'Homeland': Why Nicholas Brody needs to die
SPOILER ALERT! SERIOUSLY, DO NOT READ ON IF YOU’RE NOT CAUGHT UP WITH HOMELAND!
Sunday night’s episode of Homeland ended with one of its trademark omigod nail-biter twists, after CIA operative Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) nearly bumped off series lead Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) in the back of a limo. We’d been told Quinn was a mere mild-mannered analyst, but as the wily Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) discovered, Quinn is actually some kind of deep-cover black-ops agent with a spartan apartment, a sniper rifle cleaning kit, and a secret kid with a Philadelphia cop. He’d been brought into Operation Brody not only to keep an eye on our favorite former-POW-turned-sleeper-terrorist-turned-double-agent, but ultimately to kill Brody once he’d outlived his usefulness.
I, for one, really hope Quinn completes his mission.
Hear me out. This season, Homeland has become The Show You Must Be Watching thanks in large part to its willingness to shatter the storytelling conventions of serialized television. Another show would have waited to blow Brody’s cover as a terrorist until the middle of the season; Homeland did it in episode 2. Another show would have saved turning Brody into a double agent for the season finale; Homeland did it in episode 5. Another show would have made sure the mission to take down Abu Nazir’s terrorist cell in the U.S. would be the centerpiece of yet another season finale; Homeland did it with three more episodes to go.
The merciless storytelling pace, matched with Lewis, Patinkin, and Claire Danes’ peerless performances, have made for electrifying viewing. But it’s also meant that the show’s secondary storylines have suffered in comparison — especially the ones dealing with the Brody family. Daughter Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor) endured an agonizing four-episode arc involving a fatal hit-and-run accident that won the character few fans even though Saylor’s acting has been superb. But at least she’s had something to do. Poor Jessica Brody (Morena Baccarin) has had to spend episode after episode futilely demanding that her husband stop lying to her while making doe eyes at her ex-lover Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff), the nicest dolt on cable TV. As for son Chris Brody (Jackson Pace) — I think for a while there the show kinda forgot he existed.
It all points to the writers having very little to say about Brody’s brood that they haven’t said already. They’ve been so eager to explode storylines that were working this season, I can’t imagine they would not be willing to cut loose characters who, frankly, aren’t. Of course, that doesn’t mean the writers couldn’t also finagle a scenario in which Jessica, Dana, and Chris are shuttled off to some quiet suburb in Oregon to live a quietly boring life with Mike as their new paterfamilias, while Brody escapes with Carrie into more clandestine adventures. But I really hope they don’t do anything remotely like that, because it would be terrible.
Brody is a celebrity now — a random convenience store worker in Baltimore recognized him, for pete’s sake — so his value as a secret agent isn’t exactly high. And CIA counterterrorist director David Estes (David Harewood) has made pretty clear that he’d rather put a bullet in Brody’s brain than sanction his continued political career. (Don’t get me started on Homeland‘s tin-eared treatment of American politics; that’s a whole separate post.) With Abu Nazir trapped in the U.S., his cell decimated in one fell swoop, he doesn’t seem long for this world. So if Nazir dies, what further use does Brody serve to the story? His emotional arc as a reformed terrorist will be over. His usefulness to the CIA will be over. His political career will almost certainly be over.
All that leaves is Carrie. She told Brody that his work as a double agent is a “way out” for both of them, a way he can rise up as a true hero, his past sins can be washed clean, and they can finally be happy together. It’s a lovely notion, but it’s also a pipe dream. Homeland is a feel-bad show, not a feel-good one, and the idea of Brody and Carrie living happily ever after is about as likely as Saul breaking into song.
Instead, as Emmy-worthy as Damian Lewis has been this season, I think Brody needs to die. He could die saving the vice president’s life, or trying to take it. He could die in Carrie’s arms, or in Peter Quinn’s. Or he could simply die “operationally,” as Carrie put it on Sunday — disappear to that Oregon suburb along with his family so they can all be miserable together, off camera. But dragging out Brody’s story would be death for the show. It would make Homeland just like all those other serialized TV shows where characters hang around for no good reason other than no one can bear parting with them, so we’re forced to watch them scrounge through warmed-over retreads of previous adventures, simply going through the motions for our diminishing amusement. Homeland is so much better than that. Brody has got to go.
I’m far from the first to proffer this notion, by the way — talk of Brody dying has been floating around since before this season began. But as the season finale has neared, I’ve noticed several comments in EW’s Homeland recap message boards along the lines of “If Brody dies, I’ll stop watching!” Balderdash. Homeland has hooked its viewers by re-writing the rules all season, and you’re seriously telling me that dispatching one of its two leads wouldn’t be one of the most thrilling risks you’d ever seen a TV show take? It worked for Game of Thrones; why can’t it work for Homeland? Aren’t Carrie, Saul, Virgil, Estes, and, yes, the increasingly complicated (and plenty sexy) Peter Quinn more than compelling enough on their own?
Seriously, I’m asking: Do you think it would be an irreversibly bad idea for Homeland to kill off Brody? Or do you agree that it could be the best possible path for this most excellent show?