This post contains spoilers through the Oct. 2 episode of Homeland.
My deep and abiding love for the Homeland pilot, which I think is the best pilot of the new season by several orders of magnitude, is already a matter of public record. But I wanted to lay out a couple of questions for discussion:
1. Do we think Carrie is insane? She’s clearly not entirely mentally healthy. From her totally inappropriate advances towards Saul in a moment of desperation, to her disregard for the law, to her somewhat uncomfortable if perhaps justifiable decision to watch the Brodys have sex. But did she really hear what she thought she heard in that Iraqi prison? And is she mistaking nervous habits for signaling? Clearly, figuring out whether Carrie’s seeing clearly or seeing things that aren’t there will be one of the key conflicts of the story. And getting the balance between making her fragile but also more than the sum of her illness will be critical in making her a compelling character rather than just a stereotype.
2. Is the balance the U.S. has on civil liberties and wiretapping right? It seems that Carrie’s right that something’s going on with Nicholas Brody. But she discovered his hand signals by watching publicly available footage of him — not by sending a team she’s paying herself swarming all over his house. The show seems, so far, to be walking another important but tricky line, arguing that you can take threats seriously and pursue leads aggressively without compromising civil liberties and going outside the legal procedures you need to obtain a wiretap. That means you need more people with actual Iraq experience and more respect for their expertise, not more exceptions to the law.
3. Can we sympathize with a traumatized soldier who is also a traitor? We don’t know for sure that Brody is a sleeper agent (though it’s going to be an interesting season if he turns out not to be). Maybe the deepest secret he has is that he was forced to kill his fellow captive, and we’re going to have to see him work through that. But by presenting him as someone who, in addition to maybe betraying his country because he was tortured and brainwashed, cares about that fellow captive’s widow, is relearning how to have sex with his wife, and is building a relationship for the first time with his son, Homeland is giving us a mental workout in exploring the reactions we’re supposed to have for veterans.