What the Truth-Seeker Finds – Homeland’s Finale

miguel cervantes says:

Ok it makes sort of sense, Carrie who speaks truth to power, has to be silenced, whereas the real enemy, Brody, digs in further into the infrastructure.

Carrie doesn’t speak truth.  She seeks truth.  Brody isn’t the real enemy.  Even his terrorist leader isn’t the real enemy in Homeland‘s universe:  Whatever might once have been true, the real enemies, the anti-truthers, are the evil, dishonest political-military leaders of the American security state.

I watched the Homeland finale, “Marine One,” without having watched any prior episodes in full.  I had to put the details together on the fly (and as it happens while cooking dinner), and there were no doubt several important details that I missed, and may still have wrong.  I didn’t even realize until the end of the episode that “Carrie” (Claire Danes) apparently had some kind of love affair with “Brody” (Damian Lewis), possibly at the same time that she was investigating him.

For those who didn’t even watch as much of the series as I have:  Brody is a Marine who has returned to the U.S. after a period of years held captive by radical Islamists.  Carrie, a lead investigator or special agent of some kind, has come to believe that Brody has been turned.  Almost everyone – and everyone who matters – thinks she’s crazy, but, of course, she is right about him.  In “Marine One,” with a little help from sheer luck, she finally manages to foil his complicated attempt to suicide-bomb assorted high officials including a likely next president.

The writers quite cleverly designed the story so that even Carrie doesn’t realize that she’s been responsible for stopping the bombing.  They also imply that this season’s success will ironically result in next season’s even greater dangers, as Brody, mistakenly cleared of suspicion, can now move even further into the centers of U.S. executive and defense power.  “Marine One”‘s finale’s finale has Carrie, desperate for relief from what even she has come to believe is some kind of obsessive compulsive paranoid disorder, willingly submitting to shock therapy, though, just as the preparatory general anesthetic kicks in, she comes to understand a piece of clinching evidence, and orders herself to remember the sudden, half-dreamt insight.  A few moments later, the electrical currents start coursing through her brain, presumably extinguishing the flash of insight, at least until she can perhaps put it together again.

…probably a good cliffhanger-y set-up for fans of the show, but not likely to make me into one.  Indeed, my suspicion that the series would be too agonizing actually to sit through, at least for me, was confirmed.  So I think I’ll sample Homeland next season, and try to keep track of developments from a distance, as I did with the series Lost, a huger hit that I also couldn’t abide at all, but which I likewise find interesting in larger contexts.

I’d sum up the theme or message as follows – not necessarily as an interpretation of what the writers meant to say, of course, just as what they seem to be saying, or what the structure of their symbolic narrative offers up, whether they intend things this way or not:  That Carrie “has to be silenced” is one way of putting it, but suggests that someone is silencing her.  I think it’s more that the truth itself cannot be spoken, is a forever unknown quantity, a quantum entanglement:  Once spoken, it would almost inevitably change, and in a sense become false.   It merely but more significantly is:  Its sign is the real, in all of its complexity, not any particular signifier.

In the meantime, for the threat to the world of accepted signs, the hero-turned-suicide bomber, to be halted, it is not enough to implement more stringent security measures or fund an ever-escalating war on terror:  One of the major themes of the show, foregrounded in the climactic confrontations and central to a fairly predictable conspiracy/cover-up thru-line, is that the warriors on terror are their own, and possibly our, worst enemies.

Other aspects of the story are unpersuasive as well as overly predictable.  I don’t really believe in any aspect of the Brody character, especially the concrete depiction of his double life:  We’re supposed to see him as a convincingly normal husband and loving father… who also happens to be fully prepared to blow himself up along with the upper U.S. defense establishment.  On the other hand, its the credibility of his cover, his outward appearance of normalcy, that makes Carrie’s stubborn disbelief in it seem crazy even to Carrie herself.

Though the two-sidedness of the Brody character is therefore essential to the development, precisely where any willing viewer will have to suspend disbelief to enjoy any show at all, that doesn’t mean that it works as cinematic fiction unfolding naturalistically yet ludicrously before our eyes moment by moment.  It does work on the level of theme and symbol, however.  It makes sense that Brody’s family would be the channel through which Carrie, unbeknownst to herself, successfully reaches and stops Brody.  It turns out that some one, some oppositely charged human particle must specifically negate him.  She is not killed, and neither is he, but achieving that end require their symmetrical annihilation on every other level:  She has become as alien to her own life as he has become to the one he once led – but in neither instance is it a complete severance:  They both still see themselves as doing their duty, following their tradition, but working out his or her destiny while remaining true to his or her identity puts them diametrically at odds with the institutions that have defined them.

Truth destroys the truther, because self-annihilation is on some level what he or she was truly seeking all along, and, within the fictional narrative, is the same thing.

9 comments on “What the Truth-Seeker Finds – Homeland’s Finale

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  1. There are analogous situations that Homeland draws from, the 2006 Bajaur strike, that failed to nab Zawahiri, the successful attack on Hakimullah Mehsud, that did have some collateral damage, since this is based on an Israeli show, the bombing ofShahada, a big Hamas big wig comes to mind. Those that have to make those decisions, are scarred in some way, but they are nonetheless necessary.. I recall the fellow that sent Faisal Shahzad on his merry way, to Times Square.got an ACME type return to sender. It’s also like Rubicon, in the way that the ‘wilderness of mirrors,’ yields incomplete information, And their is a Ludlumesque twist, pre Bourne, that someone is aiding Brody in his endeavors. I have only caught the clips, really since I don’t get Showtime, but it is worth the time.

  2. I have to think that Berenson is the mole, that’s the usually the way it works in these type of shows, although I can’t quite figure out why, he pretends to be supportive of Carrie, but in truth sand bags her,

  3. Just clips, really since the traitor is often someone you don’t suspect, like Nina on Season 1 of ’24, or the younger WArner sister, it could be anyone’s guess.

    • Not really that kind of story, at least by the time of the finale episode. There was no whodunit or big reveal – all of the unsolved questions had to do with how fairly well-understood characters would end up working things out, or, really, how the writers would work them out for the audience.. The only suspense was in how Carrie could overcome the obstacles in her path, and, somewhat symmetrically, whether Brody could pull off his plot. As an educated viewer, you knew it wasn’t likely that Brody would succeed (no Season 2 in that case), so it was more “how will he fail” + “how will she succeed” + how can the writers satisfy the viewers, and stay true to their concept, and leave enough un-determined to give themselves something to work with going forward. So to a large extent the plot begins to look like quasi-mathematical solutions to a fairly well-defined set of equations.

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