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‘Homeland’ Open Thread: Teachers And Students

By Alyssa Rosenberg on October 31, 2011 at 8:37 am

"‘Homeland’ Open Thread: Teachers And Students"

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This post contains spoilers through the Oct. 30 episode of Homeland.

Homeland is thick with complex relationships we’re encountering long after they initially began, from Brody’s friendship with Mike; to David and Carrie’s professional relationship, affair, and present uneasy collegiality; to Carrie’s relationship with Saul. The network’s so complex that the show could be forgiven for some duplication for the sake of emotional signaling — implying affairs between both Carrie and David and Carrie and Saul, for example, which would establish that Carrie has a pattern. But it’s a mark of the great show Homeland is becoming that it doesn’t take those shortcuts, and that all the backstories have a rich specificity. And tonight’s episode explored two relationships in the same mold: the father and daughter relationship between Carrie and the man who gave her life and Carrie and the man who gave her a professional identity.

Having seen Carrie with her sister, it’s nice to see her with her father — especially because it seems that the mental illness that stalks her might be hereditary. “Sometimes you feel like you’re spinning out of control when they bring you up instead of down,” Carrie tells her father, explaining that she understands the impact that his medication has on him. Much as her sister keeps Carrie coming back with the promise of more pills, her father, it seems, keeps their tie with food, making her a sandwich, wrapping it up to go in a show of understanding, and when she has to go, telling her, “Drive safe. And fuck the CIA,” with his daughter joining in a chorus on the second sentence.

She’s not as fortunate with Saul, who shuts her down again when after David lets Brody visit his former captor (Brody tells him “I need to be physically and mentally ready to honor my duties as a Marine and as a man. But first I have to close the book on this chapter of my life.), Hamid commits suicide with a razor shard Carrie doesn’t believe he could have hidden on himself previously. When she comes to see him at home, complaining that “I’m over your whole detached routine,” totally unaware that Saul’s girlfriend may have just broken up with him, Saul is of course within his rights to tell Carrie, “You’re out of line. You’re in my home.” But she may be right that he’s lost his nerve, that he’s no longer in a place where he can see an investigation all the way through and be as tough as he needs to be. Even so, Carrie still needs his affirmation. When he tells her, “Take some boxes with you. You’ll need them when you clean out your desk,” it sends her, hysterical, to her sister’s house. Babbling out of control, she tells her sister, “I think I just quit my job. I’m serious. I’m done. I’m done. I’ve had it up to here…You were so right, you were so fucking right when you told me my job would kill me one day.”

But of course she can’t give it up. And there’s something profoundly moving about her conviction when her niece wakes up from a sleepover with her aunt to ask if she’s afraid of the bad guys, “The ones who blow people up…I have an idea,” says the little girl who has no idea what her aunt does for a living or why she’s distraught, “Come live with us. We’ll protect you.” It’s those words that bring Carrie back to herself, promising, “No, honey, that’s my job.” Brody, meanwhile, is having a harder time living up to his responsibilities, missing his son’s martial arts exam and finding that Mike’s taken his place there, snapping at his wife, praying for his own recovery. Getting better is more than a matter of confronting the man who tortured you, telling him, “I’m a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, shitbird. How did you think this would end?” and wrestling him to the ground if you’re innocent. Worse if you’re guilty.

A lot of the speculation in this episode is going to center around whether Brody slipped Hamid the razor blade. But for me the more interesting question — and way forward — is why Brody didn’t reveal that he and Carrie met at the support group. There’s not just a frisson of electricity between them now: there’s a complicity. Whether Carrie will use that to crack him, whether Brody will use that to discredit her, or whether the true plot will be something that brings Carrie, Brody, Saul, and David together in an uncomfortable collaboration remains up in the air. And I’m fascinated to see what it is.

Aside from the personal elements of this episode, this is a twisty little story about interrogation. Before Brody agrees to, as Carrie puts it, “provide us with information we can use to unsettle him, to prove we have complete control, to demonstrate our omnipotence,” he wants to know if Hamid will be tortured. “We don’t do that here,” she tells him sweetly, before keeping Hamid awake with bright lights and heavy metal until he gives up an email address that leads them to Faisal. Later, Brody tells David that he has to give him a minute with Hamid because he cooperated “Hard as it was to watch us dance around his rights after what he did to me for eight years.” It’s impossible to know what either of them thinks is right. It does seem that Carrie’s treatment of Hamid worked, at least to a very limited extent. But we’re a long way from the end, and from ultimate knowledge.

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