I really, really hope that U.S. Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody turns out to be a secret terrorist. This isn’t me going out of my way to be a bad American. This is about what we’ve been trained to expect from our TV shows, particularly the ones with big question marks at the center. And the question mark at the center of the hugely promising Showtime drama Homeland is pretty significant: Has Sergeant Brody (Damian Lewis), found after eight years as a POW in Iraq, been turned by Al Qaeda bigwig Abu Nazir into a sleeper agent and delivered right back into the bosom of America? This is the intel given to CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) in the first ten minutes of the show, but there’s as much doubt over the veracity of the claim as there are ominous shots of Brody standing silent, inscrutable, and possibly sinister. So is the entire premise of the show going to end up being a big ol’ red herring? Or are we going to spend twelve episodes biting our fingernails only to find out that what’s going on is exactly what we thought was going on.
Which brings me back to my initial point: I really hope Sergeant Brody actually is a sleeper agent. We certainly get enough evidence that he could be. After meeting with the widow of a fellow POW, he lies to her about whether he was in the room when he was beaten to death. Not only was Brody in the room, as we see via flashes of Brody’s tortured memory, but Brody was actually the one who beat him to death, at the command of Abu Nazir. (The image of Nazir cradling the head of a screaming, traumatized Brody was fantastically creepy.) Now, there are any number of ways that this could eventually be explained away. Certainly, Brody was under duress, having been tortured. The flashback we saw was choppy and frenetic — there definitely could have been more happening in that room that we didn’t see. But I hope this is one TV show where misdirection isn’t the prime objective. And isn’t it a better story if Brody really has turned? The ethics get knottier, the race to thwart him becomes more urgent, and Lord knows Carrie will find her own ways to cross lines even (especially?) if she’s right. I’m looking forward to it.