Last we left our star-crossed duo, Brody and Carrie were standing outside a church and there was rain. Now, we’re continuing trying to get an answer for the question: Was it love?
Till this point in Homeland, we already know enough about Carrie Mathison to know that she uses sex, the same way she uses wine and music, as an escape from the restlessness, the constant spinning in her head. She wears a wedding ring when she goes out so there’s no confusion by either party about what the sex is about. Just sex, nothing more. We know she’s had a life full of risk-taking. We know she dated Estes and broke up his marriage. All of these tidbits of her back story are meant to establish the fact that Carrie believes in her soul that a life of coupledom, marriage, and children is not in her future. She can’t even dream about it, because of her illness, because of her job, or because she finds herself incapable of doing the work a real relationship would require, or withstanding the inevitable boredom of it. So she uses men for sex. And she uses sex for control. And then she gets back to work. It’s an arithmetic that’s worked brilliantly for her.
With Brody, it’s different. She’s working. But she’s also attracted to him. And it’s all very confusing and also quite intoxicating.
Is it obsession? Yes, okay. The magnet pull of a self-destructive force? Sure. But it’s real. Palpable, relentless, and necessary.
The next they meet, Brody has been called in to help with an interrogation of one of his captors. He sees Carrie and goes to greet her, but is taken aback by her not acknowledging that they’d met at the support group. Her skills at subterfuge are beguiling to him. Maybe he sees a bit of his own skillfulness in her readiness to lie so convincingly? Or maybe that’s the very reason she even bothers to lie? She wants to show him: ‘Look I’m lying too, we all do it. Feel free to lie all you want as long as you want, just know you don’t have to lie to me.’ Whatever it is, the lie certainly doesn’t disturb him. He smiles and is eager to know what comes next.
What comes next is Brody seeing that they’ve captured one of his torturers. Interestingly, Brody doesn’t show any fear, nor does he shut down at the memory of the trauma. Instead, he’s intrigued by the fact that he’s seeing this man again, only this time on American soil, Brody’s own turf. We see him acquisitive to learn how they got him, who else they got, what he’s told them so far. All of it seems like fresh news to him. He wants some face-to-face time with the man. He knows what needs to be done. The programming Brody got in detention, whatever ideas have been injected into him, tell him that the man needs to be eliminated before he gives up any information that could jeopardize the mission.
We see some surreptitious glances between Brody and Carrie, but largely, this scene is about establishing that Brody wants to get at this guy before the CIA break him. It’s the both of them eyeing each other up, but mostly both are in work mode. As they part company, Carrie can’t help but slip him her card, adding an evocative “24/7”.
They meet briefly again at Tom Walker’s funeral. Carrie watches and, like the rest of us, is stirred by Brody’s perfect eulogy. She waits for him afterwards and tells him he has to come in for a polygraph. Why, she can’t say.
The plot continues to wobble and spin all around them. Their next meeting is when Brody has taken her up on her offer to call her at any time for any reason.
Straight’s been aged for two years in charred oak barrels.
Carrie has just learned that the professor and his terrorist wife are on the run. Brody has just learned that his wife was sleeping with his best friend while he was gone. Brody calls Carrie saying he can’t come in for the polygraph the next morning. She suspects he’s making an excuse to get out of it. She wants to get the real story from him in person. When she goes to meet him it’s to get some information, make some headway into what he’s up to.
But, such is the nature of “chemistry” that the world and all the pesky plot points holding it together seem to wash away when Brody and Carrie are alone again together. They start talking about the most banal things, just to talk, just to be in each other’s space. Carrie walks into the bar, Brody smiles, says “You didn’t have to come.” Carrie shrugs as if to say, ‘I didn’t have anywhere else I needed to be.’ Like they’re new friends meeting for a casual drink. They have a hard time not smiling at each other.
The banter is bizarre, the smiles are bizarre, given Walker’s funeral that same day, what Brody has just learned about Jessica and Mike, and what the CIA has just learned about the professor and his terrorist wife. As bizarre as it is, it’s all miraculously authentic at the same time. The world drops away when they’re in each other’s company. Makes no logical sense at all, and the fog of disbelief hangs heavy over this picture. Ultimately it’s a combination of what we already know about both of them, the chemistry of it all, and the beatific immersion facilitated by Damian’s and Claire Danes’ performances, which renders it all vividly believable regardless.
As outlandish as it is, they proceed to get to know each other. She asks about the hand he’s nursing with a bag of ice, he asks if she’s ever been married. She tells him that, as a girl, she always beati everyone at playing chicken on the railroad tracks, even the boys. He’s impressed. She’s got a fire to her that’s drawing him in. The pull started when she walked away from him in the rain and it’s getting stronger, despite the horrific things happening in the plot around them. Truth be told, what they feel, who they are when they’re together, is about as far away from the plot as it could get. Short of becoming an entirely other show: The Carrie and Brody Show 🙂
We don’t know why he called her from the bar that night. All we know is that he doesn’t want to do the polygraph. But why not wait till the next morning? Why call her when he’s in pain? Both physical pain from the bloody hand, and, ostensibly, emotional pain from finding out about Jessica and Mike. Why not just skip out on the polygraph the next morning and make his explanations later? No, we don’t know why he called her. But he did. Did he expect her to show up? Probably not. But he’s not complaining. The bourbon and her presence in that bar is taking him out of his head for a brief time and he’s okay with that.
As for Carrie’s motivation, we do know more about why she’s there. She wants to get something incriminating out of him. A lot of the scene in the bar is her manipulating him, getting him to reveal something. But a large part of it is them just talking, like peers, like they’re two consenting adults who just met and want to know more about each other.
I like it when life is like that…heightened somehow.
So they get good and drunk. Who’s more drunk? That is to say, who’s more vulnerable? I’d have to say they’re both equally blotto, laughing it up about the Redskins and how the Irish only puke when they have to salute the British. But, as drunk as they are, neither has totally relinquished control. Likewise, neither is vulnerable.
Inexplicably, work comes back up into Carrie’s head and she’s spilling the beans about why they want Brody for the polygraph. Is she saying more than she should? Is she really so drunk that she’s divulging secrets she shouldn’t? Or is she telling him these things in the hopes that his drunkenness will get him to divulge secrets too? It’s all so crazy to contemplate, and I have to say I have no answers. But I do know that they are both in control of what is going on at that moment. They’re both in the game, playing along.
When she divulges that the man who tortured Brody is dead, slit his wrists, Brody says nothing. What he does next may be just to shut her up so he doesn’t have to say anything. She sees him coming closer, looking at her the way he looks at her, and for a split second she sees what’s coming next and she’s surprised. Her expression says “What? Where is this coming from?” But then in the blink of an eye it shifts to “Well, okay, then. Why not? Two consenting adults, overwhelmed by the booze and the opportunity, why the hell not?”
The kiss is clumsy and not at all romantic or even very sexy. The filmmakers do a great job of showing the consensual nature of the act. Carrie opens the door, she facilitates access. It’s drunken car sex, but it’s undeniable that they are in it together. And what they learn about each other here is: why, yes, they are pretty darn compatible! Brody fits with Carrie in ways, through no fault of his own or Jessica’s, he was no longer able to fit with his wife. It surprises both of them and it feels good. To both of them.
And then it’s done, and it’s the next morning and they’ve already gone their separate ways. Nope, not love yet. But certainly a bit closer to it than before.