With Showtime’s monster hit Homeland coming back for its much-anticipated fifth season this weekend, we know some of you still need to catch up. With that in mind, here’s a handy-dandy guide to help you in your effort to binge the past four seasons in anticipation for Sunday’s premiere, should you choose to attempt such an undertaking.
What’s the premise? A bipolar CIA officer determined to bring down a notorious terrorist suspects a returning war hero has been compromised. As her investigation progresses, it takes a toll on her personal life and her career, putting the agency, her loved ones, and herself at considerable risk.
What’s it like? If the action in Homeland feels familiar, that’s because one of its creators, Howard Gordon, previously worked on 24. Gordon co-developed this government thriller with Alex Gansa, whose credits include The X-Files and the 1980s version of Beauty and the Beast. Take the political intrigue and action of 24, add the strong-yet-flawed female lead of Nurse Jackie, and shake well.
Where can I see it? Season five begins this Sunday, October 4 at 9:00 p.m. on Showtime. The next day, episodes are available on demand and on Showtime Anytime. Previous seasons are on Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes, as well as DVD, Blu-Ray, and Showtime Anytime.
How long will it take? All four seasons consist of twelve episodes each, with a grand total of 48 episodes clocking in at about an hour apiece. In other words, if you’ve never seen an episode, there’s probably not a good chance you’ll be caught up by Sunday. But if you’re willing to give it a good three weeks to a month, you should be back on track before the midpoint of season five.
What do the critics think? The first four seasons are all Certified Fresh, with season one coming in at a perfect 100 percent, followed by season two at 97 percent, three at 84 percent, and four at 82 percent on the Tomatometer. Most of the critics are hooked: Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal said, “Once you watch the first episode, it’s going to be hard standing the wait for the next,” while Mike Hale of the New York Times wrote in his season two review that “the combination of adult intelligence and crisp action is still pretty much unmatched on American television.”
Why should I watch this? If ever there was a series that consistently left you with your mouth agape in shock at the end — and sometimes, even in the middle — of each episode, this is it. The season one finale will leave you with a cliffhanger so huge that it’ll feel like Christmas morning to have season two readily available to watch. And for all of you My So-Called Life fans, if you felt Angela Chase disappeared from your screen much too soon 20 years ago, you’ll want to tune in to watch Claire Danes‘s Emmy-winning performance as Carrie Mathison.
What’s my next step? Homeland is based on the Israeli series Hatufim by Gideon Raff, whose inspiration came from moving back to Israel after living in Los Angeles for eight years. “Home” looked and felt different than he remembered, and he harnessed that sense of general apprehension to write a sharp government thriller. Although Raff didn’t draw from any specific films, if you enjoy political thrillers, you may also like State of Play, Body of Lies, Zero Dark Thirty, and Fair Game.