Before Homeland premiered last year, I always had a special place in my heart for Claire Danes. She was and would forever be Angela Chase from ONE OF THE BEST (sorry, that just calls for an all caps) short-lived, angst driven ’90s show, My So-Called Life. It’s not that she wasn’t phenomenal in movies like Romeo + Juliet, The Hours, Shopgirl and Temple Grandin, and she even made a strong case to be a leading star in mega-duds like The Mod Squad and Terminator 3: The Rise Of Something or Other. But every time I saw Claire Danes, I had instant My So-Called Life nostalgia. Maybe it’s because it was on at a time I myself was an angst-ridden teen and it had a real impact on my life, and I’ve held a place for it in my heart for so long.
But then. But then came Homeland. Angela Chase is now a distant memory and Carrie Mathison is the Claire Danes that will take a place in my heart going forward. Her acting on Homeland is quite literally the best acting on television. You never for a second are seeing Claire Danes act, you are only seeing Carrie Mathison trying to navigate her way through the complicated web and intense (like, sooo intense) scenarios Homeland constantly puts her in. What’s so beautiful about this is that she is always trying to hold it all together. It’s amazing that every single episode, you have the worried feeling that she could break at any moment. You truly worry about her on a personal level.
And holding it together is something she rarely does. The only predictable thing about the most unpredictable show on TV is that each week, you know Carrie will undoubtedly break down and lose it. Even though you know this, it still rocks you to your core each time it happens.
What makes her the best is that you aren’t just seeing someone just cry. You are seeing someone physically, painstakingly try to hold it all in, but she’s incapable of doing so. She struggles with mental issues and life and she has so much passion and belief; it’s just impossible to keep all that in.
It starts with a slight quiver, then her face looking so boney, almost sickly. Then you see her try so hard, so hard to keep it in, to hold it back. Her eyes start to develop tears, but she doesn’t let them come just yet, she is still holding on. Then her mouth starts to shake, her lips tremble, she runs a hand through her hair. She knows she is unstable, she knows she could be wrong, but believes she could be right. Then she finally breaks, and the tears fall from her eyes. She seems to be grasping for air; she could drop to her knees at any moment, she could crumble completely, she could…. and then it stops. In an instant, she pulls it together; she wipes her face, voice still shaky, fixes her makeup and moves right along. Or she empties her pill bottles into her mouth and swallows them with a full glass of white whine, but those are only on really bad occasions.
Each time this happens, it makes me physically tense, I tighten up and think how strong she is and know that she is right. CARRIE, YOU ARE RIGHT! But my screams don’t help and I curl up in my blanket, tense and drained, knowing she will get redemption and the truth will eventually come out. Knowing that even though she tortures herself over Brody and might even still be in love with him, it’s just too much for anyone to take on, but she comes back each week fighting.
I don’t see Claire Danes cry on Homeland, I see Carrie Mathison break down, and it makes me break down with her, and that is why Danes is the best crier in the history of television.
Featured image courtesy of Showtime