Janke could turn out to be right, and I will look like a sucker. Which is fine. Maybe I am a sucker, but there are worst things that being a plain old sucker…or are there? My overall point is that we’re one season in on a series that is an unfolding drama. Things that seem anti-American now might not be in the grand scheme of things.
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Even with that qualifier, I don’t think Season One of the show is anti-American.
Spoilers Aplenty Ahead
As the series opens, CIA field agent Carrie Mathison (a seriously, ridiculously superb Claire Danes), learns from an imprisoned CIA asset in Iraq that an American P.O.W. has been turned by Al-Qaeda. She thinks nothing of it because there was no reason at the time to believe that Al-Qaeda had American POWs, much less that one had been brainwashed.
But then a Marine named Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis, also great), is rescued in a Delta Force raid on a compound owned by a vile terrorist named Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). Carrie immediately suspects that Brody is the Marine who has been turned. She scrutinizes his every move, gesture and tic, bugs his house with the help of Virgil, a surveillance expert (scene-stealer extraordinaire David Marciano). No one believes Carrie, least of all her immediate superior Saul (Mandy Patinkin, soooooo good), and he doesn’t even know she’s on anti-psychotic medication.
Brody is a reluctant hero. He comes back home to a family who thought he was dead. His wife (alien Obama stand-in Morena Baccarin) is sleeping with his best Marine Buddy Mike (Diego Klattenhoff), his daughter’s a budding pothead, and his son, um, takes karate. Brody doesn’t easily slide back into domestic life. And he is, in fact, a Muslim who sneaks into the garage at night to kneel toward Mecca.
Which doesn’t necessarily make him a sleeper agent, except that he is. In the series most unconvincing turn, Carrie meets him, clumsily, and falls in love with him, even more clumsily. He tells her that Abu Nazir offered him aid and comfort, “And I loved him for that.” At just that moment, Carrie learns that the long-thought dead Tom Walker (Chris Chalk) — Brody’s partner who was also captured — is alive. And he’s the terrorist.
Most Americans believe that in the War on Terror we’re the good guys, and it’s pretty cut and dry. But human emotion and conflict muddy the waters. Fairly late in season one, we learn how Brody was turned. Abu Nazir pulled him from a hole and offered him a nice place to live. Nazir asked him to teach his son Issa to speak English. He grows close to the son, and mourns when Issa and 81 other children are killed in a drone attack ordered by current US Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan). Watching the news footage, Nazir sneers, “And they call us terrorists.”
To me, the irony of this and other emotional complications is the heart of the series. The death of 82 kids is certainly tragic. Brody had a personal connection to one of them that, for him, was larger than the War on Terror. But while I can recognize the tragedy, I can’t claim the same emotional connection to the kid. Furthermore, I’m not convinced Nazir was really mourning the loss of his son. At that moment, he knew he had Brody. He couldn’t connect with 300 Million Americans, but he didn’t need to. He just needed one.
Brody’s relationship with Nazir isn’t all lollipops and sunshine. Nazir has Brody convinced he killed Walker, and when he finds out Walker’s alive, he is justifiably angry with Nazir. But Nazir consoles him and brings him back into the fold. Nazir’s relationship with Brody is one built on false pretenses, and I’m hoping that this will play into the series in season 2.
The emotional bonds shared by many of the characters complicate this particular front of the War on Terror. Virgil helps Claire illegally bug Brody’s home because they’re friends. Saul indulges Claire because of their history. Her other superior doesn’t indulge her because of their very different history.
Even when things are black and white, complications ensue.
Janke took issue with the series finale, in which Brody films a martyr video, blaming VP Walden for the death of 82 kids. The video has not yet been exposed, and I think it’s going to be exposed only when Brody has switched back to the good guys. I’m pretty convinced he’s going to realize something awful about Nazir, and the video will become a liability for him. Another of Janke’s complaints was a particular line of dialogue uttered by VP Walden. When Saul takes Walden to task for ordering a drone attack on a school, Walden says, “”Don’t cloud the issue. If Abu Nazir is taking refuge among children, he’s putting them at risk, not us. It’s our joint opinion the potential collateral damage falls within current matrix parameters.” Saul is disgusted, and apparently so was Janke, but you know what?
I think the VP is right. It’s cold, it’s vicious, but…as I recall, we haven’t yet learned how America learned of Nazir’s location. What if Nazir wanted the attack to happen? What if he was grooming Brody all along?
Perhaps I’m totally wrong, but the first season of the show was exciting enough for me to tune in for season two so I can see where they take us. I’m not going so far as to say the show is conservative, but I’m not ready to call it anti-American, either.