogue to the final episode. Is this how Season Two opens? "Homeland Season One: Under Surveillance" (34 minutes) is a very detailed making-of featurette which contains interviews with many of those behind the show who discuss the creation of the program and the writing process. Each of the main characters is profiled and the actors talk about their approach to the parts and their experiences on the show. The piece contains some on-set footage and a look at the music, but there little talk about the production. There are two DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long