So, I’ve got this theory.
Homeland, as we know, is a weekly, hour-long ode to paranoia and wacky theories. When Saul commits Carrie to the mental hospital, we’re meant to wonder what his long game is; when Brody turns up in a half-built skyscraper where lissome women tend to his wounds, we’re left to ponder which wacky bunch of international would-be world dominators has him this time. But my theory— the one I’ve been thinking about for about five episodes now — has nothing to do with those recent plot points.
It’s this: The only reason Dana Brody is still around is because her seemingly clumsy, melodramatic story lines will eventually be revealed as a fully intentional commentary on the dangers of bad fathering.
Consider: Dana Brody’s dad, the one and only Nicholas Brody, spent most of Season One plotting to assassinate half of Washington. Last season, he actually did kill the Vice President; this season, he’s been framed as the mastermind behind the Langley bombing. Now, given the paternal deceit and violence that has consumed and irrevocably damaged Dana’s life — which, it should be noted, she spends no shortage of time complaining about in explicit detail— you would think that young Dana would look for certain qualities in a guy. Trustworthiness, say. Reliability. The general absence of a tendency to murder his fellow man in cold blood.
And yet, it is not so. Pretty much every single time Dana Brody goes on a date with somebody, he turns out to be a soulless, duplicitous killer. Last season, she dated the Vice President’s son; on one of their dates, he ran down a woman in his car and pressured Dana into a cover-up. This season, she falls in love and takes a road trip with a guy who secretly shot his brother. Dana Brody, whose father kills people and lies about it, seemingly cannot stop dating guys who kill people and lie about it. It’s not that I blame her — I’m the first to admit that we often find ourselves repeating our primal traumas, which is one of the worst parts of being traumatized in the first place — but at this point, I can’t see it as anything other than a fully intentional piece of commentary on what a very poor role model Nicholas Brody was for his daughter.
Well. I could be wrong. But if the next season starts with Dana going to her Spring Formal with a guy who turns out to be the Zodiac Killer, don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
The strangest part of all this is, at some point during “The Yoga Play,” last night’s episode, the drama actually started working. Maybe it was just the shocking fact that Jessica went to Carrie for help tracking Dana down — this show features two actresses I love, Morena Baccarin and Claire Danes, and their only interaction thus far has consisted of fighting over Brody — or the fact that Carrie, in a heartwarming display of ovaries-before-brovaries solidarity, actually obliged. Maybe I just have a strong investment in stories about the dangers of being a teenage girl. But somewhere around the time Dana heard about the suicide pact over a gas station’s radio and started questioning Leo about it, and Leo didn’t quite manage to get his story straight while maneuvering her back into his car, I realized that I was entirely invested in their plot line. For all my disillusionment with this show, and for all that I doubted that I could still connect to it emotionally, the moment Leo got Dana back into that car, my notes devolved into one long, genuine stream of “DANA SERIOUSLY WHY” and “STRESSFUL” and “DANA.”
It’s entirely possible, however, that one of the reasons this plot line stood out was that the rest of the episode —the actual, honest-to-goodness spy work — was pretty muddled and unremarkable.
We do, thank heavens, get to learn more about the long con staged by Saul and Carrie: It started directly after the Langley bombing. This means that Carrie was fully aware of what Saul was doing when he assassinated her character and had her committed, but it doesn’t entirely make sense of the many scenes in which Carrie — completely alone, and with no one to fool — flipped out over those events. You could argue that she hated the experience, even though she was a willing participant. But you could also argue, more convincingly, that it was all misery porn thrown in to mislead the audience. I don’t mind melodramatic twists, but a good twist reveals a hidden structure in an existing narrative — the “hey, Haley Joel Osment is the only person who talks to Bruce Willis!” moment— and a bad one undermines the integrity of the narrative itself. This one falls in the latter category.
Unfortunately enough, the misery porn just keeps coming. Carrie’s attempts to help Jessica and Dana include contacting someone at the FBI. She gets made by Javadi’s agents and reamed out by Saul, in a scene that seems designed to make us worry once again that their friendship is over. (It’s not quite as powerful this time, given that they’ve only been acting like friends for thirty minutes of screen time. They may have been working together all along, but as a viewer, it’s just looked like four episodes of Saul being mean to Carrie, one scene in which Saul and Carrie hugged, and then yet another scene in which Saul was mean to Carrie.)
She then gets assaulted in her own home, forcibly stripped while whimpering “Please, no,” and kidnapped, all in the name of getting her face-to-face with Javadi. She cries, she’s scared; it’s awful. Quinn reports that “she’s on her own.” Saul growls that she’s “always been on her own.” Does Saul hate Carrie for real this time? Will he return his half of their BFF necklace? Is this just a red herring meant to make his inevitable rescue efforts surprising? Can any Homeland viewer honestly pretend that he or she does not know the answer to every single one of these questions?
No. We cannot. Saul and Carrie are going to be all right, because the show depends on it. But at least Dana Brody gets home alive after escaping from Leo’s car and being spotted by the police. And Leo, for what it’s worth, does some truly impressive crying when he tells Dana that he only lied about killing his brother — “playing the game with the gun,” is how he puts it — because he was ashamed. It’s such impressive crying, in fact, that I nearly believed him. But, speaking of inevitable: Dana Brody tends to wind up in proximity to killers. And this particular killer just got dumped by tabloid celebrity Dana Brody, while in full possession of her nude pics. As inevitable as his use of those assets to hurt Dana seems, and as little as I look forward to it, the pattern of Dana’s bad decisions just keeps repeating.
Jude Ellison Sady Doyle is an In These Times contributing writer. They are the author of Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why (Melville House, 2016) and was the founder of the blog Tiger Beatdown. You can follow them on Twitter at @sadydoyle.