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. Imagine Coleridge and Wordsworth were reanimated to watch an episode of Homeland. For the sake of argument, let’s say that they also have the same amount of knowledge about the modern world and its government infrastructures (not to mention cars, light bulbs, etc.) as you do. Walk the two men who came up with the term “Suspension of Disbelief” through last night’s episode, and explain to them how we’ve bastardized their literary idea to apply to almost every scenario in the show. Be specific.
Ok, Sammy, you know how when you were writing, it was deeply unfashionable to write stories about vampires and superheroes and stuff? And so you had to come up with this idea that modern audiences could still get real, human ideas, emotions and situations from fantastic stories through a willing suspension of disbelief? (And then your pal Bill, he was going to come at it from the other side, and show the spiritual and the unbelievable and the weird in ordinary situations?) Well, here’s the thing: vampires are just everywhere now. No, really. Like the height and the depth of all storytelling. Your concept worked too well. Modern audiences don’t like stories about real people doing real things; we find them boring, even when there are spies and terrorists and explosions. A tense drama about the CIA simply isn’t enough. To keep today’s watchers enthralled, they need to believe in the unbelievable, whether it be the CIA trusting just two guys (I love Virgil and Max, but c’mon) to tail the most important lead the entire agency has, but twenty dudes to go through the accounting books of a dead tailor, or Brody hiding and then revealing (sort of) his murder of the tailor for no real reason but narrative convenience, or Roya Hammad miraculously revealing important intel other than the important intel that Brody was fishing for, or Dana miraculously happening to find the right hospital ward and recognizing the woman Finn hit despite the fact that she only saw her for a split second flying into the windshield, or Carrie not blinking an eye when Brody tells her that he is using the CIA as cover to save his marriage, or Brody thinking admitting this to a woman who clearly has feelings for him, is clearly mentally unstable, and clearly could get him executed for treason if she wanted is somehow a good idea … Enough to drive you back to laudanum, amirite?
2. When Carrie reaches to squeeze Brody’s arm in the car, he grabs her hand and sneers, “What is this? Sex? Understanding? And if that doesn’t work, then what?” Implying that Carrie’s physical intimacy is just another technique to gain his trust. Yet the final scene, it’s Brody who reaches for Carrie’s hand when she breaks down over the men she lost at Gettysburg…men that he possibly was responsible for killing, had he signaled to Roya that the C.I.A. was planning a raid on the tailor’s shop. Was Brody trying to tell Carrie not to trust his lies, or being sincere? Is there a difference anymore?
It is associations like this that crystallize for me just why, despite all of the unlikeliness enumerated in my last answer, the bond between Brody and Carrie is one of the most interesting and complex relationships that I have seen depicted in any narrative medium. Because there are layers of their doubt and distrust in there, but in both of these situations, we know (approximately) the truth. Yes, Carrie is manipulating Brody, and he is right in saying that her touch is part of that manipulation, but that doesn’t make it insincere. Quite the opposite: Carrie is manipulating herself too, deploying her real feelings for Brody to get what she and the CIA need. When she tells Saul that her eyes are open, she is telling the truth, but Saul shouldn’t have been reassured. When she touches Brody, it is real. And until the second of these two scenes, we do not know whether Brody knows this, or he thinks it is all just manipulation. But when he sees her really wild and scared and full of doubt, he knows. That hand he offers her is a revision of his previous accusation, not a hint that he is lying. We may not know where his loyalties now lie, but we know he didn’t signal Roya.
It’s a good rule of thumb (pun intended) on this show: when you want to know what is really valuable to Brody, watch his hands. He raises them over his head to pray, uses them to bury his friend and his Koran, touches Carrie’s hand.
3. Dear TeenCosmo:
I broke up with my high school boyfriend of one season to start dating a much more sophisticated guy. We’ve only officially been “going steady” for two episodes, and while I think he really likes me, he’s starting to pressure me into stuff I’m not comfortable with, like lying about his hit-and-run that ended up killing (?) this woman. Now he doesn’t want to talk in school anymore, and I feel like we’re growing apart. Is there anything I can do to win him back/relieve this unrelenting guilt over being an accessory to manslaughter?
Dear Lost in NoVa,
It appears you have become entangled in a television subplot that often besets teenagers when their lives seem to be going well and writers fear that audiences may forget about them or lose interest. This is a tragic error. Nothing will make us care about you less than becoming the template of an afterschool special. On a show about international intrigue, you are fast becoming a sad footnote. But all is not lost. Now you are wild-eyed and guilty, with none of that remorseless subterfuge at which your father has become so proficient. Forget your new boy, forget what he did, but nurse your inchoate suffering until it causes you do something really interesting, like, you know, out your dad as a Muslim again–maybe on national television this time? Or just start dabbling in super-outre stuff, like explosives. I may know some people you can talk to.
4. On a scale of “One of the Gosselin children” to “Police partner last day before retirement,” how expendable is Mike right now? What about Quinn? The other Brody child who isn’t Dana?
Obviously Chris is the most expendable character on the show, except maybe magical disappearing ex-boyfriend Xander. I know this because I am only about 40 percent sure his name is even Chris. Why did the show even bother having the Brodys have two kids? Mike’s “investigation” is obviously stupid and can’t go anywhere except back to Jessica (or getting himself killed); he serves an important purpose, though, because without him to serve as an escape hatch, ready and willing to jump with her into his flashy car and take off, Jessica would just be harried and helpless, rather than a loose cannon Brody has to keep strapping back down. But Quinn, suddenly he is the engine running Homeland’s entire plot. Even before the camera showed him, bloody but alive, rather than dead like every other CIA agent in the tailor shop, you knew he would be found alive. In part because why get an actor of Rupert Friend’s caliber to do only three episodes, but also because without him it just becomes the Brody and Carrie show, with occasional avuncular commentary by Saul’s eyebrows.
5.¿Es verdad? “Los blancos amor Homeland.”
Si, es verdad. El mucho grande cuestion es por que los non-blancos no amor Homeland como mucho.
Ok, I can’t sustain this even in my pidgin Bloombito Spanglish, but I do have to wonder why they decided to made this such a white show in the first place. With Galvez’s death, the writers have now killed off one of only two non-terrorist nonwhites on the show. When you really take a look at it it is pretty remarkable: Sure, Dana and Finn’s school is some Quaker sanctuary for the kids of the elite, but _man_ is that place white. As is the CIA, aside from Estes. At least last season Saul had a wife who was a minority, but now she’s out of the picture. For all of the complexity of the themes here, the “us against them” mentality comes into sharp focus when looking at it this way. When Brody was a Caucasian Talibani it was at least unique, but If he really has turned, now we just have a blonde woman and the palest man in Congress fighting the conveniently dark-skinned terrorists.
Who is the scariest terrorist: Abu Nazir, Jafar, or the Riddler?
I’m going to give the edge to Jafar, because I once heard that they patterned his face after that of Nancy Reagan.