Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Showtime Homeland "Pulled Back In: Betrayals" #201 "The Smile"

Episode 1 of Season 2 of Showtime's "Homeland" is named “The Smile.” After being fired from the CIA, Carrie is now living the quiet life of a “country mouse”, her bi-polar disorder being held in balance by the drug, lithium.  (We get a hint that her dosage may be to high—a foreshadowing of future trouble for Carrie as a consequence of an overdose of lithium.)

At the beginning of the episode, Carrie is reluctantly pulled back into the spy game, and returns to Beirut to meet with a female asset with valuable information about a terrorist plot, but who will only speak with her. A reluctant return, but it doesn’t take long for the adrenaline rush from a cat-and-mouse game with a terrorist sent to disrupt (at the very least) her mission to change her reluctance to eagerness. The CIA “mouse” (Carrie) defeats her terrorist “cat”, and as the episode ends, she breaks into a broad ear-to-ear smile. (This is the “Cheshire-cat” moment of the episode, or perhaps I should call it “happy-as-a-cat-in-cream” moment. Carrie’s back in the game and loving it. 

I’m renaming the episode “Pulled Back In: Betrayals” because that title does a good job of enumerating the themes in this episode.

Carrie is pulled back into the spy game, but by allowing herself to be drawn back into the action when her sanity and mental stability is still quite fragile, she betrays herself.  Her duty to herself is to avoid stress and get well. Self-betrayals are the worst—aren’t they?

Nicholas Brody, former marine, current congressman and possible V.P. pick, current terrorist mole, and Carrie’s nemesis in Season 1, is enjoying his new-found fame and good fortune. You know who is enjoying it even more--Brody’s wife Jessica (played by Morena Baccarin). She is thrilled to be hob-nobbing with other political wives and basking in the reflected glory of her husband. But a number of betrayals are about to upset her happy little apple cart.  

I think Brody is also enjoying life as a politician. He may feel like he has put his terrorist days behind him, but the beauteous Roya Hammand (played by Suleikha Robinson) shows up to disrupt his happy little apple cart. She is the middle man for Nazir (the terrorist over-lord), undercover as a journalist. She informs Brody that Nazir wants him to break into the safe in the office of the current head of the CIA, David Estes’ (played by David Harewood) And  steal a list of targets.Brody makes excuses to get out of it, but Roya is firm. She reminds him of his promise to use his position to advance Nazir’s aims and to avenge the death of Issa, (Nazir’s young son who Brody had come to love when he became the boy’s tutor during his captivity as a P.O.W.) Brody finally agrees to get the list during an upcoming meeting.  Rona tells him that she will arrange for him to be left alone in Estes’ office .
 
When Brody meets with Estes in his office, Roja uses her journalist credentials to to call Estes out of the meeting.  She insists that Estes speak with her immediately because she is about to print a damning story. Estes leaves to speak with Rona and Brody is left alone in the office. Brody finds the list and copies the list into a note pad.  (Paper and pencil?  Really? Why not a secret camera hidden in a pen or something, like all the other spies use?)  It takes so long to copy the list Brody barely has time to complete his mission. Then he forgets his notepad on Estes’ desk, but remembers and retrieves it in the nick of time.)

So Brody has brayed his country. I’d like to think that he will betray Nazir and not turn the information only, but I think he will remain loyal to Nazir and his own oath of vengeance. I’d like to think that Brody has had his head turned by his position in the center of Washington politics, but events later in the episode show me that he remains committed to his terrorist goals.

Brody’s  commitment is revealed as a result of another betrayal. Brody’s 16-year old daughter, Dana (played by Mogan Saylor) discovered in season 1 that her father had converted to Islam. She betrays her father by revealing his secret at school, but no one believes her. They think she has said the craziest thing she could think of in order to win an argument.

When Jessica learns about this incident with Dana, she is furious with her daughter.   This is the “wait-until-until-your-father-gets home” moment of the week. When Brody returns home, she calls her daughter into the room, and demands that her daughter explain why she has said this terrible, terrible thing. (I got the feeling that she would rather have had Dana say that her father was a modern day Jack-the-Ripper.)  Brody protects his daughter from her mother’s wrath by telling Jessica that it is true. He is a practicing Muslim.

Jessica is shocked to her core. Brody may have betrayed her by having an affair with Carrie, but that pales in contrast to this betrayal. It is obvious that she finds this religion repulsive. It is equally obvious that she is furious at her husband because if this secret got out, Brody’s political future (and her own ambitions for obtaining the perks of power as the wife of a powerful man) would be in jeopardy.

In a rage, Jessica rummages in the garage, which Brody uses as his sanctuary, finds the Koran, and slams it to the floor.  Now it is Brody’s turn to be shocked. The Koran has been desecrated.

We see the depth of Brody’s commitment to his new religion when he tenderly wraps the Koran in a cloth and buries it, late at night, in a hole he has dug in the garden. The Koran touched the ground and can no longer be used. He is giving it a ritual burial. Dana discovers her father, shovel in hand, in the act of burying the Koran. She gets down on her knees and helps bury it by using her hands to cover it with the dirt.

We always speak about the “Oedipus complex” between sons and mothers, but there is a counterpart to this among fathers and daughters—“the Electra complex.”. Teenaged girls often become strongly attached to their fathers. They start to resent the mother because they want to take her place. These feelings are seldom acted on, or even break through into conscious awareness, but they create a fair amount of tension until the stage passes. I think that something like this is happening between Dana and her father. In Dana’s case, these feelings are exacerbated by the fact that her father was gone from her life for eight years, reappearing just as she entered adolescence.

Rona is very beautiful and very sexy. I wonder, as Brody’s relationship with his wife deteriorates, if the two will be become involved in an affair. Perhaps Rona will use sex as a way to keep Brody under control. Or maybe she will fall under the spell of this man, the strong and silent type with hidden pain, that women often find so attractive.

All in all, this episode is very exciting opener for the season. Carrie is back in the spy game despite her tenuous mental stability, Brody is in conflict as his past and present collide, plots are being plotted, and things are getting really tense on the home front. I can’t wait to see episode 2.
 
I found this picture at http://observer.com
 
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