The Question of “Was it Love?”: Homeland Pilot

As I’ve written before, I didn’t know who Damian Lewis was until Jennifer Lawrence went full-on fangirl over him on camera. Until then, I’d heard of Homeland only thru my Twitter timeline, taken over by live tweeters every Sunday night. And what you learn from following timelines for a show is 1) a lot of people you like to keep up with on Twitter watch a show, and 2) a lot of those people, when they are watching said show, are often reduced to exclamations of “OMG #Homeland”, “WTF #Homeland”, “Wow, didn’t see that coming #Homeland”, and the very informative “Can’t wait till next week #Homeland”.

So, JLaw’s unscripted display of awesome awe at seeing Brody on a red carpet combined with the wealth of information from my timeline drove me to pursue the show. I got the basic premise and players and knew it came from the folks who made 24, but, foolishly, before deciding to shell out the Showtime subscription, I started with trying to find clips on YouTube. All I found were music videos, and the kiss in the parking lot was immediately spoiled.

To be perfectly honest, I cringed when I saw that first kiss. What the hell, I thought. We get an apparently kick-ass CIA agent, a strong female character, maybe the female version of Jack Bauer, for pete’s sake, and what do they have her do? Fall for the bad guy? Come ON! For once, can we have a strong female character whose work is more important to her than her need for a man? Can a story be written for ONCE where a woman is not thrown off-track by a man? What the hell is this CIA agent doing kissing this guy she’s investigating, who also happens to be married? Thus, with that one kiss, I was totally ready to say hell no to the show.

Mind you, all this internal dialogue was before I knew the bad guy, this enigmatic Sgt. Nicholas Brody. And it was before I knew Carrie. I was already a fan of Claire Danes for decades. Also, my entire Twitter timeline couldn’t all be sexist idiots, could they? So, despite my visceral reaction to that scene, and despite already knowing that Brody was going to die thanks to the nice ladies sticking mikes in JLaw’s face on the red carpet, I decided to give the show a chance. Truth be told, my curiousity got the better of me too. What is it about this guy that’s making this woman behave so unprofessionally? All ruffled feathers of feminism aside, how could one say no to seeing such an attraction play out?

I rarely talk about TV or anything fangirl-y on Facebook, but I couldn’t help it when I first found Homeland. Notice in these old status updates, I didn’t even know how to spell Damian’s name correctly back then.

February 2014:
Started Homeland, Season 1 last night. One forgets how complete an actor Claire Danes is. Puts her entire body into the role. Like every muscle in her face to every flex of a finger. Great premise for a series too, so far.

March 2014:
Finished Homeland Season 1 last night. Boy, what a ride. All the fast paced twisting and turning “who-dunnit” machinations of 24. And an epic love story to boot. EPIC. Claire Danes and Damien Lewis are just incredible. Lots of improbable irrational events made believable by stunningly personal performances. Can totally see why JLaw fangrled all over Brody on the red carpet. “The Weekend” episode alone is worth the price of admission.

In the DVD bonuses, one of the writers says: At the end of Season 1, Brody has ruined Carrie’s life. She loses her job, has a total nervous breakdown and agrees to having her brain fried all because of him. Yet, if in the beginning of Season 2, he were to walk into her door and ask her out to dinner, she wouldn’t hesitate a second to go with him. Exactly. EPIC.

I know I’m not alone is asserting that the Homeland pilot was just about the best pilot of any television series, ever made. That hour was freaking riveting. Just watched it again for this post, and, yep, it’s STILL riveting as all heck. A master class in editing. Just the perfect intro to every single character, the perfect intro to everyone’s history (Carrie’s been on anti-psychotic meds since she was 22!), back story (Brody and Mike were buddies who went into the Marines together!), attitudes (Dana asking her brother in that snarky teenager tone “do you even remember him?”), proclivities (Carrie and her decoy wedding ring), weaknesses (Carrie jumping out of her skin, reckless, impulsive, when things aren’t going her way). We also saw Brody lying repeatedly. Just one lie after another came so effortlessly out of him. We see the cold stare, a face showing nothing. In his private moments, we could see that Brody seemed to be missing a layer of skin that everyone else seemed to have. Then, when he’s around others, we could see his lies providing the cover he needed, that missing layer of protection. We didn’t know yet, of course, just what he needed to protect, we just felt his need for it.

