This post contains spoilers through the Nov. 20 episode of Homeland.
“Call him a terrorist. What happened here won’t matter very much.” -The FBI’s liaison to the CIA on the Tom Walker detail
“I’m going to be alone my whole life, aren’t I?” -Carrie
Tonight brought another twist in the mystery of what happened to Brody in Afghanistan and who he is now. But I think I’ve decided that I don’t much care about the final destination of this show as long as it keeps taking us to these fascinating, heartbreaking places. Whether Brody is guilty, innocent, or merely beyond our comprehension, Homeland is, I think, a story about how our country breaks our hearts.
On a policy level first, the botched apprehension of Tom Walker pulled together three central themes of the show. First, Carrie turned out to be wrong about the extent to which she could wrangle Walker’s traumatized wife, who made a grand, stupid gesture to try to absolve herself for the sin of moving on. But she was right to order caution in the raid, and disaster resulted when the FBI ignored her, leaving two men dead at prayers and the Muslim community up in arms. Second, that tragedy continued the show’s dedication to finding beauty in prayer: the agents’ sights picked out the iconic arches in a mosque that from the outside was so non-descript, it looked like a warehouse. And finally, it was an example of a government agency being so callous about Islam that it would be nice to believe it wasn’t true, though of course it mirrors an ugly reality.
Then, there’s the human heartbreak of the work-service to country can be salvation and damnation both. Saul, mounting a last-ditch effort to make Mina stay, compares himself to Walker, saying their fatal flaws are that they both love their wives. But of course he has it wrong, admitting, too late, that “I always come when they call me.” And even in his own home, there’s someone he loves more than his wife. Twice Carrie’s come to his home in tense moments with Mina, and twice Saul’s admitted her. He can take time to chastise Carrie and to comfort her, but not to save his marriage.
Then, there’s Jess, who is in an agony of guilt, and Brody trying to absolve her and himself. What pulls them together is an invitation to a party thrown by a power-broker from their church with political plans for the Brodys. It turns out that playing perfect saves them. Their children watch for the arrival of a hired car like it’s something far more powerful than a prosaic sedan, and when the parents return home, drunk and excited by having lived up to the imaginations of powerful people who see the promise of America in them, their children are sober, placid, and watching uniquely American dreck. It may not last, but a single night of Ice Age, popcorn, and accord feels like heaven.