Homeland, Carrie and Brody, Was it Love?: Part VI

In the tail end of Homeland S1, we see very little of Carrie and Brody in the same room. So, if I’m to focus on the love story, must needs abbreviate all the cloak and dagger stuff that happens in those last few episodes. Here you have my final installment of the Was it Love series.

We already know that by the time Season 2 rolls in, Carrie has declared her feelings unfettered by any illusion of who Brody is. As Carrie confronts Brody with the truth and he says “I liked you Carrie” she lets him have it in full frontal fearlessness:”I LOVED you.” His expression then is worth a word or two (or three). Her words come as a surprise, a shock, and he steps forward a bit as if to say, what? I didn’t know, like, how could you love me, I’m a fucking terrorist. I know, I know, he never confessed to being a terrorist. He was making excuses for his actions till the very end. The way he so readily answered Dana when she asked him if he could ever do the things Carrie said he was doing. “She said you’re a terrorist.” “I’m not,” he replies, not missing a beat, even as his thumb is on the freakin switch. Clearly, he didn’t think what he was doing was terrorism. What he did know was that he was a dead man. And who in their right mind would fall in love with a dead man?

That expression of surprise is repeated later in “Q & A” when Carrie, again fearlessly, speaks the truth: “What if I said I wanted you to leave your wife and family and be with me?” Brody is again shocked at the balls on this woman. I read these events as this: He doesn’t see himself worthy of being loved by anyone. He had one cell left in him of humanity, a cell left barely alive since he’d been back. That one cell was touched by Carrie and awoken by her in “The Weekend”. One glimmer in him that still hoped, still dreamed, still wanted life. But (in his mind) she crushed it when she disclosed her suspicions, and it has remained crushed since then. Her capacity to love him, her confession of it, is nonsensical and bizarre to him. He can’t even wrap his head around it.

So here we are in S1, Brody’s been revealed to us as exactly who Carrie thought him to be. He prepares further for his mission.

We learn what the mission is, and why Brody has been compelled to do it. The show kind of lost me a bit with the flashbacks. However pleasant it may have been to see Brody in a kurta knocking around a soccer ball and falling in love with an innocent child, did we really need to see Issa or get any of that back story? Did it need to turn from straight up terrorism to a revenge plot? Alas, such is the way Homeland throws moral ambiguity into every single frame.

It’s the nature of abuse that an abuser eliminates all access to support, all modes of comfort and humanity. Then, the abuser steps into the void where those things used to be. He becomes the sole provider of comfort. This is exactly what Nazir did to Brody and all we needed to understand this was the statement: “He was kind to me, and I loved him.”

Homeland had to hammer it home though with the doe-eyed little boy transformed before our eyes into a lifeless corpse. I so wanted Abu Nazir to be straight up evil. So much did I want this that I imagined that Issa wasn’t his son at all, just a boy he picked up somewhere to win over Brody. But, no, in the Homeland world, no one is all evil or all good. And, it followed that the Vice President killed not only just a beautiful child but the son of the man who would plot throughout the “fallow yellow” to exact revenge. They were holding Brody for 5 years before he finally became useful to them. He came upon his special purpose so serendipitously!

Back to the love story. As he’s marching hither and yon doing this terrorist-y duties, Brody has the wherewithall to stop by Carrie’s home. She greets his call with skepticism. She’s not at all all smiles that he wants to see her after telling her to fuck off. But, then, when she knows he’s on his way, she turns up the Miles Davis and puts on the rare lipstick.

My understanding of this scene, has, I am bemused to report, been somewhat changed by being around the “it wasn’t love” crowd. On first viewing, I could’ve sworn I saw Brody look at the paint on her face and go momentarily quizzical, like, she did all that for me? Doesn’t she know I’m nobody and nothing? On first viewing, I thought he was looking for pieces of her in the art work on the walls, in the books on the tables. But, now I see that he is looking around at her house for pieces of him he may find there. Stray trails of his presence in her life, evidence of them.

He tells her he wants to make sure their affair stays hush-hush, in light of him running for office and all. On first viewing, I felt he didn’t want to say all this and had to. Then when he gets into his car and leans back, I thought he knew the pain he had just given her and hated doing it. But, maybe, I see now, it was relief too.

