Homeland, Season 2
The kinky power dynamics of Carrie and Brody’s relationship.
Photograph by Kent Smith/Showtime.
Recently, a handful of trend-chasing shows—The Good Wife, Law & Order: SVU, heck, even The Neighbors—have attempted to bring the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon to the small screen, but as Willa Paskin points out in Salon, Homeland is television’s most convincing sub-dom story. “Inside the Gorgon’s knot that is the Brody-Carrie power dynamic, Carrie plays the sub to be the dom,” Paskin writes. “Carrie opens herself up to Brody, she makes herself vulnerable to him, she wants him, she attests to wanting him, she forgives him, all to give Brody the sense—but not just the sense—that he’s the partner with the power.”
On a similar theme, the TV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff had a great riff on the numerous ways the show has trapped its characters so that none of them has agency over their own lives:
Brody is a man everybody wants to control, but he’s also a man who has no plausible exit strategy. [Carrie’s] whole career and psychological well-being hinges on the idea that she can keep this whole operation rattling along through sheer force of will. She reels Brody back in in that hotel room, using her sexuality as her ultimate weapon, as she often does. Yet there’s no guarantee here that she’s in control of the situation. She very well might be spiraling, very well might be losing the control she purports to have. … Dana, too, is trapped by a system that rewards the powerful at the expense of those lower than them. … Maybe there are people who control their own destinies, the Waldens and Abu Nazirs of the world, but they mostly use that control to make others’ lives miserable.
Or as Matt Zoller Seitz put it in Vulture, “All the moral quandaries on Homeland are bundled together now, so that you can’t untangle any single aspect—or change any individual wrong into a right—without affecting others.
Grantland’s Andy Greenwald offered another perspective on the spider’s web the show has constructed:
None of the players here are particularly political, they're all just in thrall to more primal passions. Brody is desperate for respect and validation. Estes and Walden covet power. Aileen wanted to piss off her old man. The Saudi consul just craved some private playtime in the bathhouse. If Homeland felt soapy last night it's anything but unearned: These people are all stuck living their own private soap operas! Through his painkiller haze, Quinn summed up the predicament quite well when he declared, "I don't want to be the one standing in the front of the Senate explaining who Carrie was fucking when the bomb went off!"
And lest anyone think the critical response to Episode 208 was universally positive, over at Esquire, Alex Berenson threw a punch at Nicholas Brody, who, he points out, maintained a dignified silence about his inner agonies in Season 1: "This season, Brody's turned—as Jesse Pinkman would say—into a little bitch. He's the guy at the end of the bar who won't shut up, the one even the bartender can't stand. Yeah, his life sucks. But he is where he is because of the choices he's made, and he needs to own them. I'm not sure why Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, the Homeland show runners, think that emasculating their hero is compelling television, but they're wrong."
June Thomas is a Slate culture critic. Follow her on Twitter.