When I learned in the opening credits of Homeland that the show was adapted from an Israeli drama series called Prisoners of War (also known as Hatufim), I became curious and searched the web for that show’s pilot to get a sense of how showrunners Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa clung to and deviated from Gideon Raff’s source material in their pilot. To my surprise, I found that the entire first season of Prisoners of War is available for streaming on Hulu, and was actually the platform’s first foreign language exclusive series in the U.S., with a new episode released each week.
The series follows two Israeli soldiers — Nimrode and Uri — who were captured seventeen years ago while on a secret mission with their unit in Lebanon. The story begins with their return home after years of negotiations for their freedom, with a third soldier, Amiel, who comes back in a coffin. The series explores Nimrode and Uri’s reintegration into an interrupted family life, while working through the trauma of being held captive and tortured for 17 years. Crucial to this narrative of reintegration are the show’s leading female characters — Talia (Nimrode’s wife, who has remained loyal to him for all these years), Nurit (Uri’s wife, who moved on and ended up marrying Uri’s brother), and Yael (Amiel’s sister, who sees her brother in visions). Indeed, a contrast is already evident in this more complicated ensemble setup. In Homeland, Uri and Nimrode have been collapsed into Brody — like Uri, Brody’s wife has moved on; and like Nimrode, there’s a huge rift between Brody and his kids, who have grown up without him.
Like many developed-for-American-television imports (I’m talking to you, The Office pilot), there are scenes in the pilot of Homeland that are uncanny in their beat-for-beat translation of similar scenes in the Prisoners pilot. Just like Jess prior to finally reuniting with Brody, Talia rehearses in front of a mirror how she’ll greet Nimrode upon his return. Also, understandably, both shows frequently employ hazy flashbacks to flesh out the trauma of these emotionally scarred captives. Both shows also unveil the characters’ physical scars similarly, with Talia seeing Nimrode’s scars as he takes off his shirt during intercourse.
However, what’s most noticeably missing from Prisoners is a paranoid, apophenic Carrie Matheson character sniffing out a straight-to-the-top conspiracy. The pilot alludes to a rehabilitation facility where Uri and Nimrode will presumably be questioned by a military psychiatrist in the next episode, but at this point there is no suspicion from any character that these two captured soldiers have been turned by terrorists, although the synopsis on Wikipedia suggests that there will be discrepancies in Uri and Nimrode’s personal accounts of their solitary imprisonment. Basically, to sum it up, it’s safe to say that Prisoners is more concerned with the soldiers and their domestic lives, whereas Homeland is about Carrie, and all the post-9/11 paranoia and political-thriller suspense that one has come to expect from the writers of 24.