Genre: Espionage Thriller
Developed by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa
Based on Prisoners of War by Gideon Raff
In the pilot we are introduced to all of the major players that will bring season one to its nerve-shredding climax.
We open in Baghdad, Iraq, as Carrie Mathison’s ‘asset’ (informer), a bomb-maker for the US military’s arch enemy Abu Nasir (Navid Negahban) is about to be executed. He says he has intelligence about an imminent attack on US soil. He says he will give Carrie the intel if Carrie promises to protect his family.
Carrie appeals to CIA deputy director David Estes (David Harewood) to commute the execution sentence. Estes refuses saying the US doesn’t dictate law to Iraq anymore. Baghdad is their jurisdiction. Besides, it’s clear Estes doesn’t believe the intelligence.
Immediately we see Carrie’s opposition stems not only from those wishing to carry out an attack on the US, but Carrie is also faced with opposition from the powers above her inside the CIA. This opposing force from within the CIA proves a powerful enemy to Carrie’s goals throughout the entire eight seasons.
Carrie agrees to protect the family of her asset. In return, the bomb maker tells her that a US marine has been ‘turned’ into an Islamic terrorist just as Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) is ‘rescued’ from his 8 year hell as a POW in Iraq.
Is it a coincidence? The ‘turned’ soldier has to be Brody. But no one in the CIA will listen to Carrie. And especially not David Estes. In his eyes, Brody is a hero. End of.
There is clear tension between David Estes and Carrie, which Estes disguises as professional differences. He has a thing for her, it’s clear.
Carrie asks her mentor, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), to set up surveillance in his home. Saul refuses. Carrie does it anyway, illegally planting cameras in every room of Brody’s house, except, crucially, the garage, where he prays to Allah.
We learn from this that Carrie is anti-rules. She is also on medication for bi-polar, which she keeps a secret from the CIA, even from Saul.
Only her sister, who prescribes her the meds, knows.
But Carrie’s mental health condition is also her ‘superpower.’ In times of mania, Carrie is able to see patterns no one else can see. When she goes off medz, she knows Brody is a terrorist, but no one else believes her.
It is Carrie against the world. Even her mentor, Saul, is an obstacle to her plans. Carrie is alone except for one friend, Virgil (David Marciano) who helps Carrie set up the illegal surveillance, with his kid brother, Max (Maury Sterling).
Although no one believes her, we the audience know that Carrie is right in her theories, putting us in a superior position – dramatic irony.
One other thing we learn about Carrie is, there is no mention of a romantic partner, so is she single?
On his return to the US as hero, Brody requests to speak to his wife (Morena Baccarin) before he faces the media. He doesn’t know, but we know, that wife, Jessica, is in bed with his best friend, Mike (Diego Klattenhoff).
This sets up the A plot and B plot and asks active questions.
1. Will Estes, or Saul, or anyone in the CIA, believe Carrie?
2. Will Carrie find the evidence she needs through her illegal surveillance?
3. Will Carrie learn 100% that she is right?
4. Will Carrie be able to stop Brody from carrying out his attack?
5. Will Brody find out that Jessica, his wife and the mother of his children, has been sleeping with his best friend?
Finally, the other major player in season 1 we are introduced to in the pilot is Brody’s daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor).