Homeland made a large leap in its storytelling this week, making an audacious move with Damian Lewis’ Brody and Claire Danes’ Carrie that swerves the series in a new direction. Speaking of swerves, Dana and her new boyfriend Finn did some swerving themselves, and not as skillfully as Carrie and Brody. SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ FURTHER UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THIS WEEK’S EPISODE OF HOMELAND.
In this episode, “Q&A,” written by producer Henry Bromell (Rubicon, among much other good work), Brody, held in custody, denied a lawyer, was systematically broken down by the bad-cop/good-cop tag team of Peter and Carrie. Homeland is always mindful of the ways of institutionalized sexism – I don’t think Peter was faking it when he initially said Carrie shouldn’t be the one to interrogate Brody because she was “too emotional, [too] reckless.” But then, of course, brilliant Carrie knows how to make that sexism work for her as well.
Where Peter went in as knife-wielding tough guy and kept emphasizing the world-wide catastrophe a terrorist attack on America would provoke, Carrie made it all about her: “You broke my heart … Because of you I questioned my own sanity.” I got goosebumps for the way Claire Danes played the most crucial moment of eliciting honesty and selling the freedom in telling the truth when she told him how good, how liberating it would feel to say to him, “ ‘I want you to leave your wife and children and be with me’ ” – because that thrill of truth-telling was real for her, even as it placed a thin layer of distance between what she was saying and what it meant. This truly was the most honest thing she could say – which is why we got the sudden cut away to Saul, taking in with surprise the bluntness of what Carrie was doing – and it helped achieve what Carrie Mathison, once and future CIA intelligence officer, wanted: To provide Brody with the logic of practicality and the illogic of love to tell her what he knew about Nazir.
Together Peter and Carrie did what Carrie said Nazir had done to Peter: “systematically pulled you apart [and] put you back together again as someone else.”
Meanwhile, Finn and Dana’s hit-and-run accident was well-detailed. You didn’t feel as though Finn was a complete jerk; we’ve seen how verbally abusive his dad the Vice President can be. (Plus, any teen who recommends a Sergio Leone film as a movie date, and has the wry wit to describe it as “wide-screen agony,” has the sympathy of any sensible Homeland fan.) And I understood the panic Finn and Dana felt after the accident, even as I thought, well, kid, all you have to do is let that Secret Service assignment you shook know where you are and what’s up and this mess will be tidied up with a minimum of publicity. I know, easy for me to say as a detached adult. How this plays out, I’m cheerfully in the dark about.
But back to Brody. He’s now agreed, as Carrie put it, to “help us figure out what Abu Nazir’s plan is.”
Here’s the challenge – the big risk – going forward. By the end of this week’s hour, we had arrived at a situation that could have served as a cliffhanger on, oh, say, 24. In a lesser series than Homeland is, Brody will henceforth become a good-guy hero, working with Carrie and the government to suss out Abu Nazir’s plan. Brody will play Roya Hammad like a violin. Estes will be forced to at least temporarily reinstate Carrie. Brody will be tempted to reignite his affair with Carrie, and maybe will even do so, for a while, but he’s basically a decent man who will return to the love of his wife. Brody will be living a double-, sometimes triple-life, and suspense will be generated each week as he and his co-stars get closer to Abu Nazir even as the chances increase that his cover would be blown.
But Homeland is not that sort of lesser show. To the extent that the series becomes anything like what I described above, it’ll drop in quality. Obviously I hope (and assume) what I outlined above will not occur.
I suspect that Brody is well and truly messed up. He’ll be able to carry off his double-agent status, even as I’m really looking forward to seeing just how long Brody thinks Jessica is going to settle for that “I’m working for the CIA on matters of national security, that’s the truth, please excuse me while I go to my prayer mat” line of palaver – hah! But Carrie has really gotten to him, on an intellectual and an emotional level. He and Carrie will almost certainly become involved romantically again: The cover of “Call and say you miss me” will become a heartfelt plea, from each of them to the other, more than once.
It was significant that the hour ended with Carrie, alone, drinking wine. She, too, is well and truly messed up, even in the midst of having pulled off one of the most intricately delicate missions she’s ever faced, getting Brody to talk.
Now the problem is what the two of them will continue to talk about.
For more: Homeland recap: It’s Pizza Night!