What ‘Homeland’ and ‘The Wire’ Have In Common

The always-excellent Maureen Ryan talked to Homeland executive producer Alex Gansa about the second season of the show, which stars Claire Danes as bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison and Damian Lewis as former prisoner of war who had been turned and returned to the United States as a sleeper agent. He told her what the lay of the land is at the beginning of the second season, which begins in September, after Carrie made a desperate bid to stop Brody from committing an act of terrorism, something he actually stopped himself short from doing after receiving a phone call from his daughter:

Well you have to understand the Brody has been completely exonerated in the eyes of the intelligence community and actually even Carrie. I mean Carrie had this sort of epiphany before the ECT about [Abu Nazir’s dead son] Issa, but before that, I think she is fairly sanguine about the fact that she was wrong, which is what sent her into the ECT, into the mental institution. She said, “Look, I was wrong. I made a mistake. I intruded on this person’s life. I accused him of things that were not true.”

She had no idea about the vest. She has no idea that Dana made a call to Brody and talked him off a ledge. All she knows is that the bomb never went off, which in her mind and in the CIA’s mind and in her period of intense instability psychologically leads her to believe that she was wrong. Which is why she gets into the car with her sister at the end of the finale and says, “I can’t live like this anymore. I need help. I have to go get some help.”

I wrote about this earlier today with The Wire, but one of the things I find fascinating about both that show and Homeland is that they illustrate the limits of assuming that people behave predictably, and thus, the limits of law enforcement and intelligence gathering. The Wire is much more broadly focused, but one of the significant themes of the show is the cops’ uneasy relationship with Omar, someone who intervenes powerfully in the game, but whose motivations don’t map neatly on to the accepted dynamics of it. Brody, similarly, is someone whose motivations can’t be cleanly sifted from a mass of facts and intelligence. Even when Carrie figures out that he’d bonded with Issa and been turned after Issa’s death, he makes decisions that are opaque to her. It’s because Carrie’s brain is wired differently than David Estes’ or Saul’s, her superiors in the agency, that she’s able to read Brody at all. But even his mind isn’t clearly and easily fathomable to her. You can only do so much to analyze and predict the urges of the human heart.