Homeland: Choose Sides

 Posted by on October 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm  Homeland
Oct 022012

As the second season of Homeland begins, Carrie and Brody are doing well. Or are they?

The first scene of The Smile introduces us to a new and improved (?) Carrie Mathison: a vegetarian English teacher, living in her sister’s house, spending her free time  puttering in the backyard garden. A handwritten sign on her bedroom mirror reminds her to “BREATHE”. And she does seem better: taking her meds, eating and sleeping. Carrie has moved on — even if she does tend to check the status of the new war between Israel and Iran on her laptop whenever she can.

Brody’s moved on, too. He’s Congressman Brody now, tracking the unrest in the Middle East only as much as he needs to for his new job. And his possible future job: oily Vice President Walden, running for President, tells Brody he’s being vetted as a possible running mate. Brody’s uncharacteristic response: “Hell yes!”

Is this where we want Carrie and Brody to stay? Before we can decide, everything changes.

In Lebanon, the wife of a Hezbollah leader has presented herself to U.S. intelligence sources, claiming to have information about an imminent attack. The problem: she will only talk to Carrie. When first told about this, Carrie pushes back, shutting down her former colleague’s questions and resuming the day’s lesson. But when Saul contacts her from Lebanon, she listens.

She’s not happy about getting dragged back in. On the phone with Saul she’s anxious, even desperate. “I’m cooking dinner,” she cries. “With vegetables I picked this morning, from the garden. We vacuum sealed the vegetables and week later they are still fresh. You can find vacuum sealers that are reviewed by experts and try the one you like” Carrie knows how much she has to lose – but minutes later, she’s meeting with David Estes outside her sister’s house. He outlines the situation, stressing that it’s temporary. “You wouldn’t be getting your job back,” he promises. Minutes after that, despite her sister’s protests, Carrie is packing to leave.

Meanwhile, Brody’s daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor, still killing it in season 2) is attending a school she hates and continuing to throw attitude at her mom (Jess: “Who you going with?” Dana: “[mumble]”). In Quaker meeting one day she attacks a classmate’s regressive view of Iran, blurting, “My Dad’s a Muslim.” Jess wastes no time laying into her daughter about the incident that night at home, but Brody shocks both of them: “It’s true,” he tells his wife.

She freaks out, and throws his Koran on the floor. “I married a Marine,” Jess fumes. “This can not happen.”

Brody faces more challenges at work. Journalist Roya Hammad asks to meet with him, then drops a bomb: “We need to speak privately about Abu Nazir.” She wants Brody to use his upcoming meeting with David Estes to retrieve information about classified drone targets from a safe in Estes’ office.

Brody quickly abandons his veil of ignorance (“I don’t know what you’re talking about”) for a more heartfelt denial: “I’m not a terrorist,” he insists. But Hammad knows what she’s doing. “Issa’s birthday is Monday,” she reminds him. “We’re at war. You need to choose sides.”

Did I say this woman knows what she’s doing? At the meeting with Estes, she herself is the diversion, dragging Estes out for a conversation, allowing Brody to locate the information she needs. And hitting on Estes for good measure: “Dinner?” she purrs. Estes, in the role of Big Dumb Man this week, goes for it.

On the other side of the world, Carrie dons a disguise for entry to Lebanon. She gets in, of course (white women: accepted everywhere! We’re the Visa Card of people!), and is on her way to meet Saul at a café when it becomes clear she’s being followed. Just like that, Old Carrie returns: “I think I can lose him,” she tells Saul brightly.

And lose him she does. Carrie trashes her cellphone, heads into the labyrinth of market stalls, swaps out her headscarf for a new one, kicks her pursuer in the predator drones, and slips away. As she rushes from the first incident of her re-entry into Spy Life, we finally see it again: The Smile. It’s a crazy smile, but absolutely her own. Carrie Mathison is back.

But Brody is lost. Between the complex stresses of work and his problems with Jess, his disguise of unassailable cool is less reliable than it used to be. Some things he can still count on, though.

Lying awake one night, Brody rises and goes to his garage. He retrieves his Koran, tenderly wraps it, then goes outside and starts to dig. Before long Dana appears next to him, asking what he’s doing.

“It’s desecrated,” he explains, and continues to bury the sacred book that’s been his lifeline. Dana offers to help. Their hands in the dirt, father and daughter work together in silence. It’s a powerful scene, one that recalls Brody and Nazir working side by side to prepare the body of young Issa for burial. Even in a life as thick with deception as Brody’s, redemption is possible; once again, it’s Dana who offers it.

A solid, satisfying episode, I thought. Still, I have notes:

Carrie’s back in the hunt, but how is she going to stay well? With signs of disruption already turning up in both her sleep and her powers of recall, how well can she actually perform?

Is there any kind of real-life precedent for Brody’s story? Here’s a POW who returns home, runs and wins a special-election campaign, and is vetted as a Presidential running mate — all inside of six months. Not an entirely credible series of events, I feel!

How did V.P. Walden’s vetting of Brody miss so much? Like Brody’s assault on the journalist outside his home, his attack on his former guard at CIA headquarters, Jessica’s affair with Uncle Mike? Can these people even name his favorite tea?

What’s up with Jess? This woman who thinks being married to a member of Congress is “fun”, who welcomes the idea of being the very public wife of a vice-presidential candidate – who the hell IS this? And did we see any of this ambition-by-proxy in her last year?

Does gardening really work as treatment for major mood disorder? Asking for a friend.

How about you, Basketcases? Any other burning questions, reactions, criticism, praise? Let’s hear it!


  12 Responses to “Homeland: Choose Sides”

  1. I recorded the episode, but I’m re-watching the last couple from last season, so I haven’t seen it yet.

    That being said, “We’re the Visa card of people”…you kill me! VERY well done!

