Hero or Villain: We Decide #3 - Nicholas Brody
Part three of our series looks at Homeland's Nicholas Brody and his duty as a US Marine.
Being trained to kill means that the art of elimination was not just second nature to Brody but employment. He had the cold heart of an assassin with a marksmen's instinct. Targets were identified then shot clean and ruthlessly and that sense of qualified duty should not be forgotten when evaluating his character. The direct issue with Brody is questioning exactly how broken a man he was when he returns to US soil and how much of his actions could qualify as business or pleasure.
There is also the issue of judging whether his killings are forgiveable when he is merely following orders that set him out as a hero or a villain to different causes. When Brody is celebrated in Tehran as the 'Langley Bomber' towards the end of season three he embarrassingly smiles and takes in the praise, for a short while to Iranians he was a hero. At home he was still a villain and very much a wanted man despite the CIA's private use of him in their masterplan. His various depictions by the CIA raised suspicion then ripped apart his family to the extent that his daughter, Dana, tried to kill herself. At some point he could no longer rely on his background as a killer in uniform to excuse his behaviour.
Hero - Though unhinged all he seems to want is to get his family back though the damage he has done means that they can never fully take him back in. To Carrie Mathison he represents something of a kindred spirit and throughout their tumultuous relationship you sometimes wish he could just run away with her and try to at least start again.
As a soldier he did prove effective and there is some heroism that can be gleaned from that. As part of a revenge mission following the death of Abu Nazir's son, Issa, during a drone strike you could depict the CIA as the enemy during the topsy turvy second season. According to Brody he was doing the right thing by working for Nazir and he does successfully retrieve a list of targets from Estes' office. That would go some way to justifying his actions in the suicide plot yet in terms of preventing further deaths he showed some humanity and proved a hero in being talked out of it by Dana. In the climax to the third season he also killed General Akbari, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and as part of an eventually successful mission at least Carrie thought he deserved a star on the wall. Even though he has been painted as a traitor he did get this final job done and there is some redemption in the peace process that followed.
Villain - If you view Brody as a soldier carrying out orders then some of his killings seem coherent, which says something much larger about the sanctity of life according to the military. His instinct of getting the job done remains yet it is his callous nature that comes to the fore. In retrieving the serial number for Vice-President William Walden's pacemaker in the second season he carries out his duty to Nazir yet refuses to call an ambulance then taunts his victim as he dies. He also just happens to kill his friend and fellow Marine, Thomas Walker, to swear allegiance to Nazir.
There are also deaths by association to consider including Elizabeth Gaines who was shot by Walker before the failed suicide bombing. There is also the Muslim family in Caracas who take him in as well as Turani, the Marine mercilessly killed by Javadi. By the climax to season three Brody is sick of the deaths he has indirectly or directly caused and has nowhere left to turn. Though the rules for Marines may be atypical he is but a man who has killed several others to suit different causes and that is how he needs to be judged.
Quotes - "You know what I really need, Mike? I need the last eight years back. Where I get to take care of my wife and kids. Where I don't get asked to go over there and fight their fucking war. I'm not taken prisoner. Not left out there to rot. Never tortured. None of it. Can you do that for me? Or is it too much to ask?"
Brody: "There's this man in Caracas, he called me a cockroach. Unkillable. Bringing misery wherever I go."
Carrie: "That's harsh."
Brody: "But accurate. This was about redemption, mine, you said so yourself. In what universe can you redeem one murder by committing another?"
Carrie: "You're a Marine, Brody. The rules are different."
Brody: "I'm a lot of things but I'm not a Marine anymore. I haven't been for some time.
Verdict - Villain
Put bluntly, Nicholas Brody is a traitor to his country and despite his successful final mission the CIA fails to repent his sins and neither should the viewer. Though he proves effective for both sides there is an unsettling merciless and occasional personal joy in his killing. He never fully recovers from the post-traumatic stress he endured as a prisoner of war and, rather understandably, fails to win back his own family. His efforts in the successful final mission should not be forgotten but by then he has already caused enough damage.