This post discusses plot points from the November 4 episode of Homeland.
Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable’s length.
“Come hither! come hither! my little daughtèr,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow.”
He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Wreck of the Hesperus”
“Mom says it’s like the wreck of the Hesparus in here,” Chris Brody tells Mike when he comes over to root through their garage for proof of Brody’s perfidy towards the end of this episode of Homeland. Mike explains that Jessica, who is using the reference to explain that the garage is a mess, is referring to a historical wreck that “some guy,” actually Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a poem about it. It’s telling that all three of them miss the actual meaning of the poem, which is neither about actual wreckage, nor history, but a wrenching story about a father’s failure to protect his daughter. The wreckage that’s found from the trip is her body, the mast she was lashed to in a vain attempt to protect her in a hurricane, and ” her hair, like the brown sea-weed, / On the billows fall and rise.” It’s a poem with terrible resonance for Chris’s big sister Dana, who has gotten herself into terrible trouble. And it’s a perfect epigraph for an episode of television that’s significantly concerned with how people try and fail to protect each other, and their country.
The first person to fail is Carrie. After all the miracles she’s performed this season, I thought there was something sly about having her be defeated in what she is sure is a definitive investigation by a variety of mundane obstacles. Roya’s speech is obscured by a water fountain. Facial recognition software doesn’t work on her contact because he’s wearing sunglasses. Virgil loses him in the subway. Brody turns out not to know the guy. Later, at his meet with Roya, an irritating interloper checks his Blackberry near the two targets of Carrie’s surveillance, giving them a moment to go silence and become more careful in their speech. Carrie may have an enormous capacity to connect with sources and fantastic instincts about where information might lie. But separating the noise from the signal, in some cases quite literally, is the inevitable challenge of intelligence, and even Carrie can’t change that rule.
And even when she does everything right, warning Quinn that something might go wrong with their search of the tailor’s shop in Gettysburg, even Carrie has to fail sometimes. “Everybody missed something that day,” Saul told her of September 11, but she hasn’t learned from that terrible tragedy that sometimes it’s impossible to outrace events, especially when she believes her failure to do so is traceable to error rather than chance. “Did you know?” she confronts Brody. “I have got seven casualties in Gettysburg. Did you know that was going to happen?…Have you been lying to me?…Don’t touch me. Don’t you fucking dare.” The fact that he didn’t know, that he appears to be telling her the truth, seems to be more painful for Carrie than if she’d been betrayed. It means she was truly powerless, that she could not have saved the seven men shot in Gettysburg, that she cannot now extract further truth from Brody, that such disaster will likely strike her again.