Sunday, December 16, 2012

'Homeland' Breaks A Bond (And Me, A Little, In The Process)...

This second season of Homeland has drawn some criticism for its plot twists that may defy some protocol and jurisdiction. Though not crossing a line that any procedural does not do weekly, the stakes are simply higher for a series on Showtime. Homeland creates incomparably tense moments week after week-- whether they're two people in an interrogation room, or armed government employees tracking a terrorist. But at the heart of the show are two really psychologically damaged individuals who have found something redeemable in each other that they can't even see in themselves. I may not have signed up for a relationship drama with Homeland, but it's there at the core anyway, and its second season finale spotlighted it in a way that reminded that a truly successful drama is one that shows the strength in quiet moments, too. The second season finale certainly delivered an abundance of those-- with one major game-changer for good measure.

Though he was unknowingly being tracked by a CIA agent with orders to kill him now that Nazir has been taken down, Brody (Damian Lewis) went with Carrie (Claire Danes) back to her family's cabin from that infamous first season episode. With all of the odds stacked against them, they still managed to share some very tender and intimate (and not just sexual) moments, opening up about the skeletons in the past and worries about the future alike. It was really the first time Carrie verbalized her self-awareness of her own illness, as well as Brody's actions, proving she has been thinking clearly this whole time, she has just been listening to her heart and her gut.

But Carrie hasn't been "in" her illness in a long time. Whether it's the results of ECT or finally getting a combo of meds correct or being able to feel like a useful and valuable part of the CIA again, she has been healthier, mentally, than ever. And that has doomed her to get hung up on the societal implications of a relationship with Brody. It was heartbreaking to watch her be so happy with him in the secluded privacy of that cabin, to share so much of herself with him, only to put a distance between them again in the quote-unquote real world. It was heartbreaking for Brody, mostly, since she was the one making the choice, and he was the one getting left on the sidelines.

He lost more than his American way when he was captured in the war; he lost the full emotional spectrum. While he was able to feel sadness over Isa and anger towards those who took him, he worked toward a mission of revenge and that didn't leave wiggle room for happiness. Little by little when he was back home, happiness started to creep in, confusing his mind and muddying his mission. Whether he is actually at his happiest with Carrie, or whether his still-stunted psyche is just telling him that right now, he is left with nothing if he doesn't have her. And feeling that will only lead him to another suicide mission. He needs her much more than she needs him, and that's a detrimental strain on any relationship, let alone one this high profile.

Nothing makes us happier than when a soldier doesn't just fall in line, so although Quinn (Rupert Friend) standing up to Estes (David Harewood) was a bit convenient for a show that just didn't want to lose one of its leads, I loved it nonetheless. His assessment of Brody and Carrie's relationship was a little "sum-uppy," but it did leave us wondering just how safe things could possibly be. Nazir may be dead, but whenever a leader falls, the people under him are just that much more outraged and looking for heads to roll for their cause. Brody may have intended to step down from Congress, but the way he got his "affairs in order," so to speak with Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) certainly implied something much bigger coming. Homeland is not a show known for small, character-only moments as the majority, but all of these little character ticks were what so perfectly set up the action to eventually come.

As much as I personally dislike the character of Dana (Morgan Saylor)-- I'm not afraid to say I think she's the worst and kind of wish she had tagged along to the funeral to see Finn-- Brody ultimately dumping as much as he did on a teenager was not a smart move, and again, it was one that seemed to reek of someone with no consequences to fear because he wouldn't be around to reap them much longer. He may not have said good-bye for good, but he certainly implied it. A kid doesn't deserve that kind of heaviness to sit on her heart, let alone conscience. She's always going to wonder now just what got her father to such a breaking point and if her own is lower or higher than his. She's also always going to question his innocence-- and his presumption of death. I was hoping the events of this season finale would mean season three would get away from the extended Brody family, but it's not looking likely, as her emotional, internal turmoil turns her hair twirling into something more like Carrie's lip quiver.

When Brody signaled to Carrie, it certainly seemed sealed. He was getting them both out of harm's way for the blast to come. What he hadn't counted on, though, was that her answer to him would be one that had he known sooner, would probably have caused him to curb his actions at all. Do I for one second believe the bit about "someone else" moving his car? No. As much as I may personally want to believe him, he lied to Carrie about putting on that vest all throughout his interrogation, and his face was the same when he was concocting that off-hand but clever remark. Besides, Carrie's initial, gut response was that he was guilty, and Carrie's instinct is never wrong. She allowed herself to be talked down, but you add all of that to his getting things in order, so to speak, and the case makes itself. Additionally, it stays much truer to the complexities and the darkness of the anti-hero of the show if he's still manipulating, rather than merely being manipulated. Now, Showtime's post-finale interview with Alex Gansa ultimately negates this by saying Brody was innocent, but my hopes are oh, so high for Homeland, and therefore I'm going to live in my own theory until season three comes and explicitly proves me wrong or right. After all, if Brody is innocent, it changes a huge part of his character, not to mention the show itself, making both much more patriotic than for which we signed up.

Yes, this was all a part of Nazir's plan, but Brody has to be in on it, even if not completely willingly, or entirely knowingly, at this point. In the end, Estes didn't break Carrie; Brody didn't even break Carrie. But Carrie may have broken Brody. And that, in turn, will break her. She is so determined to prove his innocence-- something that is inherently not possible.

The juxtaposition between the two funerals was so poignant, even before I saw how violent Walden's became while how poetic and peaceful Nazir's was. The pissed off look on Saul's (Mandy Patinkin) face as he had to stand guard over a terrorist getting last rites was priceless, but such a demeaning, low-man-on-the-totem-pole type job only even further set up just how the tide was going to turn. As the highest ranking officer left standing, he is now the most important character on the show, and his decisions will affect everything. He has always had a soft-spot for Carrie, but any paternal hope she survived the blast may dissipate when he realizes she's not only about to work against him but that she already has.

Though in the end, Carrie may have made the intellectually smart move for once by leaving Brody in the woods to run alone, her reasons were still all emotion. It wasn't some B.S. "I choose me!" move, but she's misguided if she doesn't see the impossible odds staked up in front of her now. She's so convinced she can just waltz back to her department-- in a promotion no less-- and use American resources to prove an assumed terrorist is actually innocent. It's like she doesn't know how politics work at all. She is her own worst enemy. She is the smartest and dumbest person we all know.

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