Five Essay Prompts for Homeland: 2×3 ‘State of Independence’

“It’s not your fault.” (Showtime)

These questions regard the second season premiere of Showtime’s Homeland. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from SUNDAY’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. Is there any way of justifying the fact that it has to be Brody who moves the bomb-maker? Is Abu Nazir simply not very good at being a terror mastermind–using possibly his most important asset, and one who has a very public and recognizable face for such a minor mission–or is there some deeper manipulation going on here? Nazir certainly has a history of such psychological tactics, but is it really Brody being manipulated here, or the audience?

Oh, the audience, definitely. This was like the Hezbollah episode of I Love Lucy … you know the one in which Lucy has to make it to the club in time to see Ricky’s band play because it’s their anniversary, but she gets held up with Ethel trying to eat all the pies on the conveyor belt at their secret job. Remember? And when Ricky calls her to see how far away she is, instead of not answering the phone and letting it go to voicemail, she answers it and then fucking snaps and kills Ethel because obviously that is the only option available to her. In fact, I’d go one broader: The only time that it is totally acceptable—and in some states encouraged–to murder someone is when they won’t be quiet when you are trying to lie to your spouse on the phone about why you are going to be late to a dinner party. I think it’s even legal in Texas.

This was what Alan Alda was talking about in the final episode of M*A*S*H, by the way. Except the chicken was a tailor.

2. How does Jessica’s speech about “Homecoming” relate to Carrie’s actual homecoming in this episode? They’re both all dressed up, possibly with nowhere to go. Does Carrie mean to go out and then change her mind? Does Jessica think she’s committing social/political suicide?

Well, if Jessica actually raised the money to open a facility where veterans could help teach families struggling to deal with a recently returned military officer, you know Carrie would be all over that. Between her bouts of crazy and her love of teaching ESL, she’d be the best teacher/patient that organization has ever seen! And she’d write a 18-page debrief every day as a homework assignment to herself! Yes! Staying up till 4 a.m. rocks!

3. Television has lots of recent examples of characters, often themselves mentally unstable, who “consult” with government agencies (The Mentalist, Monk, that terrible new TNT show Perception, etc.). Carrie’s scene in the CIA evokes such characters, but certainly not in a positive way. Discuss.

I think you are forgetting about White Collar, Lie to Me, Elementary—actually, just all of the Sherlock Holmes canon—The X-Files, Twin Peaks (where the FBI let everybody in that Lynchian nightmare town of insanity help solve Laura Palmer’s murder) … basically, if a TV show features a government agency in any capacity, they will have a certifiably crazy person consulting in a terrifyingly unprofessional way. Weirdly, TVTropes doesn’t seem to have a name for this condition yet.

I mean, obviously, when screening for potential candidates to work on top-secret missions, you can’t let every fanatic with a mood disorder get Level 10 debriefing clearance on an assignment they just carried out under your agency’s orders. However, it is perfectly reasonable to let them 1) organize assignation attempts in the Middle East, 2) use their color-coded manic episodes to figure out why terrorists are sad (it’s because of the yellow, no d’uh) and 3) give them vital intelligence pertaining to a U.S. congressman’s attempt on the vice president’s life before anyone else in the government, because they deserve it for guessing right.

In either scenario–Monk vs. Carrie–you’re dealing with a fantasy of how the government employs people. So I don’t think it’s fair to say Carrie is a more realistic depiction (though it’s certainly less positive), so much as just a sadder version of this make-believe concept.

4. Brody finds himself needing to “silence” the bomb-maker, first literally and then in the darker sense. The reporter, Roya Hammad, reminds Brody that the man “knows his face.” How are Brody and the bomb-maker (whom Brody calls “the tailor”) being aligned here?

Well, let’s start with this: was the tailor acting rationally? I was a little confused why he wouldn’t go to the safe house, or why he was so mistrustful of Brody. Did he think he would be murdered on arrival for being a loose end? Did he think Brody knew that? Did Brody know that? Actually, does Brody know anything? Like, has he considered the possibility that taking marching orders from a reporter who claims to have ties to Abu Nazir—a man whom the entire world knows was involved in his eight-year captivity stint—might end up blowing up his spot (so to speak)? I really hope the twist this season is that Roya Hammad is actually working for Matt Drudge.

5. Does anything that happens to Brody in this episode really matter at all, being that the chip Saul has is about to blow his life up? Related: is it really possible that Saul wouldn’t tell anyone about the recording, allowing a man he now knows to be a terrorist to (as far as he knows) run around the Capitol and fraternize with the vice president for a whole day until Saul gets back, just so he can let Carrie have her “I was right” moment?

I mean, Brody killed a man instead of letting his phone go to voicemail, so that kind of matters, right? And since Saul didn’t go straight to Estes, we can assume Homeland’s writers are going to make it a little more complicated than just having SWAT teams drive to Brody’s house and take him away. Because that would be the end of the show! Actually, we know from the previews for next week that the way the feds deal with this Brody intel is super profesh: sending Carrie out in the field to rekindle her obsessive romance with the now-confirmed terrorist.

I would say “This is why other countries hate us,” but since this would never actually happen, not even in an episode of Bones or Monk or whatever, the most I can do is shrug and let Carrie have her moment of total vindication/latest mental breakdown.

Five Essay Prompts for Homeland: 2×3 ‘State of Independence’