Homeland 3.3: Brody’s Back, And So Is Homeland
Maybe Homeland can finally get back to being Homeland again, for f**k's sake. [spoilers]
Welcome to our Homeland recaps. This week’s episode was ‘Tower Of David’. Spoilers follow.
“Everywhere you go, other people die. You’re like a cockroach.”
From the moment our nominal ‘hero’, ex-Congressman and one-time Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody reappeared on a jungle track in Catia La Mar, Venezuela, bloodied from a Colombian bullet and eyes rolling back in his now-bald head, Homeland rediscovered a hint of its mojo.
A large part of that was its revised setting. Away from the drab, morose corridors of CIA headquarters at Langley, wood-paneled recovery hospitals and the dimly-lit Brody family home, ‘Tower Of David’ offered some stark relief from the opening two episodes. This new colour palette — full of brilliant tans, graffitied plaster, concrete blocks and over-exposed sunlight — is bookended by dark, dank cells, and closed with even darker pits of despair.
The other crucial example of how Homeland appears to be righting its ship is the introduction of new characters — after all, there’s only so much of Jessica and Dana Brody fighting over who hates themselves more that you can take, while Chris Brody sits, ignored in the background, whaling on his Xbox. Last week, it was Fara, and now a crowded slum full of new faces (the Sardonic Pedo Slum Doc! The Hot Babe Companion! Neck Tattoo Of A Spider Gangster Guy!) looks to give Homeland a burst of much-needed oxygen. Well, that and the fact that while there was lamentably no Saul this episode, the trade-off was that we avoided any and all appearances from Dana the Downer.
Following Brody’s reappearance, we got a fascinating look inside the (real-life) ‘Tower Of David’ in Caracas: an abandoned 45-story skyscraper overrun with squatters, where blow-job rooms abut handy cupboard-sized convenience stores, pedophile doctors have the run of the place, walls are a luxury, handrails non-existent, and petty crime is met with pseudo defenestration.
As Brody recovered from his injuries, the new characters and locations asserted themselves. The Tower itself could stand as a totem for Homeland as a whole: built on promise and dreams, but now an unfinished warren full of deathtrap drops and desperate people.
But it’s the Sardonic Pedophile Slum Doctor (Dr Graham, played by an awesome Erik Dellums) who actually brought some wry levity concerning lighting an emergency surgery, a nice touch for a show that generally lacks any trace of humour. In one of the best (and creepiest) scenes Homeland‘s yet delivered, The Doc also laid out very specifically the choices that Brody has in front of him (heroin!). While stroking his young companion’s hand, he tells Brody: “Why am I here? That’s a dangerous question. Why am I here leads to why are you here? We’re here because the world outside can be judgmental and cruel. We’re here because this is the place that accepts us. We’re here because we belong here.”
Meanwhile, Neck Tattoo Of A Spider Gangster Guy (also known as, ‘El Nino’) proved to be a badarse of the highest order when tracking down Brody’s lost passport, and we discovered throughout that apparently the laundry service in Caracas is great.
What became immediately clear, though, is that while on the run as one of the world’s most wanted terrorists (with only a $10 million reward on his head, dead or alive. To put that in perspective, Saddam and Bin Laden were priced at $25 million each), Brody has lost control.
From the moment we met him, Brody has always been a man struggling for control: over his emotions, over his family, over his vengeful convictions, over the United States government, over his wife, over Carrie, over himself and, perhaps most importantly, over his morals. Now, it’s over Esme, El Nino’s daughter, the hot new receptacle for Brody’s apparent yearn to teach everyone English (to be fair, she pulls off a mesh singlet top better than Abu Nasir’s son Issa probably ever could have).
Brody needs to constantly exert his influence and his morals on situations; the only time he’s surrendered and let go was with Abu Nasir and to Islam. And the consequences of that left 219 people dead, even if he didn’t actually perform the act (as far as we know). And now, through his bull-headed attempts to escape his latest safe haven — while being sans money and repeatedly told he has nowhere else to go — Brody has lost all of his precious control. The realisation (which he got while trying to play funeral director with a corpse) that he’s trapped and he’ll “die here” if he doesn’t get to the mosque is a last ditch effort to be master of his own destiny.