Damian Lewis, Nicholas Brody, Homeland

Brody could not make eye contact with his family at first. This is the point where I was like, hold the phone, who IS this guy playing this role? I know I’ve talked about that scene before, but indulge me please as I do it again. In that couple of minutes when Brody can’t look Jessica in the eye, what is Damian conveying? Could it be guilt and shame? Why would a soldier convey guilt and shame, you wonder? In that furtive first glance, he’s almost apologizing for being gone for eight years. It’s almost as if he’s saying, yep, went to war, didn’t see much or kill many bad guys, got stuck in a hole for eight years, but here I am, back in a snappy new Marine uniform, back in one piece. Sorry for being gone for so long. Sorry for missing my son’s birth and my mother’s death and my daughter’s childhood. Did we win the war? Doesn’t really feel like I won much. But, oh, well, at least I’m home, for what it’s worth. From that moment, Damian Lewis grabbed our attention with a fierceness I’ve rarely (if ever) felt for any other performance. At that moment, he became for me a performer you could not take your eyes off of for one second. Despite the spoilers, despite my misgivings, I was IN, into the plot, into the characters, into letting these people tell me their story.


Now for Carrie. We see that she gets to see Brody way before he sees her. In fact, she saw him years ago, as a picture on the POW wall during her posting in Iraq. (A great bit of continuity that the show runners revisited, just to feed the fan love, as a flashback in S5) Now that he’s back, she’s got the cameras all set up and ready the minute he steps foot in his home. She witnesses the rawness of that first night. She sees Jessica nervous about picking up where their marriage left off eight years ago, but ready to give it the old college try. And Brody, glad to be home, glad to lay eyes on his beautiful wife, but raw beyond what anyone could see. Carrie sees it though. She takes her headphones off when she sees where it’s going to go. She needs information on this suspect, but she doesn’t want to intrude on this marriage. Alas, she can’t help putting them on again. She can’t help watching and listening. And, in turn, we are also rendered powerless to look away.

We have readers of this blog who’ve been requesting that we talk more about Brody’s PTSD and we do plan to do that collectively. But, let me just say, that first scene of Jessica and Brody in their bedroom spoke volumes, loud and clear, that Brody came back from war deeply damaged, physically and emotionally. Here Brody was apologizing again, for his scars, for how they scared Jessica. Then, what transpires between them, the violence of it, was all about control; Brody, having relinquished so much control during his captivity, couldn’t let Jessica touch him in any way that he couldn’t control. Gah, cannot even write about this scene without wanting to cry. Let’s just say: We’ll get to the PTSD soon, I promise.

The first time Brody sees Carrie is in the debriefing. They’re both all business in that scene. Carrie is following the script, speaking for The Company, as she tells Brody that they never stopped looking for him, they were reminded of him on their wall every day, and how grateful they are that he made it home. It sounded like a well-rehearsed speech, something Carrie was trained to say to every POW who ever stepped off a plane alive.

Brody had a similar script. In explaning how he survived for so long, he dutifully touted the excellence of his SERE training (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) Seemed that training was useful to him on both sides of the ocean as he so expertly danced around Carrie’s insistent question of why the captors kept him alive well after he’d outlived his usefulness to them.

homeland, brody homeland, carrie mathison

And that was it, Carrie and Brody’s first official meeting was cut and dry: the suspect and the investigator who harbored suspicion. Carrie, having gotten the head start, was already deeper in. She had time to think and to manipulate the situation, to work out how she was going to nab the suspect. Going forward, she did manipulate, no doubt about that. But, more than the manipulation of a suspect, to my eyes, was her being drawn to this man, as a man. She felt his pain personally that first night home.

We’d already witnessed her impulsivity, her readiness to do anything and everything to get the job done. So, since she had eyes on him 24/7, since she seemed to have this tunnel vision where she saw a goal and only that goal in front of her, how could she not go deeper? Add to that the added twist of her bipolar disorder and a boss who second-guesses her “temperament” at every turn, and we know we’re in for some great drama. What a way to start a show.

Damian Lewis, Nicholas Brody, Homeland
source: Showtime
Damian Lewis, Nicholas Brody, Homeland
source: Showtime

3 thoughts on “The Question of “Was it Love?”: Homeland Pilot”

  1. Thanks again for giving us this wonderful Carrie & Brody series! It is a treasure!

    What a way to start a show indeed! Homeland Season 1 is one of the BEST things that ever happened to TV for sure. It reels you in from the first episode. And this is how it has become an instant hit and collected all Emmys in its first season which is quite rare!

    You will not believe this, and I myself cannot believe this, but it is quite hard for me to read these posts. Don’t get me wrong, I just LOVE them, it is just that my overwhelming love for Brody comes back to me (at a time that I was thinking I am sort of over with that). And it is funny because he is not a real man, but I feel like he is a real man, and as you give us this amazing story from the first scene to the last, you are taking, I am sure, a lot of us, on an emotional journey. I guess I will stay as a Brody widow forever.

    I understand you liked him the moment he arrived in the US and got together with his family. It was not love at first sight for me. Not at all. And now that I am thinking, I have never really talked about the moments that made me a Brody fan — slowly and surely. Haha it is yet another post there to be written!

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