As for Carrie, can anyone doubt for one millisecond what she thought was going to happen that night? Does anyone have any doubt whatsoever what her tears meant when he hurt her like that? If he were just a mark, just a suspect, would Carrie bother to shed a tear over him? She loves him.

Meanwhile, around them, stuff happens.

Carrie gets blown up and loses her mind. And her job. When the mania abates, she cries to Saul “Why did he do that to me? Rat me out like that?” Remember, she still thinks she was wrong about Brody, that he’s not the terrorist afterall. For some inexplicable reason, he hasn’t accepted her apology. And now this? Why would he do this to her? A legitimate question.

Saul tells her to let him go. She says “I can’t.” I don’t know about you, but, for me, that “I can’t” evoked every heartache every woman who’s ever loved a man who doesn’t love her as ever gone thru. Seriously resplendent with that heartache. Of course, she loves him.

Then, more stuff happens, and Brody almost blows himself up and then he doesn’t.

When they next meet, Brody spews all kinds of awful nonsense and Carrie takes it all, blow by painful blow. He hurts her to the core. And when he’s done, he’s surprised by how much pain this woman is capable of withstanding. He hates hurting her. And the way he catches his breath when he says goodbye shows he’s hurt himself too.

All he had to say was “You saved my life.” That’s all we want him to say. But, he doesn’t. Because the mission must go on.

With that, Carrie has lost her job, her mind, believes herself to be so crazy that she wants to erase it all with electro-shock therapy.

And there you have it, kids. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

16 thoughts on “Homeland, Carrie and Brody, Was it Love?: Part VI”

    1. Yeah! As a follow-up to Breni’s comment: I SECOND her you’ve done it again! I especially like you making a comparison of your perception of Brody’s reactions at your first viewing and now. And I SECOND her that I am sooooo looking forward to your next round of stories for Season 2!

      I can’t help feel for Carrie by the end of first season. Especially when she expects to find Brody but, in fact, finds Estes at the door… I also need to say, at this point in Homeland, at the end of Season 1, clueless about where they will go with the storyline, I am STILL rooting for Brody and Jess. I am such a hopeless romantic when it comes to marriage… It is Q&A that convinces me that Brody and Jess are over. and I am so looking forward to you talking about my favorite episode of the entire show! Cheers!

  1. Thank you! It takes a fair bit of emotional strength to revisit these two. Darn if I didn’t tear up AGAIN, so long after first hearing (and then multiple subsequent hearing) that plaintive “I can’t”. And the scene where he’s trying on the vest tore me up again too. His resolve, his coldness over what the explosive would do: keep his head intact while the rest…. The military precision with which he knew that little detail about how vests work. Brody, Brody, Brody, what are you doing??? I say to the screen still, every time I see that scene.

    So, frankly, IDK if I want to pursue picking apart S2 and S3. Everyone knows how it ends. It’s painful to watch. And, I imagine, will never not be painful to watch. I think I did my part in defending Carrie Mathison in this series. Not much more left to say. But, stay tuned, I may change my mind! 🙂

  2. Oh, JJ, say it’s not so! I’ve so enjoyed following this affair with you. I have my routine: I read your post, watch the episodes, take notes and post my response! Ah well, one last (maybe?) time.

    It’s my belief that Brody really does not believe himself to be a terrorist; that his suicide tape is the true expression of his mo tivations. The back story makes his case. Damian made an interesting point in an interview – Brody didn’t think he was ever going home again. Hence his love for Issa and Issa’s for him. I noticed at this viewing that his wounds are still fresh. We learn through Carrie’s timeline that the fallow yellow was only a few months. Does that contain his entire stay with Nazir or only the time since Issa died? I can only speculate but I think the former.

    All of which impacts his affair with Carrie. This commitment, this reason for living is more real, more immediate than his “real” life. Issa is dead and Carrie is off limits. You’re right, all that gives his life shape now is his own death “a dead man”. Ugh it gives me chill to even write that.

    It was really painful to watch his call to Carrie. He comes on to her so strongly. She’s not wrong to assume this is going to be romantic; he leads her to think so! I can only think that he feels he has to see her to be sure she gets the point and that he is dying to see her again one last time. His gaze when they say goodby. It’s a terrible thing he does to her but I think his moment in the car is not regret but his own heart breaking. He loves her, too.

