Five Essay Prompts for Homeland 2×10: “Broken Hearts”

Wherein we ask: Zombies or terrorists?


BFFs for the next ten minutes. (Showtime)

These questions regard last night’s episode 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. Homeland is known for asking from its viewers a heroic amount of suspension of their disbelief (except for the parts which looked semi-plausible after the Petraeus scandal broke). But this episode may have taxed even the most engrossed fans. Out of the following plot developments, which was the most balls-out absurd and why? Please phrase your answer in the form of an under-medicated conspiracy theorist.

a) That the next guy in line to the presidency has a Pacemaker–no Cheney jokes, wait for it–that is easily hackable and can be accessed remotely via its serial number;

b) That The New York Times—sans a report fromWikileaks would reveal to its readers the precise location in VP’s office of said device;

c) That the head of the only terrorist organization in the entire world (at least in Homeland reality) would concede to hostage negotiations with a triple-crossing traitor because the guy swears (cross his heart and hope to Isa!) to still murder the vice president of the United States once the terrorist lets go of his only bargaining chip.

d) That Brody would not only go through with giving Abu Nazir the deadly code once Carrie is freed, but do some extra credit work by strangling the VP to death in his own office;

e) That it is apparently possible to strangle the VP in his own office, as long as you trick the Secret Service into thinking you just need to go to the bathroom;

f)That Finn would still be interested in a Debbie Downer like Dana long after the rest of the world has lost interest.

1. We must have room in our understanding of the world to admit things that mainstream culture cannot admit is true, even when it sees it with its own deluded eyes. And in that light, one I suspect Nazir sympathizes with a great deal, all of these things are equally likely. Well, except for Finn’s behavior. That doesn’t take much suspension of disbelief at all: he’s a teenage boy, who cares more about getting laid than anything else, and here is a girl who may yet let him in her pants without him having to diverge much from his carefully curated mopey emo persona. (“I feel really emotional and stuff, because we killed that lady, remember? And you’re the only one I can talk to now. Also, remember when we made out in a giant metaphor for my penis?”) Honestly, the most heroic feat of suspension of disbelief in this episode was none of the above: it was believing Brody wouldn’t tell the CIA that Nazir had contacted him. Sure, he hates Walden, but if he cared enough about Carrie, his play is to involve the agency with resources, not hope that known liar and manipulator Nazir is true to his word. Brody is a duplicitous bastard, but that was just weird, dumb and reckless.

2. After a marathon of the first season of Walking Dead this weekend, I was struck by the similarities in the leads. Not only is Andrew Lincoln as British as Damian Lewis, but there’s that whole “presumed dead husband stoically reappearing to family, inadvertently thwarting best friend’s attempt to steal his family” plot line. I guess what I’m asking is: In a fight between Sheriff Rick Grimes and Sergeant Nick Brody, who would win? Shane Walsh vs. Mike Faber?  How about the dispensable children, Carl Grimes and Chris Brody? Zombies v. terrorists?

I don’t want to spoil the next seasons of Walking Dead for you, so suffice it to say that two of these are no contest once you’ve seen a bit more. Carl over Chris any day, that kid is hard-core, not dispensable at all. Chris may be able to cheat at hearts, but that’s about it. Same with Shane over Mike. Mike can steal your woman, but he isn’t a patch on Shane. But Rick vs. Nick is a tossup. The edge would go to Rick, though. Nick was a soldier, but I’m sure he never machete’d anyone’s skull. Trial by zombie will battle-harden you more than trial by sitting in a hole without water or a good barber any day.

3.    There is a lot of contention around the use of bipolar disorder-as-insanity-plea in criminal court. As Ronald Kuby once told The New York Times, “The problem with using bipolar disorder as an insanity defense is that you can be extremely crazy but still not legally insane… “the insanity defense focuses on cognition, and reckless behavior isn’t an insanity defense.” If Homeland ended up somehow as material evidence in a Supreme Court case on the issue, how would Carrie’s decisions this episode affect the judges’ verdict?

What decisions? Trying to escape? Plucking some trucker’s cell off his dashboard? Carrie continues on her trajectory of seeming more and more sane the more trouble she is in. If it was Brody on trial, I think he’d have a pretty good defense, as he doesn’t seem to know the difference between up and down, much less right and wrong. And Saul, if he didn’t realize cursing out David Estes and antagonizing Salieri was a bad idea, his lawyer may have some grounds for such a plea. Carrie could be the least bipolar character on the show right now. Just wait until nothing immediate is happening to her; once she starts spinning her wheels, that’s when she brings the crazy.

4. A portion of Confucianism has been interpreted to mean that any one person’s life has no value, beyond what good they can provide to society as a whole. This belief was essential to the teachings of Chinese Muslims during the Qing Dynasty, who were trying to understand Islam through Confucianism. How then should we judge David Estes this season … as a Confucian, or a dogmatic terrorist on par with Abu Nazir? Is it possible to be both? Neither?

This is a distinction without a difference. Everyone on Homeland (well, everyone except the rest of the Brody family) appears willing to kill (or die) for what they believe in. The reason Carrie and Brody can see eye to eye, despite everything, is that they agree that it is not okay to kill innocent people for such a cause. Brody, of course, believes Walden to be guilty. But Estes, not without cause, sees Brody to be guilty as well. Whether his Machiavellian plans extend beyond this we have not seen. I suppose it depends on what awaits Saul in the basement of the CIA: a pension or a firing squad.

5.  If you were a politician who lived by the lessons of Homeland, what would be your first order of business Monday morning: Pushing through an extra round of funding for MedMon, or demanding an increase in your Secret Service detail?

My first order of business: security cameras in my private office. And in the offices of anyone who keeps classified documents. I mean, seriously, how many times can Brody rifle through sensitive materials unobserved? It’s like half this show takes place in the 19th century.

Five Essay Prompts for Homeland 2×10: “Broken Hearts”