Carrie and Brody, in Sync Again

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Oct. 13 2013 10:00 PM

Welcome to Caracas, Brody!

Did we mention there’s a $10 million bounty on your head?

Damian Lewis as Nicholas "Nick" Brody in Homeland (Season 3).
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody in Homeland.

Photo by Kent Smith/Homeland

So Brody is back, and my big question is: How did this dope survive 60-plus days as the planet’s most wanted man when he has no comprehension of his high-stakes circumstances? In the three months since the Langley explosion, Brody has been transported from north of the border to south of the border on a journey that ended with him being shot in the gut by Colombians who wanted the $10 million bounty on his head. And yet when he awakens from this near-death experience he still imagines he can have some kind of normal life. When the Venezuelan who saved Brody—a guy with a giant spider tattoo on his neck and a willingness to toss men off tall buildings—drops Carrie’s name and tells Brody to stay off the street, Brody decides not to listen. He wants to get to the next place, which he imagines will be a better place, forgetting that the most wanted man in the world only gets to hole up in a suburban compound with a roof deck and access to Internet porn if he is rich, connected, and informed. Brody is none of these things. (Brody has all the infamy of the presumed guilty, but none of the resources of the truly guilty.) He has fled thousands of miles thanks only to Carrie Mathison’s underground railroad, and yet he wakes up in the middle of Caracas under the delusion that he has some control.

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Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.

“Tower of David” is his rude awakening. Not only is Brody now aping Walter White’s haircut, he is also learning Heisenberg’s lessons: Going on the lam is not glamorous. Sometimes, surviving sucks. Walter White left New Mexico with a new identity and a barrel of money to live, alone and miserable, in the snowy wilds of New Hampshire. Brody has gone from Canada to Caracas only to find himself the resident of an unfinished high-rise turned slum bound by its own law, one that was recently the subject of a New Yorker feature by Jon Lee Anderson, which should be considered supplementary material for this episode. (In that piece, Anderson spent time with the man who runs the tower, Alex “El Nino” Daza. In this episode, the man with the neck tattoo is named “El Nino.” If this episode teaches us nothing else, it is that Homeland writers are devoted New Yorker readers. )

Brody looks around, takes in the cinder block scenery, and decides he is not meant to stay. No matter that El Nino forcefully explains that he should, or that the creepy maybe-doctor who saved his life and keeps trying to ply him with heroin seconds this; Brody formulates a plan to escape to the nearby mosque. To be fair to Brody, I’m not sure I would be soothed by the not-doctor—who Showtime tells me is named Dr. Graham—either. Dr. Graham is a character who, like many things having to do with Homeland these days, walks the line smack dab between intriguing and ridiculous. On the one hand, Graham’s very fey and menacing speech patterns, heavily-intimated pedophiliac tendencies, serious drug pushing, and canny read on Brody’s situation makes him fascinating in a broken-down James Bond villain kind of way; on the other, they make him preposterous in a broken-down James Bond villain kind of way.

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In any event, Brody does not heed Graham’s warning or El Nino’s command, and heads to the local imam, who he is sure will give him sanctuary. (He does this with the help of El Nino’s daughter Esme, who has somehow developed a crush on Brody. Were there not already enough people on this show with inexplicable crushes on Brody?) As ever, Brody is not great at calculating consequences, a weakness that hides his selfishness. For two seasons, nearly every decision he has made has boomeranged on someone else in a painful way. His behavior throughout Seasons 1 and 2 all but destroyed his family and seriously destabilized Carrie. A simple request for his wallet and passport got a man thrown off a building. And yet Brody heads out to the mosque sure the people there can save him, oblivious to the danger he puts them in just by showing up.

The imam lets Brody take a shower, before revealing what he really thinks about Brody: He is not a Muslim, he is a terrorist. This is also an issue I would have expected Brody to have gotten some more traction on after three months on the run: the fact that everyone thinks he is guilty. Brody might have thought that the imam wouldn’t have cared if he was guilty, but if he was really aware of the total presumption of guilt surrounding him, and also the allure of the $10 million bounty, he might have kept his eyes open. Instead, he closes them, and some guys beat him up through a shower curtain. Lucky for Brody’s breathing, but not for his conscience, El Nino’s men show up and slaughter the imam, his helpers, and his wife and drag Brody back to the Tower of David.  

Sick of Brody being a baby about the accommodations, El Nino throws him into a small room and insists he will have to live and die there. This leads to my second least-favorite moment of the episode, which is when Brody tells Dr. Graham that he can’t stay in the cell because “it’s like the hole in Iraq, I can’t do it again.” We are aware Brody spent many years stuck in a tiny room growing a caveman beard. Spelling this out so clearly is insulting. Let us make the really over-obvious connections for ourselves!

But, onto my least favorite thing about this episode: the aggressive paralleling of Carrie and Brody’s circumstances, as though Carrie’s taking lithium in order not to be a crazy person is somehow equivalent to Brody taking heroin to numb the pain of being stuck in the Tower of David forever. Dr. Graham keeps trying to ply Brody with drugs, just as Carrie has been plied with drugs. Dr. Graham tells Brody, “Those voices in your head are not your friend right now. You’ve got to make them go away,” which is what everyone has been saying to Carrie.

Carrie, it appears, finally agrees— at least a little bit. She has seemingly come to this conclusion that she should take her lithium, if only because it will get her out of the psych ward and give her a chance to see Saul. (This week’s episode continues to highlight the inherent ironies of being bio-chemically paranoid while also being in the CIA: Carrie’s shrink really is reporting on her, and even if the lawyer reaching out to her is not trying to make her an asset, he is doing exactly what someone trying to make her an asset would do.) When Carrie walks into the extremely depressing psych ward, she looks around and starts screaming for her meds: She’s desperate for any way to get herself out of there. But this scene is juxtaposed with Brody’s decision to start shooting up, which he does because it’s the only way he can mentally escape his cell. The episode ends with matching shots of Brody and Carrie all alone, in their tiny rooms, sad and sedated, separated by thousands of miles, but, of course, still totally in sync.

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