    The fascinating aspect of these three seasons of Homeland is that this relationship, based on an existential need for each other, finds the lovers almost constantly out of synch. Not so unusual, I suppose, in drama but it never felt contrived or manipulated to me.

    “Why did he do this to her?” because she called him and revealed the basic outline of fallow yellow and, since he’s not a terrorist, she expects he’ll be willing to fill in the details. Now he knows everything she knows. She doesn’t know about his commitment to Issa’s cause and he uses it against her. He, again, uses their love against her. They do terrible things to each other.

    I think Dana saved his life not Carrie. After her call he embraces life, he’s no longer a dead man. So he goes around tying up loose ends and Carrie is the loosest end in his life. He demolishes her at the police station. After all he really isn’t the man she thinks he is. His rationalization? Did you notice Brody asks why she did all she did “for what – for fun?” Practically the same thing she’ll ask him in”Q&A”. He embraces Chris in the exact way he held Issa, apologizes to Jessica “for everything”, executes Walker, and makes a new deal with Nazir.( Does anyone think Nazir has any intention to let him “work from the inside”? )While he’s enjoying the view from his rooftop, Carrie has lost everything.

    “Was it love?” I think not yet.

    1. Yes, true that meeting Issa gives us Brody’s motivations, but my argument is that the only motivation he needed was the fact that he was tortured, systematically and expertly abused for 8 years. I don’t think the Homeland folks wanted it to be so clearcut good vs evil though. The way Carrie describes it in Q & A…he systematically took you apart then gave you a boy to love and put you back together in the way he wanted you to be…or some thing. Darn it, I may just have to write it up just to get that quote right. 🙂 Anyway, THAT is the way I read Brody’s motivations, not simply as revenge for the death of a child. Brody’s motivations were maliciously constructed, they weren’t just bourne out of a personal need to see Walden pay for killing Issa.

      The fallow yellow was the time after Issa died, when Nazir was cut off, in mourning. That’s the way Carrie saw it. She tracked him thru his connections to others, and during that time he had no contact with anyone. Except Brody, I guess. As far as we know the only reason he brought Brody home was in order to teach Issa English. (another weak premise, IMO) So chances are he hadn’t got off the grid then, only after Issa died. Like I said, I would have found it more believable had Issa not been Nazir’s son at all, but just some “bait” to get Brody to turn.

      Yep, a dead man. Only time he seems to know what he’s doing is when he has a gun in his hand. Otherwise, he flounders. No place to drop anchor. Until that brief time with Carrie in the cabin. Since then he’s back afloat trying to do what he came back to life, temporarily, to do.

      I don’t know about him attempting to tie up a loose end with Carrie at the police station. He’s already home free, she’s the one who was carted away by the police, the “crazy lady from the CIA”. She’s no longer a loose end, especially now that he also knows about her disease and that her job knows about her disease and because of it she is unreliable untrustworthy …no one will believe her now. True, he does also know how smart she is, so there may be some fear there. So, yeah, maybe he did go to the police station to make sure she was really down and out of service. And he made sure she came even further down and further out of service. It was cruel. But, maybe, just maybe, he went there to see her face again and to somehow communicate, without words, just by his presence that he was thankful that she’d saved his miserable life. I watched that scene and in an effort to block out the horrible things he was saying to her I found myself repeating a mantra that I imagined was the subtext to everything coming out of his mouth: you saved my life, you saved my life, you saved my life. What if he had said that instead of the nonsense he spewed?

      That eternal “what if” element is the beauty in all tragedy. The more tragic it is, the more beautiful the possibilities on the other side of it. More than drama, more than a thriller, Homeland in the first three seasons was straight up no holds barred tragedy.

  3. You’re right again, Jania. Dana could not have saved her father if Carrie hadn’t exposed herself to great risk to warn her. Then all the risk was fulfilled. Tragic, such a brave woman.

  4. I finally get it. Our visions of Brody are completely irreconcilable. I’ll always be grateful that you showed me sides of Carrie that, in my grief, I missed.

    1. Really? I’m not getting that at all. The only ones with whom my vision of Brody is irreconcilable are the Carrie fans who’ll never see what she saw in him. I do see what she saw.

