In Slate’s Homeland TV Club, June Thomas will IM each week with a different partner—policy experts, intelligence researchers, critics, and even Slate commenters. This week she chats with Slate contributor—and “Dear Prudence” columnist—Emily Yoffe.
June Thomas: So I guess this week's episode boils down to, "Message: The truth will set you free." We had one character, Brody, telling the truth—albeit selectively—and getting a fresh start, and a young couple taking on a big secret that will no doubt ruin their lives. Let's start with the oldsters: Did you find the interrogation scenes convincing?
Emily Yoffe: I think the message might be more, "Every truth contains a lie." Carrie comes clean with Brody about her feelings, but is it the truth or an interrogation technique, or both? Brody tells the "truth" to his wife in order to keep her from knowing the real truth. Carrie and Brody's fake affair is going to be their cover—how long before that becomes a real affair? But you're right, the lies the young people told are very ominous. The interrogation scenes had me thinking of those black-and-white melodramas of television's early years. It even ended with Saul coming in to announce, "Call your wife." I love this series, but I found the dialogue a little too broad: Abu Nazir is a monster; you are not a monster. I understand "enhanced interrogation," but would Peter Quinn really be able to freelance a shiv through the hand?
Thomas: I was thrown by the wan response to Quinn's act of violence. The need to avoid anyone realizing that Brody had disappeared so Abu Nazir wouldn't know he'd been blown gave them a ticking clock, which is TV’s go-to excuse for torture. But Quinn went from orderly precision to crazed axman in the blink of an eye. It feels like the show has been using "let's shake Brody up" as a convenient excuse the last couple of episodes. Did you believe the rapport between Brody and Carrie?
Yoffe: I agree that you can't keep a sitting congressman in shackles indefinitely—although it did make me wonder if the missing Jesse Jackson Jr. might be cooking up an "I'm in the CIA" excuse.
Your question implies that you weren't totally convinced, and neither was I. Last week’s scene in which Carrie "accidentally" ran into Brody at the CIA had all the sweaty palm, heart-pounding reality of seeing someone you haven't gotten over. But at this point, Brody has more on his mind than was it really love that weekend in the cabin. But, hey, there's only so much a guy can take, and I believed that Brody was ready to crack. And don't you think, June, that it's going to be an almost impossible strain on him to be a double agent from now on?
Also, have more portentous words even been spoken than when Carrie assured Brody, "We'll protect your family"? We already know the Secret Service can't even protect the idiot teenage son of the vice president!
Thomas: That's exactly what I think about Brody—and that's ultimately why I swallow the whole "we'll forget your heinous crimes, including some we don't yet know about, if you'll just help us" gambit. It's not just that they want to get America's No. 1 enemy—and prevent an attack on U.S. soil—they also surely realize that Brody's mental rope is very frayed.
I agree, too, about the impossibility of protecting Brody's family. (Indeed, if there's one message Homeland sends, it's that just about everything—from surveillance to a precision attack on a terrorist target—is virtually impossible these days.) It's especially worrying that Dana has gotten herself involved with the vice president's son, because while someone in his position would always be a target, as a reader tweeted to me last week, "If Abu Nazir wanted to get revenge on Bill Walden for his role in [Issa]'s death, wouldn't Finn Walden be his #1 target?"
Yoffe: Being kidnapped by a terrorist at least would help Finn wriggle out of the catastrophe of his hit and run. Yes, such revenge certainly makes sense, but the creators of Homeland have been good at surprising us, so I hope we're not marching toward that plot twist.
Another theme that really emerged out of this episode is that damaged people inflict collateral damage. Brody's victims are piling up, but now Dana, in a desire for some relief, eggs Finn into ditching his minders. Knowing the escapades of various offspring of presidents and vice presidents, that scene rang true. When the well-behaved Chelsea Clinton was first daughter, I saw her around town a couple of times, and at least they assigned young, good-looking male and female agents for her detail.
Thomas: It seems strange that after an episode that contained an amazing set piece in Carrie's interrogation of Brody and the hit and run, which made me audibly gasp, the thing that I remember best is Carrie's loneliness at the end of the episode. She goes home, takes a big slug of wine (was it the same bottle she used in her suicide attempt?), and flops down on the couch. It was the deep sigh heard around the world.
Yoffe: That's one thing that's so compelling about Homeland: how well they do these tonal shifts. They have now set up two extraordinary new threads: Brody is a double agent, and Dana's involved in a possible manslaughter. Yet I was just as drawn to watching Claire Danes alone in a room with a glass of wine.
The psychological pressure on Brody since his return has been delivered by the women in his life: Jessica, Carrie, and Roya Hammad. I was struck by the scene in which Saul and Peter cleared off the extraneous photos of possible suspects and we were left with an 8 x 10 of Roya. I'm wondering if she will have Carrie's ESP with Brody and recognize something's gone very wrong.
Thomas: Don’t forget Dana.
Yoffe: Yes, and Dana! She has been a kind of salvation for Brody so far. But that's about to get very messed up.