    And I wouldn’t call gardening “treatment” per se, but it can be a great grounding meditation when you’re off-balance. Pun intended.

  2. Brody’s 6 month journey could only be possible in the, their is no other business , but show business, 24 hoyr cycle of news/infotainment. Back in Uncle Walter Cronkite’s day a returning POW with high brass family connections, like John McCain was a story that was hardly mentioned. Now?
    Now, that soldier would be exalted on the 24 hour cycle. Depending on how wholesome/comely the soldiervwas, the 15 minutes could be stretched out—- People, Time, Us Weekly, maybe even the holiest of holies, a spot on the couch opposite Baba Wawa (Walters). Brody’s epic rise is not so far fetched in my eyes.
    DidvDanes clinch her second Emmy with that macabre, it was supposed to be convey happiness, smile? Just surreal. I felt about 4’different emotions seeing that smile. The kid is superb.
    This message is brought to you by Visa. Finally, there is something that gives the illusion that you own what you always wanted. 🙂 🙂

  3. I wanted to like this show. I really did. But it is totally not credible. At. All.

    The actors deserve their awards for turning in excellent performances despite the far-fetched plot.

    • Yes, it stretches beyond the possible, and not just occasionally. But I’m going to keep watching, because:

      1) Claire Danes is amazing. As tk mentions above, her smile as she runs from the market is a lot of things: gleeful, secretive, nervous, knowing, manic, and completely genuine. Among others. Girl does the crazy-eyes like no one else.
      2) Danes and Lewis bring a level of chemistry so intense to Carrie and Brody’s scenes together, it’s almost off the charts. I haven’t shipped a TV couple this hard since Don and Rachel in S1.
      3) Homeland shows a light touch in its portrayal of religious and spiritual practice. In a time when what we usually see on TV and movies is the weapons-grade variety of faith, this is refreshing and very honest.
      4) Mandy Patinkin, holla!
      5) The relationship between Brody and his daughter is beautifully drawn, and Lewis and Saylor act the hell out of it.
      6) If the series continues to be good-to-excellent, that’s great for me as a blogger.
      7) If if takes a turn, and becomes implausible-to-occasionally-good … even better. The best material for writing is often at least slightly mockable.

      I hope you’ll keep tuning in. Here, at least.

      • I am your ever faithful ( semper fi, Brody) reader Anne. The visa schtick was an ode to Ginzo’s Porsche pitch. Does my Visa have enough oomph to purchase that?!?! Check back with me later. LOL
        Get the feeling Brody’s thread will run out with S2, and the silkily sinister Nazir has yet another ace up his sleeve in his long, long game.
        Can’t wait.
        Hope the Reds can help out your beloved Dodgers out tonight, Anne.

      • I love the show and will keep watching it, but the incredible part of the episode, for me, was the scene in Estes’s office. It beggars credibility a lot to accept that there is no surveillance in the office of a high-ranking CIA manager with top-secret information in his safe. It just stretched things a little too far for me. (Also, high-level safes record the entries.) I understand for reasons of the plot that that had to happen. But it was a little too much.

    • Although I enjoyed season 1 of this show when I watched it in reruns a few months ago, like you, I did start to have issues with its plausibility. It isn’t just the problem of believing that ONE hostage would be turned in this manner, but TWO! I have a lot of trouble buying that. The struggle for Brody’s soul is very compelling storytelling, and like you, Anne B, I think the relationship portrayed between the father and daughter is really lovely – so well done. Production values and skills are great.

      Mandy Patinkin is excellent in this show – I can’t remember another role I’ve seen him in that I liked as much. I think I’ve missed a lot of his work in the last decade or so, though.

      But, it is really hard to believe a bunch of parts of this.

      • Lord only knows what unholy/unspeakable/heroic acts are our intelligence agencies perform on behalf of keeping the citizenry safe , and America pre-eminent.
        This show is about the shadow world, so EVERYTHING should be at least borderline plausible, because we just don’t know what the CIA is up to,.and we’re not supposed to.
        Granted the 2 attacks in nearly the same place by Tom Walker bordered on incredulity, because terrorist lightning never strikes in the same place twice.
        Umm… weren’t the Twin Towers, nevermind.
        With a guy like Nazir, nothing is off the table. Anything goes, and sometimes does.
        So where is the hard to believe aspect of Homeland?
        The implausible is very possible, rendering that argument moot.

        • I found the story of the young woman who had lived in Saudi Arabia pretty believable. She had prolonged exposure to the most extreme Middle-Eastern culture and fell in love with a Saudi man. She came to it willingly. And her interaction with Saul also helped explain what made her look at the world in that way.

          It was mainly the Brody and Tom Walker double hostage thing I didn’t really buy. Brody – maybe, because he is very conflicted and underwent a religious conversion that supports his story. The more time that passes, the less willing he seems to be to carry out a terrorist agenda. That makes a little bit of sense.

          The other brainwashed hostage is a much thougher sell. So why would a US Marine become a kind of terrorist automaton? It makes sense to be overcome by the Stockholm syndrome when you are actually a captive undergoing torture for many years (like John McCain was to some extent). It doesn’t make sense to be so thoroughly unquestioning after returning to your home country when you clearly still love your wife and child. Very little motivation there.

          And why would Brody choose Issa over his own children in essence?

          The show is really well-done, but the core character motivations are fishy.

          The ‘shadow world’ is fine. We have often been kept in the dark over the last decade, and the whole Cold War period was a complete secrecy period. You’re right that all kinds of things could be happening wo our knowledge.

          The two for two equation is what really stretches it. Just like to have higher standards with characters created to mimic reality. If this were ‘Bond, James Bond’, it wouldn’t matter – that’s a fantasy icon.

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