Homeland changed its pace a lot last night, trading the buckets-of-ice-water-in-the-face twists and tension for a bit of backstory and Carrie insisting that she is not going to let [something] get away in every scene she's in. To me, "Crossfire" was the first bump in the road for a show that has been pretty close to flawless. But another, more diplomatic way to describe it would be "a badly needed deep breath and explanation for how Brody got to be where he is today."
Much of the episode flashed back to three years ago, when Brody started shaking hands with Abu Nazir, the CIA's number-one target. We'd seen bits and pieces of Brody meeting him before, most notably when Brody was dug out of a hole and given a feast of fruit by Nazir. After that flashback, Brody admitted to loving Nazir, which was understandable. Here was a guy being trained against his will for the World's Smelliest Man competition, and a stranger plucked him from the filth and loneliness of captivity and treated him like a human being for the first time in years. But we didn't know what really made Brody turn against his country, we simply sympathized with him.
Enter Isa (spelling?), Nazir's son. Nazir asked Brody to teach Isa English in what I'm assuming was a bit of psychological warfare intended to soften the Marine he'd been keeping locked up in his basement. And it worked. The innocence of a child was used to blur the lines between who is evil and who is eviler. Brody came to understand that even the enemy has a family, essentially seeing things from an entirely different perspective and forming a bond with this little rugrat. And when that child and dozens of others were killed in an American-led predator drone strike (5-kill kill streak reward!), Nazir said to Brody, "And they call us terrorists." I think that's the story of how Brody was turned, but there's still room for more specific details to come out, and I hope Homeland uses that room to fill in the holes.
I still don't know if I buy it or not, but turning against your country—one that you believed in enough, at least at one point, to join its military—because a child of the "enemy" was killed isn't an easy story to swallow. It would seem that with a clearer mind and the grief of the tragedy dispelled over time, Brody would realize that both sides have suffered casualties in this pointless war. I'm assuming that several of Brody's comrades were killed in action, and let's not forget about something that happened in September of
2011 2001. (Yikes. Thanks, @headclub!) Neither side is winning, and Brody showed signs of realizing as much earlier this season, when he stood firm and declared he would never be taking orders from the military or the government again. (At the time, it seemed to establish his anger with the war as a whole. However, it may have been stressing the roots of his Anti-Americanism.) It's possible that Brody still loves his country, he just doesn’t like the people who run it or guard it. But we didn't get much solid information from the flashback that supposedly showed us why he decided to turn.
It may have been more effective to stretch out Brody's relationship with Isa over two episodes, in order to fully convince the audience of their bond and make the loss feel more powerful; the half-an-episode it got just wasn't enough to make me believe such an event could've had the effect the show is claiming it had. We're not talking about a man choosing what to have for lunch, we're talking about a man reversing everything that's ingrained in his brain and siding with the bad guys who made him kill his friend with his bare hands (or so he thought). I won't dismiss the idea that Brody was so incredibly psychologically damaged from being imprisoned that he was susceptible to making extreme decisions after seeing his first subsequent meaningful relationship destroyed, but that wasn't adequately portrayed. Perhaps Abu Nazir is a genius when it comes to social and behavioral psychology, or maybe that bath Brody took was that good. But on the surface, I wasn't too satisfied with the explanation for why Brody turned against his country. I'm hoping we learn more down the line.
This is one of the problems that Homeland has always faced. Providing a convincing argument for why a man—nay, a MARINE—would turn on his country is a tall order. But it had to come soon after answering the question of whether or not Brody was indeed working with the terrorists, so I commend the Homeland writers for addressing it as quickly as they did. I just wish the reasoning was a little more rock solid. I thought the writers did a better job of showing us why rich white-girl Aileen joined the "bad guys," but that was largely due to Saul cracking the case along with us and a transformation that took place over several years. We don't know how long Brody was working with Isa. As an audience, we can often sense that time is passing between scenes and multiply it in our minds to guesstimate how much time two characters have spent together. We didn't get that with Isa and Brody; Isa could have learned the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" over a weekend.
Elsewhere, Carrie was back to being old Carrie, repeating the same desperate outcries she used on Brody in her new quest to get information out of the Imam of the mosque the FBI clusterf***ed. It was a bit jarring, especially after Carrie's personal manhunt of the first eight episodes, but this is where we are. The roadblock with getting this new information is the Imam, who wants the FBI to admit it screwed up. Unfortunately, this game of chess is a lot less interesting (so far) than what we tangled with before.
Homeland is in a bit of a reset mode now that we know Tom Walker is alive and working with Nazir, Brody is confirmed to be working with the terrorists, and the relationship between Brody and Carrie is on the back burner. That last bit hurts the most, as it was one of the most unexpected and interesting stories on television in years. But there's plenty to get excited about looking forward, as the dust is still settling from the pre-Walker days. Brody is primed to run for office and get closer to the vice president (the same guy who orchestrated the bombing that killed Isa), Walker is still a wild card whose motives and instructions aren't clear, and Carrie is bound to get on the trail of Brody again, and you know what that means: more tequila shots and spitting in the faces of white supremacists!
– Did you notice that Brody was shopping for Vitamin Water... NEAR THE COUS COUS!?!? Geez, guy! At least try to hide your terrorist leanings!
– Poor Dan the Hunter. He was just out hunting and looking at Walker's awesome gun when he accidentally recognized him. R.I.P. buddy.
– I love that Jessica said, "America's a violent country, what can I tell you?" at the end to Brody. But what was with the weird cut to black and the weird song? That was a page totally ripped from True Blood's book, and not fitting of Homeland's tone. Weird, weird, weird.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom