The New Face of Terror TV

Article excerpt

Byline: Bryan Curtis

Claire Danes is a cia agent fighting a war hero in the riveting new series Homeland.

Ten Years Ago, WHEN Osama bin Laden seemed like he had a bloody sequel right around the corner, there was a TV show called 24. It tapped into the American id by deputizing its hero, Jack Bauer, as the nation's antiterrorist: in defense of us, our freedoms, and Elisha Cuthbert. This fall, one of 24's executive producers is bringing forth a new Showtime series called Homeland. It dispatches a hero to battle against Al Qaeda and the annihilation of America, too. The new show is as snug in its cultural moment as 24 was.

In Homeland, our hero is Claire Danes. She plays Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent haunted by clues she missed before 9/11. "Let's just say that she's a little?.?.?.?intense," the character's friend says. By day, Mathison snoops in ways even the Patriot Act doesn't allow. By night, she slips on high heels to meet guys. She also adds a phony wedding ring so men won't attach themselves and get in the way of her gumshoeing.

Mathison's spidey-sense tingles when Marine Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), classified MIA, is discovered in Afghanistan eight years after he vanished. She gets a tip that Brody has been "turned" by an Al Qaeda leader. (The fiend is called Abu Nazir, whose name sounds vaguely like a dozen real terrorists.) From the moment Brody returns to American soil, Mathison tries to expose the war hero.

If this sounds like The Manchurian Candidate: Enduring Freedom Edition, well, it is. But Homeland has enough good stuff to feel fresh, including freakish timing. Executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa had already shot the pilot when bin Laden was geronimo'd. Gansa thought the show was doomed; Gordon, the 24 vet, knew they had it made. The antiterror roundup so easily (and willfully) forgotten by Americans was page one again.

"24 was born in the ashes of 9/11," Gordon says. "This is a show that could only have taken place 10 years after." Or as Gansa puts it, "24 was an action thriller about America's mus-cular response to the towers coming down. This is a psychological response to where the country is post-Osama bin Laden's death."

Claire Danes is all psychological response. She has bleached blonde hair and a face that holds back a torrent of angst. Going back to My So-Called Life, Danes has always been a good worrier. …