I hope no network ever sanctions a marathon of Homeland, because the one time I watched more than two episodes in a row I only narrowly avoided a heart attack. Thrilling, investigative and unique, the Showtime series offers nothing in the way of lighthearted excitement. An exception to this rule did emerge last week, however, in the gradual onset of romance between Dana (seventeen-year-old Morgan Saylor), daughter to the show's antihero Marine/terrorist/congressman/vice presidential hopeful Brody (Damian Lewis, mastering an American accent that completely eradicates his British appeal), and Finn (Timothée Chalamet, whose name suggests a Frenchness this boy does not exude), the son of Jamey Sheridan's Vice President/presidential hopeful Bill Walden. Their interactions are a welcome respite from the show's thrilling intensity--mania, depression, danger, fear, secrecy, betrayal, bombs, assassination, aah!--and am I the only one who considers their relationship one of the most compelling in the show?
Brody's duality is clearly the most important aspect of the series, but the audience is schooled in his history and his true nature episodes and episodes before his enigma is even partially explained to any character in the show. The trials and hopes of his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) and even the professional and psychological revelations to which Claire Danes's poor Carrie Mathison is subjected no longer inspire much of my excitement on the level of character development. The fact that we've been privy to all the secrets they wonder about means we know there will be a point when they are enlightened, and we can anticipate how they will feel once they know what we know; there is little opportunity in the plot for either of these women to be uncertain, excited and happy the way Dana is in her story with Finn, the way that is fun to watch. I am looking forward to seeing the circumstances under which Brody's secrets will be revealed and what he will do once he can no longer lead a double life, but I am not eagerly awaiting the subsequent fallout between him and Jessica or the ways in which his treason may fortify Carrie's CIA career. The reactions and behavior of these characters are predictable to a point, and the lack of joy they experience in their lives makes for somber, if interesting and complex, lives for these women. Conversely, Dana's behavior is engaging because it is unpredictable, and her life need not be broken and byzantine to be very watchable.
Dana's place in her family is different for each parent: To her father she a beacon of trust and caring whom he can let in on a select few of his many secrets, a source of advice and unconditional love, but her mother considers her unruly, unsupportive, a dependable enemy in countless arguments. Her unique position in the family, as well as in her father's estimation, saves Dana from feeling what most of the characters feel--that they don't really know who Brody is--and removes her from the drama of tracking his every lie. Hers is the only plot line not founded completely on Brody and his life of lies, thus she is the only character who lends herself to scenes of excitement not based on danger, of romance sans incredible psychological baggage.
Though my four-year devotion to The O.C. may suggest I will be forever entertained by melodramatic high school romance, Dana and Finn's interactions are nothing like those on the erstwhile primetime gem. Not only are Dana and Finn played by actual teenagers rather than 24-year-old, baby fat-free hotties, but their palpable nervousness around each other and their sincere surprise at the feeling of their growing attraction is apt and relatable. The real-life quality of this young love provides a calming interlude in a show that otherwise "goes to 11," and I'm only a little embarrassed to admit I'm equally excited for Brody's treason interrogation and whatever scenes Dana and Finn will share this week on Homeland.
~ Natasha Hirschfeld