Homeland: Come for the terrorism and espionage, stay for the star-crossed lovers. If the show’s first season wowed us in part by having Carrie and Brody hook up so quickly — and it did — then the second season has wowed us by committing even more to the idea that Carrie and Brody are powerfully drawn to each other and that Carrie herself almost believes in their love story. This week’s episode “Q&A” pivots on exactly that idea, that her CIA officer and his secret terrorist share (or at least shared) a type of love that allows them to perfectly manipulate each other. It’s a bad love. Probably a dangerous, ruinous one. But Homeland doesn’t have the same definitions of love that other shows do, because its characters aren’t civilians leading regular lives.
Carrie loves her family, and they love her back — but they’ll never know exactly what she does for a living, and she’ll never be able to tell them because doing so is illegal. Saul and Carrie love each other, but minus their professional bonds, they drift apart. Brody’s Marine buddies love him, but they have no idea what’s become of him; he loves his children, but they’re basically strangers to him.
But Carrie and Brody? Now that’s love. Because every once in a while, they’re a little bit honest with each other, and that’s not something either of them ever really is with anyone else. “When was the last time you told the truth?” she asks him. (While … interrogating him.) They have indeed told each other the truth before, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. When asked in season one, Carrie admitted to spying on him. Here, Brody admits to being loyal to Abu Nazir. Carrie’s “I loved you!” seems too striking to be a complete lie, and Brody’s visible agony in “Q&A” is its own nonverbal truth. Carrie knows more about Brody than anyone does, and on that basis alone, they have a shocking amount of intimacy, however hard they both try to fight it. Brody knows the truth about her too — that she was on to him from the start and that she was in the grip of a manic episode. He has as complete an understanding of her internal life as anyone. These are people who are trained in deception, whose minds have betrayed them either through brainwashing or psychosis, and yet, every so often, their pretenses drop, and they see for just a moment a person they can be forthright with.
Its flashes of truth that bind other characters together, too: Dana and Brody have a stronger connection than Jess and Brody, because Dana was in on one of his secrets for much longer. “I need the truth, Brody,” Jess begs her husband at the end of “Q&A.” He tells her he’s working with the CIA, and she buys it, kind of. It’s just another half-truth of the type these characters all speak in; technically, yes, he is “working” with the CIA, though that hardly seems like an authentic response, and if Jess finds out what he really means, we’re guessing she won’t be too focused on the pedantic veracity of his statement. Peter (the new guy) and Carrie have a jolt of romantic chemistry, because he knows immediately about her sexual past with Brody. He mentions it to take her down a peg, and she tries to act like the insult didn’t land — but in that short exchange, the show seems to be planting a seed that Carrie and Peter will be more than casual antagonists to each other. The show does not take truth-telling lightly, even in single lines. Carrie and Brody have those moments over and over, and while we never expect the show to have them ride off into the terrorism sunset together, it’s hard not to want those instances to happen more and more. For there to be more sparks of candor, more brief, knowing glances.
Because there’s a gut-level, swoon-level, oh-my-god-just-do-it–level chemistry between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. It’s essential to the series, their ability to make some of this looney stuff seem credible — desirable, even. They fidget in tandem, she widening her blue eyes and he squinting his. Both performances are composed of the voluntary and involuntary movements of people who are attracted to or at least intrigued by each other: There’s the too-long stares and the slightly too warm smiles, but they mirror each other’s body language, twitch their mouths slightly, take shorter breaths. They’re not just attracting each other — they’re attracting us to them, too.
Carrie and Brody are totally awful for each other: Brody is a traitor and terrorist who belongs in prison, and Carrie is a lonely person trying to put her life back together. And yet, every scene they’re both in, however dramatic and intense, violent, tragic, shocking or crushing, is charged with sexual tension. While weaving together an ornate tale of deception both political and personal, Homeland is also creating the should-be mayors of Smoochtown, USA. “Just call me and tell me you miss me,” Carrie instructs Brody. It’s the cover for making him a double-secret agent. And let’s be honest: It’s a cover for a lot of other things, too.