“Homeland” Review: “Two Hats”

Warning: spoilers for tonight’s “Homeland” below the fold…

It’s a testament to how well “Homeland” has established its “anything can happen” atmosphere that I was fully expected Brody to end tonight’s episode (“Two Hats”) without a pulse.

A few weeks back, I wrote a piece for The Daily Beast about how “Homeland” is one of many shows currently exploding audience expectations and using their knowledge of certain narrative structures against them. That means something like one of the program’s two stars biting it two-thirds of the way through the hit show’s second season is both insane as well as brilliant. If audiences can figure out certain things that WILL happen, they can’t always predict WHEN they will happen. That Brody seems not long for this show isn’t an isolated opinion. Many watching the show can see the writing on the wall. They just can’t make out its context until it unfold onscreen.

brody.jpgSo when Dana decided she was too mad at Nicholas Brody to talk to him mere moments before he leaves for a dangerous mission that will either end Abu Nazir’s terror reign or end the lives of 300 American soldiers and their families, I thought that was the show tipping its hand that we were about to see the end of him. The “missed connection” trope is strong in both television as well as film, and even though “Homeland” has shown itself in the past to zag instead of zig, I expected “Quinn” to plug him in the driveway.*

* Between “Homeland” and “Scandal”, we officially have a trend involving people hiding their original names in favor of “Quinn”.

But lo, while Saul and Virgil’s investigation into Quinn’s background yielded a past shrouded in black ops wet work, they didn’t discover it too late to save Brody. And so Brody lives to see another day, with a happy Carrie and a wife that seems to be attempting to reclaim the life she had when Brody was presumed dead. All things are falling into place. But there’s still that matter of Brody’s lost day, the 12-hour period of which we saw only fragmented glimpses through the prism of an unreliable narrator.

Those missing 12 hours now shift things back to Season 1, when Brody was ahead of the audience in terms of what he knows about his own experience. Much of Season 2 has found both sides on even keel, which hasn’t reduced the drama but certainly has shifted audience understanding. Now, when everyone working with Brody worries about the veracity of his statement, we at home can now worry as well. We don’t have the omniscient perspective gained near the end of the first season and throughout the second. And while Carrie trusts Brody more than ever, this season has gone to lengths to make us trust Carrie as little as ever. Some people like Quinn hide secrets from others. Carrie currently hides them from herself, which is far more dangerous.

Thus, it comes down to whom has done a better job at giving a former soldier orders. Nazir had an eight-year head start on Carrie, but he also had much work to do in order to shift Brody’s perspective. It’s still almost inconceivable that Brody can be a long-term presence of the show, but there’s no reason to think his departure will necessarily mean “death”. But his absence, in whatever form it takes, would continue to haunt Carrie through the rest of her career. Or, for our purposes, for the rest of “Homeland”. Brody will have to leave the show in order to sustain its creative hot streak, but that doesn’t mean his presence will ever truly leave the show. It will define it for seasons to come, whether or not Damien Lewis is onscreen.