Written by William Dobson
It might shock you to hear, but for the last three days I’ve been locked in a small, dark room, devoid of the sun’s light or warmth, the only food eaten a few small bowls of cereal and only allowed the occasional drink of water, held captive by subversive forces in solitary confinement. It’s been a lonely rollercoster of fleeting highs juxtaposed by terrifying lows. That’s right, I’ve been watching series one of Homeland (a bit late, I know!), captured in the grip of addictive US television, emotionally tortured by the fictional attempts of an aged Clarie Danes single-handedly trying to avert the risk of a terrorist attack on United States’ soil.
While my ordeal may have only lasted a few days, rather than the eight years of Sergeant Brody, and my facial hair may not be quite as long and straggly, I feel I can empathise with his plight. Even the pallid London sun burns my retinas when I finally step outside and suddenly I’m suspicious of everyone around me. Is that man with a beard looking at me strangely? Does my local Lebanese greengrocer have ulterior motives when he offers me an extra onion, free of charge? How do I know who I can trust and who I can’t?
Of course, Homeland, like many of its counterparts, is excellent and compulsive viewing, each episode drawing us further into the plot. It cajoles us to become emotionally invested with each character – even those who are ‘evil’ are still human – and, at the end of each episode, full of more twists and turns than Michael Schumacher driving to the airport, we are left with too many unanswered questions not to feel compelled to continue watching.
On the other hand, it’s another example of an unhealthy attitude which is prevalent in the West. It’s ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them.’ Take out the token half-Lebanese CIA agent, and every Middle Eastern character has something to answer for, whether it be the Saudi Arabian diplomat who is, of course, simultaneously working on behalf of Al-Qaeda, or the humble Imam, ostentatiously a good man, who, by withholding information, hinders the CIA’s attempts to stop an attack.
What’s my point with this piece? Well, I’m not really sure other than to feel I have done something constructive over the last few days…which of course I haven’t (it’s one of life’s great mysteries and a continuous source of frustration that one feels much more guilty sitting inside watching television than sitting on a beach in Goa). Yet, how ever clichéd Homeland might be, I’m now counting down the days until September and Season Two…does that mean I’ve been turned to the dark side?