Contributor: Henry T.
Written by Henry Bromell
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Television and other visual mediums are built on the two-shot, or two people having a single conversation. They mainly serve the purpose of driving the central plot of an episode, of a series, forward. It’s rare when you get to see a single conversation — two people stuck in a room — that reveals not only plot details, but character development as well. The central conversation in this episode, an agonizing and brutally honest interrogation by Carrie of a captured and broken Brody, goes past being usual ephemeral conversation about plot and becomes something else. Something riveting, a conversation that I couldn’t take my eyes off of and actually (surprisingly) became interactive. Rare is it when a show does something like this. It defies criticism. If the show continues to produce hours like this one, there may be no stopping riding the momentum towards becoming the best show on television. I don’t think there’d be any argument against it.
I’ll get the details out of the way quickly: A captured Brody is brought into a basement interrogation room near the surveillance site. After Carrie broke operational protocol, it’s decided that she won’t do the interrogation and that it’s truly Quinn’s show to run. That in itself was a tense and brutal appetizer for the main course to come. Saul puts it perfectly: Quinn is setting up the lies from Brody’s mouth to effectively tie the noose around his neck. There’s a sense that Brody can keep up the lies in front of Quinn because he’s never seen the guy before. He is thinking that he cannot possibly have proof of Brody’s treason and domestic terrorism.
Everyone else (as well as the audience) knows differently, and there’s almost a perverse joy in seeing what Brody can get away with before Quinn drops the bomb on him: Using the self-made tape he made in last season’s finale against him. Brody does know that the CIA cannot concretely prove that he wore a suicide vest, or that he even failed to set it off. This was all detailed in last episode’s review. The tape is the one piece of concrete, stone-cold evidence the CIA has against Brody, and it’s arguable that it, as well as anything garnered in this interrogation, could be used in a trial against Brody. I’m not versed in today’s law regarding terrorism of any kind here in the US, but the writers of this series have really found an effective way to argue the complexities and difficulties of fighting the War on Terror.
After Quinn plays “bad cop” in an interrogation (I love that Saul susses the play out immediately), it’s Carrie’s turn. This conversation has been building since the beginning of last season. In the midst of CIA’s top brass, Carrie was only allowed to ask standard questions that went nowhere towards finding Brody’s true intentions. We’ve been through a whole history with these two characters in just sixteen episodes, and it shows. The conversation between Brody and Carrie is personal as well as tactical. I looked at it like Brody is building up this wall, with his standard lies as the foundation. Quinn poked at it, to somewhat devastating effect when he showed Brody the tape, but it’s Carrie’s job to break down the wall completely.
That’s what makes the interrogation so fascinating, so worthy of uninterruption. Each side plays their part to the fullest degree, measuring their responses carefully, and pausing at the right times. This is aided by the masterful directing, writing, and editing, punctuated by the mere presence of the show’s two best actors. It is Homeland working on all cylinders. Claire Danes sounding so heartbroken with each passing phrase and question, almost as if Brody were betraying her instead of the country. Damian Lewis reduced to a puddle of tears by the end, again, as each response seems to be breaking his spirit and the wall of lies he has built. It’s incredible just to watch.
It’s absolutely devastating when he finally says “Yes” to Carrie after so many denials (I said yes well before he did, indicative of how interactive the episode was), the resignation in his voice reducing the response to a barely audible whisper. He’s exhausted with all of the lying, and we’re right there with him. So much so that he crumples onto the floor in a fetal position. It’s almost as if everyone in the CIA were torturing him just like Abu Nazir did all those years ago. The difference here is whether Carrie did enough to break him down and “put him back together again”, as she did say during the incredible interrogation. Never have two people talking in a room been so meaningful.
This time, Brody works for the CIA, which unexpectedly brings the show into a different, possibly more interesting direction. Whereas earlier, he seemed to be chafing under the pressure of being a Congressman who wanted to help a fugitive terrorist destroy the country, he is now caught and being pulled by two different worlds. It’s very likely that Brody will not meet a good end when this is all over. Of course, we thought that before when he showed a willingness to don the suicide vest. That turned out differently from expectation. There is also the added complication of Brody’s wife, increasingly suspicious of her husband’s actions and lies. Only, they aren’t lies at all. Brody really is working for the CIA, which means that his friends in the Marine unit might eventually connect the dots. Their first theory about him is correct!
Given the show’s penchant for unexpected turns in the plot, it would not surprise me if Jessica learns more of the truth by the end of the season. Everything around Brody is very fragile, and it could collapse at any moment, from any source. Maybe it comes from Finn Walden’s stupid excursion with Dana to try and evade the Secret Service detail. It’s a minor subplot that isn’t really worthy of being in such a powerhouse episode, but it at least gives Dana something to do besides being so brooding and angry all the time. The knowledge that her parents’ marriage may be ending soon will provoke different reactions from the Brody kids. That could prove to be a valuable addition to the overall narrative arc in the future. This was undoubtedly one tour-de-force episode. Please keep it going.