Web Only / Features » October 7, 2013
Homeland, Season 3, Episode 2 Recap: The Girls Must Be Crazy
Dana and Carrie’s families try to silence them ‘for their own good.’
In the long and troubled history of womankind, there has been no phrase more ominous than 'for your own good'—it typically means that you need to be relieved of all that pesky autonomy and female agency that makes you so darn difficult to exploit. And, since this particular form of violation comes packaged in such warm, fuzzy, parental trappings, objecting to it makes you sound precisely like the raging madwoman your opponent would so like you to be.
My doubts about Homeland are a matter of public record. But I find myself gratified to report that in its second, joyously Brody-free episode of the season, Homeland is heading hard into the territory it's always covered best: straight-up “Yellow Wallpaper”-style horror, in which women already on the verge of going crazy are driven over the edge by the people who claim to love them.
In the long and troubled history of womankind, there has been no phrase more ominous than “for your own good”—it typically means that you need to be relieved of all that pesky autonomy and female agency that makes you so darn difficult to exploit. And, since this particular form of violation comes packaged in such warm, fuzzy, parental trappings, objecting to it makes you sound precisely like the raging madwoman your opponent would so like you to be. If you want a handy illustration of this particular dynamic, there is no better place to look than the absolute horror that Saul inflicts on Carrie in episode 2 of Homeland's third season, “Uh… Oh… Ah…”
But first, the episode offers a slightly less compelling riff on the same themes, via Brody's estranged daughter, Dana, who tried to commit suicide between seasons after her father was cast in the press as a mass-murdering terrorist. Last episode, we found Dana recently freed from her family-mandated stint in a psychiatric hospital so posh that it looked like a set from one of the X-Men movies. Driven to despair by her tabloid infamy, Dana was busy sending naked pictures of herself to her boyfriend, a mini-dreamboat whom she’d met in Xavier's School for Exceptionally Medicated Children. This ridiculously stupid decision seems destined to become a bit of soggy social commentary on Reckless Teen Sexting and whether it is a Dangerous Phenomenon Of Our Times. Meanwhile, Mrs. Brody had nothing to do but stand around being stiff and judgmental, which is the only use this show has found for Mrs. Brody since Morena Baccarin stopped doing nude scenes. I refused to cover Dana's plot line last episode, largely because (a) I have not yet forgiven the character for participating in the extended, CW-worthy “Reckless Teen Driving: A Dangerous Phenomenon Of Our Times” sub-plot that consumed so much of Season 2, and (b) I didn't care much about her new one.
That story continues this week, and although it’s still a bit clumsy—a scene in which Mrs. Brody demonstrates her distress by having a conniption about whether she had hired professional remodelers for the bathroom stands out; she did all that re-modeling herself, gosh-darnit!—it's gaining steam, and even results in one quite lovely moment. Dana, fed up by her mother's clueless, awkward hovering and harsh judgment of the boyfriend, runs away from home and back to the hospital for sex (and the ill-advised coital photos). When she's caught and subjected to yet more hand-wringing from her mother, Dana breaks it down:
When she tried to commit suicide, she didn't want attention, she explains. She wasn't crying out for help. She wasn't having any sort of manipulative minor teen drama. She wanted to die. Now, thanks to the boyfriend, she doesn't want to die any longer. And though “men give you a reason to live” seems like a terrible message to send to young women, Dana follows it up with a touching bit of insight:
“I am not crazy,” she tells her mother, “and in case you're wondering, neither are you. Dad was crazy.”
Seeing these two women come together, face the damage Brody has done to their lives, and place all the blame for that squarely on him where it belongs, rather than on themselves and each other, is a really beautiful and powerful moment. I can only hope there are more like it in the future.
But, for all the mental-health talk in this portion of the show, it still feels a bit redundant. The show is doing a much better job of exploring the same themes through Carrie Mathison.
As the show opens, unmedicated Carrie is dealing with her problems the Carrie way: by barging into Saul's home and screaming at his wife, and scheduling frantic, fast-talking interviews with the press so that she can advocate for Brody's innocence.
This is where things get truly nasty. To silence Carrie—and engage in a little public humiliation on the side—Saul arranges for armed policemen to show up at Carrie's interview and place her on involuntary psych hold. When her family does the right thing and starts digging up documentation to get her out of the hospital (as they rightly point out, Saul's current strategy of blaming Carrie for everything doesn’t line up with the fact that he re-hired Carrie and gave her a raise) Saul shows up at their home and does a masterful bit of concern-trolling about Carrie's medication. All of this results in Carrie's family showing up at her committal hearing three minutes before she has to prove her sanity and reducing her to tears. When she panics and tries to leave the room, she's restrained and forced to stay in the hospital for the foreseeable future.
One of the reasons I cover TV is that, when it's done well, it can make the sort of complicated points that political writers spend time dissecting, but in a way that is more visceral and accessible than an academic thesis or op-ed can typically manage. If we're connected to the characters, we’re more likely to empathize with their situations, which enables us to make the sort of direct connection with the issue that we need to understand it. In this case, Homeland is making a point that disability bloggers have been trying to push through for years: A mental illness is not an excuse for abusive treatment.
Carrie should, in fact, be taking her medicine; bipolar disorder cannot be effectively treated without it. But “getting Carrie on medication” is not a goal so important that it supersedes her rights as a human being. For all of Saul's faux-concern, nothing he does to Carrie involves any direct negotiation with her, or any consent on her part. She's manic, but she's not in psychosis or actively suicidal: she is capable of having a conversation, and touching base with reality. Working with her is possible; it's just not something that Saul considers to be necessary. Even her family—the people who know her illness best—are so convinced that “concern” means “not listening to Carrie” that they unwittingly sabotage her hearing. Mrs. Brody, too, is too busy trying to “fix” Dana to listen to what she's actually saying about how she prefers to live her life—although, in that case, the results are a little less melodramatic.
Carrie plotlines are nothing without heavy melodrama, however. And therefore, Carrie winds up strapped to a gurney and forcibly injected with heavy sedatives. By the time Saul finally comes to see her, she's so zombied out that she can barely manage to pronounce the words “fuck you.” But pronounce them she does. And really, that’s all she needs to say.
Sady Doyle is an In These Times Staff Writer. She also contributes regularly to Rookie Magazine, and was the founder of the blog Tiger Beatdown. She's the winner of the first Women's Media Center Social Media Award. She's interested in women in pop culture, women creating pop culture, reproductive rights, and women's relationship to the Internet and the Left. You can follow her on Twitter at @sadydoyle, or e-mail her at sady