Complex TV

p. 341-342: HOMELAND

To try to make sense of this sequence, we need to consider it in multiple contexts, as that is certainly how it might be variably consumed. For a few viewers, this may have been the first episode of Homeland they had seen, making for quite a confusing viewing experience. Assuming that such a novice viewer recognizes it as belonging to a fictional program, the clip is still marked as “authentic” via excessive mediation—visible viewfinder symbols, a red “Record” indicator, the black-and-white image, and the direct address to the camera all connote that this is actuality footage being made within the storyworld. Brody’s tone and emotional intensity convey that he is telling the truth or at least what he believes to be true. And if true, it is quite a radical political statement: accusing the vice president of being a war criminal, responsible for mass killing children and covering up their deaths, and claiming that the patriotic duty of a U.S. Marine is to commit an act of violent retribution.

Of course, most viewers saw (or will see) this footage in a broader context following 11 hours of storytelling, stretched out over two months of screen time (or less if consumed after its initial airing). Throughout the season leading up to this moment, we questioned whether Brody had been turned to work for his captors, witnessed his conversion to and faithful practice of Islam, saw via flashback the brutality inflicted on Brody during his captivity, and eventually discovered his plot to become a suicide bomber against Vice President Walden. Most importantly for this sequence, we witnessed the event that turns him firmly against his government via flashback: a U.S. drone bombing that destroys a school in Syria and kills 82 children, including the terrorist leader Abu Nazir’s son Issa, whom Brody had lived with as his teacher and friend. After the attack, Nazir shows Brody the vice president’s news conference where he denies that any children had been wounded in the bombing, thus inspiring Brody’s act of vengeance. For viewers like myself, this serial context validates Brody’s statements and beliefs such that his video declaration of patriotism through terrorism rings emotionally true in a fashion that seems utterly out of place on commercial American television.

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