After Homeland's pilot episode put the spotlight on Claire Danes' character Carrie Mathison and exposed her for the lunatic she is, Episode 2 gave us a lot of Damian Lewis' Sergeant Nicholas Brody. But the show is walking a tricky line so far, and it's either really smart or really dumb.
"Grace," as most second episodes do, gave us an idea of what to expect from the series. And so far, it looks like we're going to spend the rest of the season watching Carrie get closer and closer to exposing Brody as a sleeper agent for Al-Qaeda, because there doesn't appear to be any question of whether he's a bad guy or not, something I'd hoped would be especially ambiguous in the all-important second episode. Or is that too obvious?
Here's the $200,000 question: Is the series worth sticking with if Brody is a bad guy and Homeland doesn't make any attempt to disguise it? Most dramatic TV series today, particularly ones that have deception for a backbone, are built on the idea of surprise and the need to discover the truth. If Brody does turn out to be a terrorist, I foresee a lot of people asking themselves when it's over, "That's it?"
That's why I hope and non-denominationally pray that there is more to the series than what I think we're getting. I want to believe that Brody isn't a bad guy, and I want Homeland to lead me down that path before sucker-punching me with the truth that I should never, ever get on a bus with him. The only hope I have right now is that the series is doing the opposite, making me think he's a bad guy before yanking the rug (again, a non-denominational one) out from underneath me.
If that is what the show is doing, it's genius. (I haven't seen the Israeli series Homeland is based on, so please, no spoilers in the comments section.) Putting the entire audience in Carrie's brain would really drive home the idea of post-9/11 paranoia and a little tenet we like to call "innocent until proven guilty." Carrie, our central character, is certain that Brody's been turned, and if we continue to share her wavelength we might learn a thing or two about letting our so-called "certainty" get the best of us. Remember, we're currently getting all of our sleeper-agent info from Carrie; how much of it can we believe, knowing she's cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? Meanwhile, we don't have a clue what's going on in Brody's head. He's either incredibly cold and calculating, like any good terrorist would be, or he's just a guy who, I don't know, is completely freaked out because he just saw the sun and took a sh*t in an actual toilet for the first time in eight years. God, this show IS making me paranoid. I can't even trust myself anymore. The more I think about Homeland, the more I think I like it.
Homeland right now is all about perspective, and we're mostly seeing things from Carrie's, with a few fragments of Brody's via flashback. If the Homeland wants us to think Brody is a bad guy, it's doing a good job. In fact, it's almost making things too easy, and if we continue to feel that way, the show isn't doing its job. Homeland's success will ultimately rely on making us feel uncertain and leaving it up to us to make sure we question even our own judgment.
So let's review the major evidence that incriminates Brody and attempt to dismiss it, just for kicks:
– We saw him beat his buddy to death in the pilot during a flashback. But we don't know the circumstances that compelled him to do it. I'll play Devil's Advocate and say that maybe the alternative was worse. At least Brody didn't seem to enjoy it.
– We saw him pray to Mecca in his garage in the present day. But maybe he simply found a religion that works for him. He never said pre-dinner grace before he crossed the Atlantic, and a lot of crazy things can penetrate a man's mind after eight years in a cell. Perhaps a little comfort in the religion of his surroundings helped him out.
– We saw him stand up before reporters, ready to talk about his captivity and "play the hero card," just as Saul predicted. And according to Carrie, that's damning evidence. But given the mounting pressure from snooping reporters asking for throat-punches, an endless barrage of phone calls from the more "polite" media outlets, and lots of visits from the dude who porked his hot wife while he was locked in a stone box, why wouldn't Brody want to share his story, get it over with, and take the spotlight off himself and his family?
I'm hoping Homeland is either tricking us, or that it's setting us up to think a certain way before revving up a roller coaster of possibilities that will have its way with our brains. You know, that HAS to be what Homeland is doing. In fact, I'm certain of it.
– I loved watching Brody tell Mike off and tell the government and the military to f*** themselves, he's not taking orders anymore. What if this show isn't about whether a man has turned to support the terrorists, but a man who has turned on the military and government that shipped him off to a giant sandbox where he got captured and thrown into a box for eight years?
– What happened to Brody's son between this week and last week? He was so scared and adorable with a new dad, and now he's kind of a punk. How insensitive do you have to be to play set-in-the-Middle-East first-person shooters when your POW dad is in the room? And where do you get off asking him what it's like to kill a person? I think the kid may be the real terrorist here.
– My favorite character so far is Virgil, Carrie's independent surveillance guru. Who is yours?
– Can we all agree that we'd better just go ahead and order a coffin for Carrie's escort friend/informant? And how messed up is it that Carrie lied to her about protection?
– How awesome was the scene where Brody prayed in his garage? That gave me the shivers. And then the next time we saw him, he was sporting a military uniform.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom