Week 5: Season Two Episodes 5-8: Dana Brody: Anguished Teen or Moral Compass?

untitledI admit the topic I chose to write for week five is not my first choice. I had these grandiose thoughts of comparing torture tactics used in the United States from those used in the Middle East. I got inspired to delve into this topic after viewing episodes 17-20 in Season 2 where Brody is being interrogated by the CIA and Aileen Morgan, a low-level al-Qaeda operative from Season One, is in solitary confinement. Although Brody was injured during the interrogation (when Quinn plunged a knife into his hand), and Aileen was enduring psychological torture, a prevailing thought I had was that conditions surely would be much worse if these two were imprisoned in Afghanistan or any of the other Middle Eastern country. Admittedly my knowledge in this topic is rather limited but given my penchant to broaden my knowledge base in world affairs and politics, I thought this would be the perfect topic for this week. While conducting my research, the information I read outlined numerous torture tactics employed by the CIA that are truly heinous and I could not find any compelling information to share with my readers. However while watching these four episodes, I was also very much intrigued by the depiction of some of the secondary characters in Homeland, particularly the struggles Dana Brody is experiencing. Is she a typical teenage girl caught in a highly unusual family dilemma or has the return of her assumed dead father and his rise in the D.C. social structure molded her to become the moral anchor in the Brody family?

The plight of an anguished teenage girl is a common plot line in TV shows and movies, Homeland does not stray from this formula. We first meet Dana when she was smoking pot with her boyfriend Xander. This scene sets the stage of a sullen, strong-minded, and rebellious teen and after clashing with her mom Jessica prior to receiving the news that her father Nick Brody is alive, this characterization appears to be correct. When Nick Brody suddenly returns after being held captive as a prisoner of war, we see in the first season that Dana desperately wants to reconnect with him. Since Dana’s own relationship with Jessica was strained, she starts to forge a deep bond with her father. This father-daughter relationship is the lynchpin to the “normalcy” of the Brody household and soon it becomes clear that Dana is the member of the family with whom Brody feels most comfortable after his return home. Dana witnesses Brody praying in the garage, for example, and admits his conversion to the Muslim faith. Dana also helped Brody bury his defiled Koran in the backyard, and after stumbling upon his prayer mat in the garage, she kneeled upon it as if it might possess healing powers. images-2

Toward the end of Season One, Dana’s feelings toward her father become conflicted – to that of a mixture of love and suspicion, respect and disappointment. She was suspicious of the package Brody picked up in Gettysburg after he passed it off as a gift to Jessica. Dana also expresses her disgust at Brody’s relationship with Carrie and is often suspicious when he is absent for long stretches of time. Then what I believe is the most notable expressions of disappointment in Brody occurred recently when Dana’s desire to give the police a statement regarding a hit and run accident she was involved in was halted by Brody.

Despite the initial depiction of Dana, she is proving to be one of the show’s moral anchors. She inadvertently prevented Brody from blowing up the White House and was resentful to Jessica for having a romantic relationship with Brody’s best friend Mike. When Dana develops feelings for Finn Walden, Vice-President’s Walden’s son, she tells him she needs to break it off with Xander before they can get involved. Recently on their first date, Finn drives recklessly and fatally strikes a pedestrian. Dana desperately wanted to help the woman and accept responsibility for the accident however Finn exclaimed that they cannot go to the police because his father’s political position and aspirations. We see that Dana is racked with guilt and eventually blurts out what happened to Jessica and Cynthia Walden, Finn’s mother. Cynthia orchestrates a cover-up of the accident which does not appease Dana’s guilt. In turn Brody stops Dana from going to the police at the last minute, which angers and confuses her. Despite all these people telling Dana to keep quiet, she decides to visit the daughter of the woman they killed. Although the daughter angrily tells Dana to never tell anyone of the accident, so she can continue to receive money she desperately needs to raise her siblings, it’s clear that Dana still feels compelled to do the right thing and confess to her part in the accident.  untitled-1

During my analysis of Dana, I ran across quite a bit of information suggesting she was the most hated character on Homeland. Sure when I first started watching this series, I fell into the popular group of Dana haters, after all her whiny indignations to her parents, drug use, and habitual use of profanity were enough for her to get under my skin. However the show did a smart thing to provide more substance to her character and I felt my attitude toward Dana Brody shift. In a piece by Rachael Arons of The New Yorker, she offers an explanation as to why so many viewers of Homeland could not stand Dana (beware this article does contain spoilers to the ending of Season Two and the start of Season Three). Female characters are often the target of audience angst, especially adolescent female characters who are assertive with their opinions and sexuality.

So whether you are fond of Dana or not, Dana has become an important character in Homeland. Although she started out as a moody, self-absorbed teenager navigating her way through the chaos of her life, the writers have taken her down a more matured path. Although at this point in the second season we do not know what is in store for Dana Brody and how she will continue to evolve, I hope she continues to take the moral high ground in her life.

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8 thoughts on “Week 5: Season Two Episodes 5-8: Dana Brody: Anguished Teen or Moral Compass?

  1. I felt the same about Dana in season one. Until they give her more depth in season two, she is a bit annoying. In season one, I just want her to get out of her angsty teen phase and in season two, I suddenly feel compelled to identify with her struggles. Great post!

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    • I like your initial idea of comparing/contrasting American torture tactics with non-US tactics. It may be a good idea, rather than looking into real-life scenarios, to compare the depictions of torture just on the show. We see a bit of Brody’s torture by Abu Nazir, but also see interrogation tactics by CIA on several occasions. Noting the difference in lighting, setting, actions against the victim, etc. would make for an interesting study.

      I also find Dana much more palatable in season two than season one though, I will admit, I really don’t find almost any of the Brody family sub-plots worthwhile to the show. In many cases it acts as the tension release valve on the show for the much more interesting interrogations, terror threats, and CIA inter-workings. Since this is my second time through, I keep watching the family sub-plots and thinking “oh yeah, this was on the show…I kind of forgot about this and I also kind of know why I did…”

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  2. I felt Dana’s character lacked substance in season one and at times she and Chris felt like standard stock teenage characters that are so often used in television shows for slight dramatic effect. However, the fact that she has developed in this season and still continues to question her father’s “hidden” agenda illustrates her importance to the show. I also find the fact that her father sees her a moral compass adds to the depth of her overall character. I wonder though how should handle it if her father really is a terrorist.

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  3. A strong aspect of Dana’s increased tension with her father is an Electra Complex. She ego identifies with the mother and sees Carrie as a threat to that bond.
    Hope you get back to the torture consideration. I did a lot of reading about it when I taught a couple classes on Iraq War documentaries. American torture tactics seem to vary between the psychological (humiliating prisoners by having women interrogators, playing loud music constantly, solitary confinement, etc) and physical (stress position, water boarding, even reports of electric shocks). But I never heard of taking a knife and stabbing it in the prisoner’s hand! I think they went over the top on that one. Quinn was channeling his Jack Bauer from Fox’s 24 I think. Ultimately, Quinn tells Saul he was just playing bad cop to Carrie’s good cop, but I think we are too shocked by that scene to stop and consider whether it’s complete balderdash. But on sober reflection, I’m just going to say, it’s balderdash!

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  4. Most teenagers have a tough time when their parents have marital problems or strife but these circumstances are pretty extraordinary. As I think back I am still surprised that she was chosen as the catalyst to stop the suicide bombing in the first season, and I wonder if she will ever find out the truth about that phone call.

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  5. After a stereotypical portrayal of an angsty teenage girl in the first season, I’ve come to love Dana in the second season. At the beginning of the show she was a very basic character, but she has evolved into one of the most likable and most reasonable characters on Homeland. Contrasting her with her father makes his lies and behavior all the more shameful; while he wants her to be happy and wants to help her confess after her hit and run incident, his actions would make her (even more) unhappy and he would not have confessed if the CIA had not gotten his confession video.

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  6. I completely agree with you about Dana! At first- I really disliked the character- but my mind has changed as the show has continued.
    I agree with Dr. Chown- you should revisit the torture/interrogation tactics idea in a later blog post! It is certainly a topic that has been in the public eye recently (with the President supporting harsher interrogation tactics, and people such as John McCain insisting the U.S will not allow torture again.)

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  7. Dana is the moral compass of her family. She is always the one that says the things the rest of her family is not willing to say or broach subjects they rather avoid. She refuses to be silenced and even when it could ruin her own life she is willing to tell the truth. Maybe the rest of her family should smoke they would be a lot more honest. I think it is very unfair that she was forced to dim her light of truth and burn it out to make others happy. It seems like all the adult really like being oblivious.

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