Spread over ten one-hour parts, the Israeli drama on which Homeland was based came to the UK on Sky Arts, slower-paced than the more famous US show, but just as compelling. Primarily focused on the aftermath of returning soldiers who have been held in captivity for years, the specific details of the story are different, although many of the clever original ideas it had, which Homeland adapted, are here.
There’s the secret language of released prisoners, the covert surveillance, a honey-trap, the flashbacks to the violent beating of a colleague and the collateral damage of the wrecked families left behind after the soldiers became prisoners.
While an ambiguity of the motives of the released prisoners develops as the series progresses, rather than the chase element which shape Homeland as a thriller, Prisoners of War is centred on how the lives of both the families and the prisoners now adapt to a situation that changed overnight.
The more brutal nature of the soldiers’ own officials is shown at the start, as they are soon held in captivity again after their release, this time by their previous employees. And when they return to domesticity they find a liaison officer who is now part of family life and discover a new development called “the internet”; one of the prisoner’s wives is now married to his brother, with whom she has a child, while another prisoner has teenage children he doesn’t know, both of whom have a dark sense of humour but very troubled lives.
It is stylish produced, with nice touches including a dog-walking set-piece to music, the beautifully detailed set-design of an untouched bedroom and the slimy estate-agent trying to bully a grieving woman who finds himself looking through a ghost to see a bargaining tool of a crack in the wall.
The season comes to a surprise ending, leaving a cliff-hanger from which the plot could have developed into a second series. That storyline was cleverly exploited in the US instead though.
With echoes of Glory from American Cinema to Bruce Springsteen, and full of the flavour of Escape that European Travel brings, The Substantive TV Columnist Mel Gomes’ e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley‘ is available from Amazon and Smashwords. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.