Thursday, 1 December 2011

HOMELAND, 1.9 – "Crossfire"

Thursday, 1 December 2011

This show is now into a tricky period of having to continue its story in an interesting and credible way, with the danger being that it'll betray the characters for the sake of some twists, but it's doing a great job. Sgt Brody (Damian Lewis) really was turned by Abu Nazir after spending eight years as a POW in Iraq, and he's been sent back to America to carry out an unspecified mission, of which his comrade Walker is a separate component he had no knowledge of. It seems likely Brody doesn't even know what his mission is yet, as this episode introduces him to the idea of accepting an offer to run for political office.

This episode had two main plots running in tandem: Brody was kidnapped by Abu Nazir's men and taken to a diplomat's house, where he was reminded of the reasons he decided to help Nazir in the first place. In extensive flashbacks, it became clearer that Brody wasn't exactly "brainwashed" but instead came to see the War On Terror from the enemy's perspective. Some psychological manipulation was necessary, of course, as Nazir earned Brody's gratitude for removing him from his torturous daily routine and into a civilised home with running water and a job: teaching a sweet little boy called Isa how to speak English, in-between football lessons. And while it was easy to see why Brody may have developed some affection for Nazir because of this show of kindness (however premeditated that may be), seeing how Brody was convinced that America are the enemy was even better. One day, poor Isa and other neighbouring children were accidentally killed in a US air strike, and Brody watched in outrage as the White House publicly claimed all the deaths were "staged" by the enemy to paint a negative picture of Allied forces. A complete lie. And one that gave Brody a sharp wake up call about how Uncle Sam operates.

This manipulation by US authorities was echoed in Carrie's (Claire Danes) storyline this week, too. While investigating the mosque shootout, where the FBI accidentally killed innocent worshippers while in hot pursuit of the fleeing Walker, it became obvious to Carrie that the FBI's claim that their target fired first was a lie. A falsehood known by the kindly Imam, who was consequently unwilling to help Carrie find Walker (a man he knows and likely has crucial information about) until the FBI give a public apology and admit their wrongdoing. A request that isn't likely, but luckily Carrie found a more loquacious supporter in the Imam's wife.

One thing that's really pleased me about Homeland is how it shows different sides to every story. It's not as black-and-white as "them" versus "us", because it's all about perspective and cultural prejudices. You can understand why Brody would undergo an ideological awakening after his first-hand experience of American lies to cover a tragedy and PR disaster, and you rarely find yourself hating the terrorists. That's not to say you'd agree with whatever Abu Nazir might be plotting, but it's refreshing to have a show where America doesn't come across as squeaky clean and above reproach. We're a long way from the macho right-wing fantasy of Jack Bauer cleaning up L.A from (mostly) foreign terrorists, and that makes Homeland a much more intelligent and emotionally rich experience. It's possible we'll reach a point where Brody is about to carry out a terrible atrocity, to avenge the death of a child he once knew, but I'll now be able to understand his thinking.

Overall, "Crossfire" was an episode that came as a relief after the climax of "Achilles Heel", which could so easily have been the moment the show went haywire by admitting that Brody's a terrorist sympathiser after all. This episode existed to fill in lots of blanks about Brody's time in Iraq and, for the most part, succeeded in giving us answers that felt plausible. You could argue it seems strange that Brody would turn his back on his country over just one incident, mainly because it's hard to believe he was so naïve to never realise America does bad things in war time, but I'm hoping there's more to come in flashbacks. Plus it's still fun to try and guess what Abu Nazir's masterplan is. My guess is that Walker's going to try and assassinate a politician that Brody will manage to save, which will make him even more of a hero in voter's eyes and ensure he'll be launched to political office on a tidal wave of support... and that's just where Abu Nazir needs him to be fore whatever season 2 has in store.

written by Alexander Cary / directed by Jeffrey Nachmonoff / 27 November 2011 / Showtime