'Homeland' Recap, Episode 9: Is Brody's Motivation Believable?
by Michael Hogan, posted Nov 28th 2011 12:15AM
The worst part of any monster movie is the moment when you finally see the creature itself. Not the first glimpse, but the first real good look at the thing. After an hour or so of imagining it in all its unfathomable horridity, you're suddenly presented with an actual entity -- the best the special-effects team could come up with. How could it possibly live up to your expectations?
That's kind of how I feel about the back story presented, via flashback, in this episode of 'Homeland' on Showtime. Last episode, after weeks of hinting one way and then the other, the writers let us know, once and for all, that Sergeant Brody has some kind of connection with Abu Nazir, the most wanted terrorist in the world. This week, we found out why. And while the story wasn't horrible, I had some major issues with it.
Start with the fact that the entire flashback wouldn't even have happened if Nazir's thugs hadn't beaten Brody to a pulp in the parking lot of a grocery store -- for old time's sake, we are left to assume. I don't doubt that subduing a Marine can be challenging, but was it really necessary to wallop him with a tire iron? This sets up the flashback with a convenient parallel -- Brody waking up from his shellacking goes nicely with Brody emerging from eight years in a hole in the floor -- but it doesn't help me understand why he would wind up sympathizing with Nazir.
We already know Brody's rationale: Nazir was nice to me, and I loved him, he told Carrie back at the cabin. Now we learn more: After getting a much-needed bath and (inexplicably) a shave, Brody was put in charge of teaching Nazir's son, Isa, to speak English. Through a series of not terribly interesting scenes, we learn that the two became close: Brody covers for Nazir when the boy kicks a soccer ball into a tray of glasses; Isa draws a picture of the two of them, etc. Then, toward the end of the episode, the other shoe drops: Isa heads off to school, only to be killed by a U.S. airstrike on Nazir's compound. Brody, whose humanity had been reawakened by his relationship with the boy, is devastated. We are left to conclude that he wants revenge.
Before we deconstruct this story, let's admit up front what we don't know. We don't know if Brody is actually playing Abu Nazir; he could be a double-agent. We also don't know what he has agreed to do; the shady Saudi diplomat merely tells him to keep playing nice with the vice president, and accept that invitation to run for office. It's still not clear what the ultimate goal is.
With that out of the way, let's go back and talk about the Isa subplot. Are we buying it?
I'm not so sure. Yes, I can imagine that being on the receiving end of a coalition airstrike could alter your perspective considerably. And yet. Brody is a trained Marine; he knows war is hell, and he knows what's at stake for both sides. Are we really supposed to believe that he's mentally mushy enough to switch sides at the first sight of bloodshed? And it's not as if this strike was directed against some innocent village; this was the compound of Abu Nazir, a man who held Brody in captivity, like a dog, for eight years and, to his knowledge, forced him to kill his friend. Does the fact that Nazir's son is a seemingly nice person really negate all of that in Brody's mind? Speaking of which, is Brody not alive to the fact that his charming student could very well be a terrorist mastermind in training? And, most of all, does the fact that Brody has actual children of his own, living in America, not undermine the notion that he would sign on to Nazir's campaign out of devotion to Nazir's dead child?
The way I see it, there are four possibilities here: either Brody isn't that bright, or Abu Nazir isn't that bright, or the writers aren't that bright, or the writers think we aren't that bright. Let me know which you think is most likely in the comments.
I'd also love to hear your thoughts about Carrie in this episode. Despite all my talk about Brody and Isa, this was a great episode for Claire Danes. Her Carrie is a piece of work, and the kind of colleague you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. She takes everything personally, is constantly on the brink of a flip-out, and would probably consider literally throwing her own mother under the bus if she thought it would help "prevent the next attack." And yet there's a reason she still has her job: she keeps getting it right. Far more than she gets it wrong, at any rate. If not for her supremely annoying inability to ever let anything go, Brody would probably be a Senator already, and Tom Walker would be belly down on Raqim Faisal's house, with the president's helicopter in his cross hairs.
Oh, and how about Tom Walker's treatment of that poor hunter? Guess we know how far he's willing to go to protect his mission.
This week's Brody-o-Meter score: 80
Graphic by Catarina Ferreira.