This article contains spoilers for “I’ll Fly Away,” the Nov. 18 episode of “Homeland.”
By definition, double agents are always faking loyalty to somebody, and working with one is bound to leave you wondering if that somebody might be you. Caught between two forces that are only interested in using him as a tool, Brody (Damian Lewis) isn’t given and doesn’t engender trust, which leaves his ultimate direction very much up in the air. So far he’s been playing along with the CIA with apparent sincerity in his new role of informant, nudged along by Carrie (Claire Danes), by general exhaustion and by the promise that his family will never find out what his original intentions were when he first returned to the U.S. But he’s certainly not spurred on by any renewed affection for his country — his only ties are to the wife and children drifting slowly away from him (though, given the way he’s been used this season, his son Chris could probably be replaced by some other chipper pre-teen and neither Brody nor we would notice).
Brody’s zeal for Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) and his cause may have faded, but nothing has taken its place except his uneasy attachment to Carrie, which is as shot-through with distrust as it is with lust. The CIA needs him, but the more he feels like he has nothing to lose, the less he needs the CIA. In Sunday’s episode “I’ll Fly Away,” the stress of being forced to disappoint his daughter in order to — in some far-off and obscure sense — protect her finally sends him over the edge, and after a brutal fight with Jessica (Morena Baccarin) he arrives late to his meeting with Roya (Zuleikha Robinson) and tells her he wants out.
Game over — except that Carrie refuses to let this be the end for both the agency’s sake and for Brody’s, and she goes semi-off-grid with him in order to, first, win him back and, second, send him off to win back Roya. Carrie’s desperation and Brody’s despair battle for the centerpiece slot in the episode. She’s aware of how slender a hold she has on him and tries to bolster it by proclaiming her attachment to him and the future she’s imagined for them, giving him a sense of power and control (though, agonizingly, she’s probably telling the truth). And he confesses to feeling “more alone now than I was at the bottom of that hole in Iraq,” having pushed away his family, betrayed his country and severed his connection to Nazir. Lewis does a terrific job of making Brody look totally hollowed out in this episode, as he’s very aware of how few options he has left and is slowly surrendering to a future in lockup.
There may be no better encapsulation of “Homeland” as a whole than the excruciating sex scene in “I’ll Fly Away” during which Carrie and Brody hook up in a nondescript motel while her whole CIA team listens in — Saul (Mandy Patinkin) defends her as in control, while Peter (Rupert Friend) insists that what they’re hearing is “stage-five delusional getting laid,” and the truth rests somewhere in between. Carrie isn’t an entirely trustworthy agent, but then Brody isn’t an entirely trustworthy turncoat, and the reveal at the end of the episode is a heavy one.
After a tense sequence along a remote road as the sun goes down — and we’re unsure whether Brody’s being taken to his death or to a second chance — we see that Nazir himself has arrived to coax or threaten Brody back to his side. For Saul, for Peter, for everyone on Team CIA but Carrie, it’s going to be impossible to know whether he actually succeeds. If Carrie seems unsure about whether or not she’s playing Brody when she tells him how she feels about him, Brody seems ambivalent about whether he wants to aid in a strike on the U.S. — and that’s not a pleasant kind of indecision.
Running alongside all of this espionage, the story of Dana (Morgan Saylor) trying to do the right thing by the woman she and Finn (Timothée Chalamet) killed during their joyride continues to feel a little flimsy, but it takes on some “Margaret”-style ethical complications. Disappointed by her father’s inaction and perceived moral inadequacy, Dana seeks refuge with her almost-stepfather Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) and eventually enlists him to help her visit the woman’s daughter to confess and to let her know she wants to tell the police what happened.
Instead of closure, she gets anger — the girl’s been paid for her silence and needs the money, and Dana going to the cops would make things even worse for her. Dana’s learning a difficult lesson about how things work for powerful people with money, the kind of system that her father would probably otherwise gladly battle. It’s a wretched look at the kind of privilege that is enjoyed by the highest ranks, specifically Vice President Walden (Jamey Sheridan) and his family, and one that could push Brody’s sympathies back toward Nazir — ironic given that he allowed the cover-up to happen in order to keep working with the CIA.