There’s No Place Like Homeland For the Holidays (?)

I know, it’s the Sunday before Christmas, and there’s oh-so-much to get done. Cookie baking. Tree trimming. Present shopping, and wrapping. And at 4 p.m., Patriots watching.

Let me recommend that you add something else to your busy day: catch up on Homeland, the best show I’ve found since The Wire and Friday Night Lights, and get ready for the 90-minute finale that will be on Showtime at 10 p.m. tonight.

(And if you are reading this tomorrow, on Monday, or later this week: There are vacation days coming. Use them to watch all 12 episodes of the season. If you don’t have Showtime: Get it for a month, and watch all of the episodes on demand. I won’t advocate downloading the episodes from the many online streaming sites that are out there, lest you get one of the viruses that are also out there, but that’s your call. UPDATE: I just found that you can watch the first episode on Showtime’s site, here.)

I’d heard good things about Homeland since the TV season started, but we finally caved to committing to a new show after three different groups of people told us within 24 hours that we should be watching it, including Anya, who was also the person who pushed me toward The Wire and Friday Night Lights (see above). She’s three for three in recommendations.

The show’s basics: A CIA agent (Claire Danes) learns from a source in Baghdad that an American POW has been turned to work for Al Qaeda. Several years later, an American POW (Damian Lewis, from Band of Brothers), is rescued in Afghanistan, and Claire Danes’ character is convinced he’s the one working for the terrorists. The season follows her efforts — however misguided — to figure it out.

We sped through the first nine episodes in three days, gripped by the twists and turns, great writing, and Claire Danes’ best acting performance since her days as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life. (Alas, Jordan Catalano doesn’t make a cameo in Homeland.)

I can’t really say much more about why you should be watching this show without giving away big plot elements, so just trust me: Watch it. And if you don’t believe me, or are like me and end up wanting to read everything that’s been written about it, go to these places:

Alan Sepinwall’s recaps: http://www.hitfix.com/tv/homeland/headlines/recaps

Grantland’s recaps, including Bill Simmons’ awesome recap of probably the best episode of the season that really made me miss the Sports Guy’s old columns: http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/tag/_/name/homeland-2

New York magazine’s page devoted to Homeland, including an Angela Chase-Carrie Mathison mashup: http://nymag.com/tags/homeland?mid=twitter_vulture

Only 11 hours to go until the finale, which Showtime says will leave fans “howling.” I’m a little nervous about that, so I think I’ll go work off a little of that nervous energy making clam chowder, washing my Wilfork jersey for this afternoon’s game, and finishing up my online shopping.

If you watch (or if you’ve already been initiated into the Homeland fan club), let me know what you think of the season and tonight’s finale. Happy/nervous/anxious watching.

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