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Double Agents in Love

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Kent Smith/Showtime
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody (center) and Navid Negahban as Abu Nazir (right) in Homeland

Moreover, is madness times two ever sexy? It is perhaps useful to compare these Homeland lovers with those in the current David O. Russell film, Silver Linings Playbook, where Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper generate quite a bit of sparkle despite both their characters being mentally ill. Of course, Silver Linings is a comedy and has dancing in it—a surefire cinematic express train to romantic love. Cooper and Lawrence may snarl and shout but they still seem like attractive screwballs in their own sexually charged tale, which just happens to be a screwball comedy.

Give Danes and Lewis a country cabin, a roaring fire, and a bottle of wine, and we feel only anxiety. The confessing of life secrets seems therapeutic and expository rather than intimate, and Carrie’s irritated “You interrupted me” startles before the hearth. Creepy cello music in the background does nothing to assist. Perhaps their conversation has too much storytelling to do—it is almost always propelling the plot along—and the sideways moves of courtly dilly-dally and pillow talk can find little opportunity or conviction. One of the final dialogues between Carrie and Brody includes this exchange about Nazir:

“He played us all from the beginning.”
“How? By letting himself get killed?”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s insane.”

Insane, indeed. In the bonus feature that follows on the box set, the producer Alex Gansa refers to them as “star-crossed lovers” in the grip of a “powerful love.” But this is not true: they lack mutual trust or any palpable erotic vibe. They are not bonded and they part without any persuasive anguish—or, rather, they briefly cling then separate, their anguish only sketchily enacted. There won’t be a damp eye in the house. Carrie’s and Brody’s love is in a film noir, while they themselves are in a television series.

But Brody has been sent off to Canada so that the writers can figure out what to do next. All is in a state of disconclusion, and Season Three awaits. Carrie will return to her true partner, her closest colleague, Saul, who, as he recites the kaddish before a roomful of corpses, has the look of new ambiguity to him: even though he cannot pass a single polygraph test, he has become the acting head of the CIA. As was said to many Americans after September 11, “You are all in Israel now.” Or maybe not. Presumably the show will continue to take received ideas and transform them. It may still fall short of art, but stay tuned. It is likely to continue to shatter viewers’ expectations and then glue them back together again, half-cracked.

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