At the end of the second season of Homeland, Showtime’s compelling drama about a Marine who had become a terrorist and the bipolar CIA agent desperately trying to stop him, two significant questions remained. First, how could Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), whose obsessive pursuit of former prisoner of war Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) had gotten her drummed out of the CIA and sent her to memory-erasing electroshock therapy, continue to investigate him without the resources of her office or the memory of her prior research? After his attempt to detonate a suicide vest failed, will Nicholas Brody continue to run for Congress? And if so, what role will Abu Nazir, the man who held him prisoner, converted him to Islam, and convinced him to become a terrorist, play in Brody’s run?
Some second-season casting news could clarify both of those plot points: David Marciano, who plays Virgil, Carrie’s friend and assistant in some of her freelance investigations, and Navid Negahban, who plays Abu Nazir, have both been upped from recurring roles to series regulars.
When I talked to Marciano during Homeland’s first season, he emphasized how close Carrie and Virgil are, especially given that Carrie’s mentor, Saul, turned Virgil down for a CIA job:
Virgil was an outsider as a kid. And he grew up in a neighborhood in New Jersey where it was brawn over brains, and Virgil was a little bit of a tech nerd. And he was a brainiac and he had a sharp tongue, and you take a few beatings. You take a few shots to the ego and shots to your manhood, so to speak. And therefore, when you get older, you want to take care of people who are being abused or being ostracized. So it makes sense that Virgil would look after [Carrie], because she is an outsider, she is an outsider in this community. Also, everyone had someone to answer to. Saul has to answer to someone. Estes has to answer to answer to someone. Virgil has her back. Virgil’s going to look after her and take care of her. He doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to her.
Given that dynamic, it’ll be interesting to see what happens now that Carrie and Virgil are both outsiders, and both have things to prove to a CIA that rejected them. Will Virgil be a voice of moderation as Carrie recovers from the dual shocks of her medical procedure and her firing? Or will the two of them, freed from the constraints of needing to avoid getting Carrie fired, push the boundaries even further?
Similarly, while we don’t know what role Abu Nazir will play in Brody’s life now, the fact that he’ll be a full cast member means he’s not going away — far from it. It will be fascinating to see if he and Brody come up with a new plan, or if Brody resists Nazir. Whatever the dynamic is, I think the idea of a prominent American and a prominent terrorist in ongoing conversation is a wildly thought-provoking, if totally unrealistic scenario. We assume that there can be no conversation with the people who hate us. But it’s certainly intriguing to imagine what those conversations would look like if they happened at all.