[This is a review of Homeland season 3, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
As far as dramatic devices go, pregnancy is a fairly cheap one designed to elicit a specific response from the audience, while at the same time designating a unique and inexorable bond between two characters that is intimate in a completely different way than the one that got them to their current predicament. And in the case of Homeland, the idea of a CIA operative carrying the child of a man wanted the world over is intended to be seen as a dramatic predicament for Carrie Mathison, as now her objective is, more than ever, to prove the innocence of Nicholas Brody once and for all.
But it’s also intended to give weight to the idea that Brody must be saved or salvaged for a purpose beyond simply proving his innocence. The curious thing about the pregnancy is that it sort of acts as a smokescreen to the kind of person Brody actually is (somewhere between a blank slate and an actually terrorist), as opposed to the person Carrie (and, to a certain extent, Showtime) wants him to be.
In that sense, keeping Brody locked away in Caracas with nothing but a syringe and what we can only assume is the near limitless supply of heroin El Nino (Manny Perez) has access to, helps further negate the character’s culpability most everything that’s happened so far in nearly three seasons of Homeland. By pushing the character as close to rock bottom as possible and generally keeping him out of the storyline as anything other than an illusory goal with an indeterminate value for the characters or the plot, the writers have helped to shift the perception of the character into one of a man who perpetually suffers at the hands of others.
The other, possibly inadvertent, result of this treatment is that Brody has become a hovering reminder that this show once had a framework larger than five people in a room at the CIA. As the series has progressed, the scope of Homeland has consequently shrunk, and the results have been mixed. Before, Brody, Carrie, Saul and even Virgil were all representative of a larger, more complex idea of intelligence and surveillance in an age where the line between paranoia and vigilance had become so blurred that a woman suffering from mental illness was not only the protagonist, but also a parallel to what the show was trying to say about the pursuit to keep the United States safe from threats both foreign and domestic.
To say, in its current season, Homeland has lost sight of that is something of an understatement. It would be one thing if the outcome of this narrower scope presented a story that felt more like one the audience needed to get behind, but watching while Carrie again goes off her meds and again goes against orders, while Quinn is suddenly concerned with the (literal) blood on his hands, and Saul (despite some strong moments) is shown to be behind a series of stunts and surprise reveals, only further diminishes that extra important dimension of the series.
It’s clear at this point that Brody is on his way back into the main storyline, so perhaps that will grant Homeland access to some closure, so that it can better focus on clearing up what has so far been a rather muddled season 3.
Homeland continues next week with ‘Horse and Wagon’ @9pm on Showtime.