Homeland, Season 2
Is wearing two hats the same as being a mole?
Posted Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, at 10:56 PM
Photograph by Kent Smith/Showtime.
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’s “Future Tense” editor, Torie Bosch.
June Thomas: Torie, having seen how tough and forthright Philadelphia police officer Julia Diaz is, I'm extra-happy to be discussing this episode with a Philly native.
Torie Bosch: I was absurdly pleased that Homeland followed me from D.C. to Philadelphia this weekend, as I've been visiting family for the holiday.
Thomas: I often start these dialogues by saying, "I don't know where to begin," and that's usually because there were two big themes in play. This week, we had at least five huge events, each of which would've given a typical show about three weeks’ worth of material. In an episode full of revelations, which seemed like the biggest to you?
Bosch: That’s a challenge because, as you say, there were so many developments—some loud, like the thwarted bombing, some more subdued. The most interesting part for me, though, may have been the way Brody seems to have been officially replaced in his family, with a helpful nudge from Carrie.
Thomas: Yes! In an episode full of characters wearing "two hats," juggling secret identities, and dividing their loyalties between those masters who can be acknowledged and others who can't, I also felt that Mike's usurpation of Brody, both in Jess' bed and as a reliable father figure for Dana and Chris, was in some ways the most compelling. (Also, the most convincing.) I was struck, too, by how much I had forgotten about Mike's own particular flavor of PTSD. As he told Dana, "We all come back with some kind of wound." He served alongside Brody, and when he came back—with no partner to meet him at the reunion ceremony—he was tortured by feelings of guilt at leaving his best friend behind. Talk about a guy I want to be rewarded for his good faith and service.
Bosch: I particularly enjoyed when Dana raged—not incorrectly—that everything going wrong in their lives stemmed from her "fucking dad," and Mike whipped out that favorite of parents everywhere: "You don't talk to me like that." Meanwhile, she won't talk at all to Brody when he’s on the phone with the family at Fort Glass Windows. It was a nice twist from the end of last season, when her phone call dissuaded him from carrying out his own attack. Now, when he's close to doing the right thing by his family, she has lost patience.
The revelations about Quinn's true role within the team, however, came a pretty close second.
Thomas: Yes! I also enjoyed seeing all the hot-shot field agents getting to show their true feelings about the folks who process the intel they gather. Saul—and even Virgil—did for "an analyst?" what Lady Bracknell did for "a handbag?"
Bosch: The dismissal of the analysts as softies who don't live their nomadic lifestyle made me laugh, too—there was so much in those scenes. What did you think of the fact that Quinn's only book was Great Expectations?
Thomas: Ah, yes, the Dickensian aspect. It made me wish that if showrunners are going to leave heavy-handed literary clues, they'd please use short books that critics could read/re-read before commenting! I could say that Pip's connection with criminal Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations parallels Brody's with Abu Nazir, and that Dickens’ novel is also full of mistaken identities, but perhaps it's the storytelling technique. Great Expectations is told in the first person, and I was fascinated by the way this episode filled in Brody’s 12 hours with Abu Nazir. It was the cinematic equivalent of reported speech—as Brody explained to Carrie how he’d spent his time with Public Enemy No. 1, we were shown the two men’s interaction. At first I wasn’t sure if Brody’s version was the truth, though. Procedurals often show a murderer’s-eye-view of events and then later offer an alternate, accurate, version, once all the evidence is in. Were those images of Brody’s and Nazir’s time together an attempt at deception on Brody's part? But then we saw that Brody held something back from the CIA—that he had prayed with Abu Nazir. That—and later the fact that he narrowly escaped death (again!) at the end of the episode, and almost seemed like a lamb among lions—made me think that at this point we're supposed to feel sympathy for Brody. That's quite a transformation, eh?
Bosch: I wondered, too, about whether Brody was being completely forthright about his time with Nazir—and if he was, whether that means he has entirely rejected his terrorist hat, even his Muslim one. Before this episode, when was the last time we saw him pray?
I almost wonder whether the transformation is too neat, that we're in store for another twist, just as it seemed for quite some time last season that Brody was not the "turned" American prisoner.
Thomas: Let's talk about casting. Hiring F. Murray Abraham to play Dar Adul was fabulous, because he’s such an amazing actor, but also a bit of a surprise-killer. As soon as I saw his name in the opening credits, I knew the action was taking us in his direction—you don’t cast an Oscar winner as a diner waiter. But you’ve got to love a show that trickles out an amazing coup like that—giving him an episode where all we see of him is through a bus window. Do you have any idea how this plot line will play out?
Bosch: The mechanics of that bus powwow were amazing, weren't they? If I recall it correctly, Quinn realized his cover was blown, and then he was able to make two buses, and meet Dar Adul on the second one, all in less than 30 minutes. Having spent a significant portion of the last few years cursing the utter unreliability of D.C.-area public transportation, that logistical magic trick blew my mind more than Quinn's near assassination of Brody. This bit of throat-clearing is my way of saying: I have close to no idea what will happen with Dar Adul. But I do wonder about the kill order. The CIA assassinating a sitting congressman with secret ties to terrorism? It would take only a whiff of that to make the Petraeus scandal seem like a minor hiccup. You've mentioned before the near invisibility of the media, outside of Roya's presence. Maybe, just maybe, there's a setup here for something going awry and leaking to the press? That would make for a good Season 3 story line, if we're looking ahead.
Thomas: The actress who played Officer Diaz, Quinn’s babymama, was also amazing, in that case partly because she was unknown, at least to me. The way she stood up to Saul’s questioning—“I’m a cop, sir, not a moron”—was all the more impressive because it came from a role that might typically be a throwaway, the equivalent of someone who gives the Law & Order cops two clues in 90 seconds.
Bosch: I hope we see Quinn's officer ladylove again—ideally, either teaming up with or going against Carrie. We so rarely see Carrie interact with other women, aside from her sister.
Thomas: Ooh, you've made me wish that Roya had been brought in before. I want to see if Carrie's amazing intuition only extends to male subjects.
We haven’t talked about the revelation that David Estes and Peter Quinn are playing their own game within the spy game. For the longest time I’ve been slipping links into these IMs pointing to my Season 1 suggestion that Estes was the mole. I still don’t know if I’m right about that. For the moment it looks like Estes is wearing two hats—with loyalties to both the regular CIA, with its rules and chain of command, and also (and perhaps more faithfully) to a rogue agent, or maybe former agent, and a kind of frontier justice where terrorists are killed, not coddled in federal lockup. But does that make him a mole? I guess it depends how you define mole!
Bosch: I hope that Estes isn't a traditional mole, as that would strain the show's already questionable credibility. But there is something rogue going on there, or at least extra-hierarchical. Could it be some sort of super-secret, off-the-books organization within the CIA or intelligence community?
Thomas: I can’t wait to find out.
Bosch: Thanks for letting me take a break from Thanksgiving festivities to talk Homeland turkey.
Thomas: Thank you!
June Thomas is a Slate culture critic. Follow her on Twitter.
Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project from Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that covers emerging technologies and their implications for society and policy.