“Is there a plan to attack America?”
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The whole series has been leading up to this, the outing of Nicholas Brody as a terrorist. And finally this week, we see that no one but Carrie Mathison, flawed and fabulous, could achieve it. Every action, every interaction, beautiful and messy and hurtful and scary, has led to this.
Professionalism, we’re often told, means checking your emotions at the door. Especially for women. As Tom Hanks once infamously exhorted the All American Girls Baseball League, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Yet Carrie cries, she screams, she lays her bleeding heart out on a table for the world to see (or at least hear). And it’s that very thing that finally gets through to and manages to break Nicholas Brody’s silence. Her weakness—the emotions, the recklessness, the candor, all of those things you shouldn’t let interfere with your work—is her strength.
For those of us invested in Carrie’s success and her well-being, Homeland can be a frustrating, heart-twister of a show. But the last few episodes have been the payoff—Carrie’s instincts and talent have been vindicated. Yet, always with the near-risk of it all going incredibly wrong. She defied protocol by flinching and guessing Brody had “made” her (right or wrong, as Saul says, we’ll never know), thus forcing the CIA’s hand in taking him in. Estes is none too pleased about this, but what’s done is done. They’ve got Brody in their interrogation room, and they need Carrie. Again, as Saul says, she knows Brody (and Nazir) best. Regardless, it’s Peter Quinn’s operation, Estes reminds them, and Carrie looks on unhappily as he heads in to interrogate Brody.
It’s a thrilling scene full of suspense as Rupert Friend and Damian Lewis face off for the first time. Brody clings doggedly to his story, trying to maintain at first that he has no idea what they’re talking about, and clinging to lies even as the questions get more pointed, about knowing Nazir’s son Isa, and strapping on a suicide bomb. His steadfastness only wavers slightly when Quinn plays him the confession tape, but he resists still insisting he did not wear a bomb…even when a seemingly suddenly enraged Quinn pulls out a knife and stabs him brutally right through the hand.
But after Saul and Carrie rush in, and the guards drag Peter out and tend to Brody, we learn it was a ruse. “Every bad cop needs a good cop, right?” he asks Saul, and even if it wasn’t the original plan, Carrie certainly rises to the occasion. She is solicitous to Brody, getting him water, and then she turns the cameras off (though she leaves the audio on). When she starts to talk, it isn’t to grill him about Nazir or Isa or suicide bombs or Tom Walker. No, it’s Carrie the woman (not Carrie the A Agent) who wants to talk about her feelings and their time at the cabin. “Didn’t you feel anything? Didn’t you care about me at all?” she asks, all pleading eyes and tremor-shaken voice.
It seems at first as though Carrie has lost the plot completely finally. This is about terrorism! Not her personal feelings! And yet… it’s this tactic, this relating to Brody as a person he maybe, yes, did care about, and more importantly, as a person who did care about him that finally begins to crack his emotional armor.
This is the woman who kissed his scars, remember? And she’s doing it again now. Rebuilding him piece by piece in the hopeful vision of what Brody himself wants to be seen as: a good man. She tells him he didn’t blow anyone up. He stopped himself when he heard his daughter’s voice. “That’s the man who knows the difference between warfare and terrorism,” she tells him gently, smiling with tears in her eyes, as she reaches out to hold his hand. “That’s the Brody I fell in love with.” And she believes it. This isn’t just a cover, or a means to an end, this is the truth too. It’s a rehabilitation, not an interrogation.
And finally, he confesses. Yes there’s a plan to strike against America. No, he doesn’t know when. Yes, there are other Nazir contacts in the states. He tells them about Roya, and about the tailor and the other contacts he met with in the Saudi consulate. All dead, Carrie says. “All dead,” Brody confirms, and the tears spill down his face. There’s relief in the telling though, and he lays his head down on their intertwined hands, and Carrie reaches over and smoothes his hair gently.
Danes and Lewis are, needless to say, phenomenal in this 15-minute sequence, which is so raw and so intimate and so exquisite. Their characters’ pain and grief and regrets are all so transparent, emotions crashing and roiling like electrical storms on their faces. This is world class acting and both actors have probably locked down next year’s Emmys with this episode alone.
The side story about Brody’s home life (the kids, especially Chris, are unhappy that mom has kicked dad out and into a hotel—a cover story that Estes asks Brody’s office to keep up on the pretense that he’s helping the CIA with a classified project) isn’t nearly as compelling, but it begins to pick up in the final act. Saul comes into the interrogation room (a shaken Carrie abruptly pulling her hands away from Brody and swiping at her teary eyes) and hands Brody a cell phone so he can call Jessica who’s worried. She’s been to his hotel and can tell he wasn’t there. He assures her robotically (while still looking at Carrie, ouch!) that they’re going to be just fine and he’ll be home soon. They unshackle him and get him on his feet, but he stumbles, then falls to the ground, curling up in the fetal position on the concrete as Carrie and Saul look on.
At home, Dana and Finn Walden are going on a first date, but when they decide to take a little joyride and evade their secret service detail, tragedy strikes. Finn hits a woman in the street. Panicked, they pull over, but Finn pleads with Dana not to get out of the car and go back, or even to call 911 because he’ll get in trouble. Another car drives up and someone comes to the woman’s aid, and panicked, he convinces her they should leave. It feels like a contrived and cheap way to amp up the drama on this plotline—unnecessarily so, given all the intensity of the show’s main plot. But Homeland does have a talent for taking storylines to places you least expect. Let’s hope that’s the case here.
Back at the CIA bunker, Carrie tells Brody it’s time for him to start playing ball. He can choose a messy public trial and prison and ruining his kids’ reputation…or he can choose to help the CIA with exposing the terrorist plot by being a double (triple?) agent for them, and then to retire and live peacefully in the countryside far away from DC in a few years. Naturally he chooses the latter option, and as Carrie escorts him home, we learn that she’ll be his handler. Their affair will be the cover (for Roya/Nazir’s camp not for Jessica, it’s important to note) and when they need to see each other, they’ll call and say how much they miss each other and that will be the cue to meet at Carrie’s apartment. Mmm-hmm. It’s anyone’s bet how long it’ll take for the two to get horizontal again, but I’m guessing before the season’s out (hell, maybe even before the end of next episode with the way this show paces things!).
And so we’re faced with a new endgame: Brody on the path to retribution. This show has excelled in the gray shades, in leaving the audience unsure of motivations, and never truly making any judgment calls about who is right and who is wrong. On the surface, this move to turn Brody into a straight up American hero, determined to take down the foreign big bad, could seem as though it may turn the show toothless perhaps, or set it upon a more traditional route of one-sided American patriotism saving the day. Again, I think this show has proven itself enough that we’ll just have to wait and see—and bask in the knowledge that Brody and Carrie will be working together closely from here on out, meaning Danes and Lewis and their unbeatable chemistry will take up a majority of our screentime each week. And that’s a very good thing.
Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.