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Hooked to homeland

In just two weeks, it’s become the most addictive show on television. For many months, I had ignored suggestions by friends and hints from the Internet to download Homeland. ‘Really, how good could a TV show get, anyway?’ was my rebuff. And so, I spent my late evenings catching up on Charlie Harper’s latest shenanigans, rooted for the Beckett-Castle romance and sat through the lives and loves of two broke girls.

Until January 16, when Carrie and Brody, Saul and Estes came calling on STAR World. I am now hooked to Homeland. Here’s why the action-packed thriller works for me. And how!

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland

The plot: Islamophobia post- 9/11 and the constant fear of another terrorist attack is what drives the drama in Homeland. Claire Danes’s CIA agent Carrie Mathison is convinced that Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), an American prisoner-of-war released from captivity after eight years has gone over to the other side and is now an al-Qaeda mole.

Carrie, given to bouts of bipolar disorder, convinces mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) to help her bug Brody’s home, even as the rest of the department is kept out of the loop. Brody’s motives always border on the suspicious, but Carrie finds nothing to pin him down with, as the two constantly walk a tightrope.

Then comes the news that it is possibly Brody’s former comrade Tom Walker — till now given up for dead — who has been turned, putting Brody in the clear. Carrie still can’t connect the dots, even as Brody is left to deal with his own demons, including his best bud Mike who had been in a physical relationship with his wife in his absence.

The intrigue: Homeland could easily be the small screen’s The Manchurian Candidate, that absolutely brilliant Denzel Washington film in which soldiers in the Gulf War are kidnapped and brainwashed for sinister purposes. Homeland is as edge-of-the-seat as 11pm television can get. Even in the moments where the physical action is low, there is a palpable sense of tension, a ticking time-bomb scenario with lives and relationships, careers and family ties on the line.

Sarita Choudhury

A psychological terrorism thriller, Homeland is gritty and doesn’t hesitate in asking tough questions, and yet manages to keep it entertaining enough for me — and millions of others — to return to it every night.

The players: As a woman constantly on the edge but determined to protect her country at any cost, Claire Danes is spot-on as Carrie. But the real deal is Damian Lewis whose cold and cocky demeanour is chilling, his body and mind both scarred irrevocably. Despite their obvious differences, Carrie and Brody have a strange, intimate connection, both damaged characters grappling to make sense of their lives. While each player in the ensemble cast chips in well, I specially look out for Saul, whose no-nonsense practical approach is a perfect foil to an over-the-top Carrie. And yes, Sarita Choudhury, that familiar face from Mira Nair films like Kamasutra and Mississippi Masala, puts in a cameo as Saul’s estranged wife.

The romance: I must confess that the sudden intimacy between Carrie and Brody (right) threw me off-guard, but I am beginning to enjoy the unspoken connection that they share. Both have secrets; both lead dual lives; and both feel the need to reach out even while projecting an outward strength. Will there be more between them in future, even if Brody turns out to be a traitor? I can’t wait to know.

P.S.: Though I do love what I have seen of Homeland so far, there have been some blah Bush-league moments (what was that ’fess-it-all road trip that Saul took with that American female terrorist all about?!). But hey, let’s not nitpick. Homeland, rock on!

Homeland airs Monday to Friday at 11pm on STAR World