      Irreconcilable in that I call him a terrorist? Explain please?

      1. As an explanation I can only describe Brody’s journey and character as I see it. Nazir has captured two very valuable assets Tom and Brody. He has no specific use for them yet but breaking them down is the first step in any of his scenarios. Tom comes to it earlier but Brody requires years of torture manipulation and isolation to come not to conviction but to utter despair.
        Then a man offers occasional solace – a drink of water an embrace. One day a door is left unlocked, he discovers a bright room of prayerful welcoming men. He is offered the comfort and hope of Islam. As a next step Brody’s brought into the home and family of the kind man, ostensibly to to teach his son fluent English. His son’s education is not Nazir’s true goal, he continues to prime his asset, not with ideology but with hope and love. If Nazir has a plan Walden’s attack changes everything. He seizes his son’s death as the opportunity to enlist Brody as a terrorist agent under the guise of vengeance, justice and ridding America of the evil within. It’s a long game that becomes even longer as the story progresses.

        1. Brody accepts Nazir’s view of a meaning for his life. It’s grounded in his natural sense of duty, his Islamic conversion and his grief on losing Issa. “All of life’s wasted time is behind you now.” He’s committed to die for these causes.
          Then the plan brings him back to hole, back to the military and finally back to his family. He’s traumatized, alienated and he’s got a big, dangerous secret. He is unprepared to deal with, if not surprised by, his conflicting emotions. Real life holds few comforts and he recommits to the mission. Then this woman “pushes into my life” and the stakes go sky high.

          1. So, not a dead man, not programmed. I don’t think Brody ever lost his humanity but, rather, his humanity was used against him. That’s the man Carrie fell in love with.

  5. Ah! So introducing Brody to hope and love was a part of the torture, part of the task of breaking him. Yes, I totally agree. I think we just said the same thing in different words. You’re imagining that Nazir did have another plan for Brody if Issa had not been killed. That’s the leap I guess I never made, but I see that could be the case.

    When I say Brody is a dead man, I don’t mean he’s lost his humanity. That human part of him is EXACTLY the man Carrie fell in love with. She didn’t fall in love with a terrorist, she fell in love with Brody, who he was, who he could be, the man who felt such frustration that he had not ended up like that Vietnam vet, a good strong man who withstood the odds and was never turned. If Brody had been fully programmed, he wouldn’t have felt the regret, the guilt, the “what could have been” ness of it all. When I say he’s a dead man, I mean in that he came back not having a belief in his own humanity. You’re right, his humanity was used against him. Thus, he no longer trusts it and he doesn’t even see it. Until Carrie shows it to him.

    I don’t think our readings of Brody are as irreconcilable as you say.

  6. Love and hope are the set up; Issa’s death is the weaponization of Nazir’s asset, Brody. I don’t think Abu Nazir had another plan per se. Rather that he had a pair of weapons at the ready. Walden provided the target. “Nazir plays the long game.”

    Perhaps irreconcilable is too strong a word. I don’t see Brody as an empty vessel but we clearly agree that Carrie saw him, knew him. At this point in the story they don’t trust each other, nor should they, but their connection slowly incrementally grows.

    I am a big fan of Shaun Toub’s work in Homeland. He’s every character drawn out to the ultimate. Ruthless, respectful, insightful, weary, smart, opportunistic. Those things are true of all of them including Brody, including Carrie.

    1. Forgot to say I appreciate the reminder about the fallow yellow. Carrie did identify it as a period of grief or loss.
      It would be very interesting to explore Carrie with you past the Brody storyline. Though some of my ideas could hurt your feelings. A Damian Lewis blog obviously isn’t the place to do that!
      The darkness in these characters fascinates me because I find them so attractive.

  7. Great writing, it was like a balm for my soul. You put in words, in such a fine way, all our thoughts. I really hope you will continue this, with seasons 2 and 3. I am really interested on how you see their relationship, especially in season 3. Was it still love? Mainly from Brody’s part. I am really questioning this as he gave up eveything, every hope, evey dream. Did he gave up also to the love for Carrie? That scene where they reunite first time in season 3 is heartbreaking..At first he is surprised, it is like he believes all is a dream but then there is so much indiference. It is like he does not care anymore..

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