His moral code is tied to that desire, and challenged along with it: even if people die around him all the time, Brody doesn’t want to be responsible, even if he is. It made it resonate all the more when the Imam told him, “You’re not a muslim. You’re a terrorist.” It gives us the immortal question: if Brody believes his morals are just, then are they?
It’s one of Brody’s most interesting traits, and why he can be such a compelling and frustrating character. Can anyone say for sure whether he’s super intelligent or just impressively dull? His ability to evade capture this long hints at the former, but while his insistence to keep on moving makes sense, it also leads him to think that seeking refuge in a mosque — he, one of the world’s most recognisable terrorists — is a good idea. Sometimes Nicholas Brody is as good at making clear-headed decisions as Lindsay Lohan at 3am on a Friday night. When his plan fell apart with an abrupt-ending shower and a hail of shotgun shells, you had to question just how smart Brody is. Also, just how many police would actually be sent to pick up the world’s foremost ginger terrorist?
Unfortunately, this was where Homeland’s brief renaissance began to stutter. Having gone two episodes with no Brody, it would’ve been a bold — and better — move to focus on Brody and his Tower Of David compadres for the episode’s duration. Instead, we have the mirroring of Brody and Carrie’s respective situations shoved down our throats [insert other off-colour reference to Lindsay Lohan at 3am on a Friday night here].
What’s odd, though, is that Muted Rehab Carrie is finally relatable. She’s still a ball of nervous energy, fidgeting constantly, but Claire Danes plays it with a sense of being lost and frustrated. Carrie strives to sound reasonable, but you can see she’s barely restrained, pushing and prodding at her bonds, while engaging in some self-harm (also, that ‘helpful’ nurse? C’mon, Homeland). The scene of her begging the Doc to tell Saul that she’s better, or the bit when she flipped out at the (perceived) ‘recruiter’ who paid her a visit gave us glimpses of Carrie at her electric, twitchy best.
It’s just that it’s too obvious to play the star-crossed lovers’ stories against each other. As the episode progressed, the pair — control freaks, both of ’em — struggled and strained against their mounting loss of freedom. By the end, they were both broken, scared and scarred (especially Brody), and seeking some semblance of control via a narcotic haze.
And with that, let’s go to our:
‘Homeland: What’s Their Mental State Like?’ big board
Mrs Brody: Wondering if the fact that Marine Mike has disappeared since they bumped uglies is a bad sign or not.
Dana Brody: About to start regretting that topless selfie.
Saul: Pensively growing his beard.
Quinn: Still chastising himself for all that kid-killing.
Chris Brody: Angry at being ignored by everything but his Xbox.
Fara: Pondering whether she can get away with wearing a Red Sox cap to work next week.
Brody: Thinking heroin isn’t so bad.
Carrie: Considering a new career in architecture-based popsicle stick folk art.
And so, Brody ends up back in a hole, and you’re left with the feeling that he (and the story) would’ve been better served by seeing him fight to create a life in Caracas, rather than running from his previous one. Now he’s nowhere, in Lost’s proverbial purgatory, while Carrie is trying her best ‘can’t sleep, clown will eat me’ impression in her mental institution. While darkly fitting and highly encouraging, we’ve still got a long way back towards the light. Will Homeland have the cajones to hit its impressive heights ever again?
Jaymz is a New York-based writer (originally from Melbourne, and the former Editor of triple j magazine), super-yacht enthusiast, hi-tech jewel thief and Bengal tiger trainer. He enjoys wearing monocles, finely spiced rum, constructing pillow forts, and zip-lining from Hong Kong skyscrapers. You can find him on twitter via @jaymzclements
Follow the rest of his Homeland recaps here.