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'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.

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Alex Tah

damian lewis really gets on my nerve. must be that rsc/etonian aire of his.

March 12 2012 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Liana

so has anyone else wondered why during the first episode of the show, we see brody with the long hair and beard and he gets it shaved/cut when he's about to come stateside, BUT we are told/shown that abu nazir shaved him when he was over there in captivity?????? i feel this is a major flub

January 22 2012 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RedEpistaxis

Carrie was indeed awesome in this episode. Was a pleasure seeing her squabble with the Feds and skillfully dealing with the Imam and Mrs. Imam

November 30 2011 at 2:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RedEpistaxis

Brody was a broken shell of a man. For _five years_, he was in hell , his only human contact was guards beating him or pissing on him. I don't doubt that a man could be susceptible to heavy manipulation in this situation, and I don't think it would make Brody a not-bright person. Whatever warm feelings Brody, or any person, would normally have towards Isa, would have to be magnified x100 in this case when you consider what preceded it.

November 30 2011 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bitchstolemyremote

Poor hunter Dan - we barely knew you! There was a little too much that was obvious about this episode, but Damian Lewis killed it. Check out our take on bitchstolemyremote.com here http://wp.me/p1VQBq-5Q

November 29 2011 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AOL BlackVoices

Just feel like saying that the Tom Walker scene with the hunter was remarkably like a scene in the Clint Eastwood/John Malkovich movie "In the Line of Fire." John Malkovich is a presidential assassin practicing in the woods with his special custom gun when two hunters come upon him, impressed with the gun, making banter. John plays light for a while, lets them try the gun and then after they return it and are goofing off, he shoots them both dead. So I wasn't impressed by the Tom Walker scene at all and expected it to play out exactly as it did, except I hoped the writers would be a bit cleverer and have Walker shoot out the tire so the hunter died in an accident seemingly due to a blowout. It would have made more sense, since now Walker has to dispose of the body and the truck or else circumstances and ballistics will give too many clues to Walker.

November 29 2011 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
robin-m

What if Isa wasn't really Nasir's son? Isn't it sort of suspicious that the great man only had (apparently) one child, and that he chose to put that child at risk by having him live with him? Where is/are his wive(s)? What if this whole scenario is one more seriously twisted setup masterminded by Nasir to manipulate Brody's loyalties?

November 28 2011 at 12:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to robin-m's comment
Samantha Zalaznick

I'm wondering the same thing! It may have been a coincidence but it seems more likely that Nazir had this whole thing set up to begin with. Why else bring Brody there and foster his relationship with the boy than to manipulate his emotions? If, as Nazir said, Brody never talked, he knows that Brody is steadfastly true to what he believes in. Since he couldn't break Brody's loyalty, it was time to redirect it.

As robin-m said, it's suspicious that no one else from Nazir's inner circle was around. Where are the wives? Where was he??

So what if Isa wasn't really Nazir's son, but he knew the attack was coming so he set it up as one big way to manipulate Brody. Or even worse, what if Isa really was his son and he set it up anyway?

AND--this is probably a stretch--but what if the VP is in cahoots with Nazir? Doesn't it seem suspicious that he's become such a key player in all the plans surrounding Brody? He was the one in the video, he's the one they want Brody to get close to...what's the deal?

November 28 2011 at 5:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cathi Hodil

Robin-m...my very first thought was that Nazir set Brody up to connect with his "son" and then bombed the children himself so his "son" would die and he could turn Brody for good. I thought the same thing...that maybe Isa wasn't his son at all.

November 29 2011 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
michaelhoganny

You guys are forcing me to consider a fifth possibility: I'M not that bright! Seriously, great insights.

November 28 2011 at 8:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lenora

I understand your skepticism, but I think the episode showed exactly how the relationship and death of Isa could have turned Brody. Remember, Brody was severely broken and the kindness of Nazir caused Brody to love him, in his words. At the time, I am sure he had no inkling that he would ever see "home" or his family again and the gentle touch, innocence and love that Isa showed Brody probably poured at his heart strings as a son does for his father. I believe that when Isa was killed, Nazir used Islam & the gift of gab like he did on this episode to get in his head about how the US purposely killed innocent children; which caused Brody to start to believe it. The fact that the press conf. completely spun the blame of the attack on Nazir struck him; as he knew that to not be true. So I think Nazir's appearance showed his manipulative nature & exactly how Brody fell for it and how he was able to reel Brody back in after the betrayal of Tom Walker. P.S. Tom Walker is bad ass.

November 28 2011 at 8:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AOL BlackVoices

I see your points questioning Brody's motivations, and I really agee that seeing his backstory with the detail of this epsiode is a bit un-satisfying. I think Brody could have been effected enough by Isa's death to vow to seek revenge on those most directly responsible i.e th lying VP and architect of the drone strikes. I think what Brody has in mind doing is very narrow (i.e. seek revenge of the VP/end or expose the air strikes, an attack or action directly conncted to American politics) even if he may have implied or said to Nazir that his action would be broader (i.e. action against American citizens). I had the impression that the air strike was on a school, not just at Nazir's compound, so the sense of the US wrongly attacking innocents was greater. As for whether this one attack and death, and the American lie to perpetuate it, would be enough to turn Brody, well, put like that, no. But I do think that he may have loved Isa in a way equal or greater than with his own children, since Isa brought back Brody's humanity. Also Isa's death bonded Nazir and Brody, so we can't under-estmimate that. I think maybe the reason the episode began with the hum-drum scene of grocery shopping in a land of plenty, the focus on vitamin water as a now-common product that most of the world neither knows nor cares about it was to highlight the consumerist, indulgent nature of American culture. Maybe the simplicity of his life in Nazir's compound - eat, study, teach, pray, interact with Isa - felt like the important things and his American life - OUR American lifestyle - came to seem empty, maybe even contemptible. There was a similar scene in a grocery store at the end of the Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker."

The VP is certainly coming up a character we will be seeing a lot of... greeted Brody when he arrived back in the US, wooing him as a candidate, former head of CIA, liar responsible for killing Isa. Brody lied early on when he said to fellow Marines that the VP was greeting him and he realized he didn't even know his name, but I don't see that the lie has any added significance after this episode. I think there is also significance to Nazir saying who better to trust his son to than a man who would rather die than give up secrets. Does that mean Brody never talked under torture, but was able to be turned under an opposite approach? Did Brody really have any information to give? Does that mean Brody deep inside was/is still resisting in some way even if Nazir doesn't know it?

November 28 2011 at 3:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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