If I had to sum up Homeland season 2 episodes 5-8, I would not hesitate to say that these episodes are all about confession and the consequences of the act of confession. In his work, The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault wrote of confession and how the act of confession relates to overarching societal power structures.
The confession is a ritual of discourse in which the speaking subject is also the subject of the statement; it is also a ritual that unfolds within a power relationship, for one does not confess without the presence or virtual presence of a partner who is not simply the interlocutor but the authority who requires the confession, prescribes and appreciates it, and intervenes in order to judge, punish, forgive, console, and reconcile; a ritual in which the truth is corroborated by the obstacles and resistances it has had to surmount in order to be formulated; and finally, a ritual in which the expression alone, independently of its external consequences, produces intrinsic modifications in the person who articulates it: it exonerates, redeems, and purifies him; it unburdens him of his wrongs, liberates him, and promises him salvation (Foucault 62).
Keep in mind, of course, that this passage above implies two functions of confession. First and foremost, the end of the passage outlines the understood social contract that relates to the act of confession. The act is supposed to liberate, unburden, exonerate, etc. However, this act, as Foucault correctly points out, is acted out within/in relation to a power structure. The act of confessing (particularly of non normative or private behaviors) allows the authority in this situation the possibility to exercise control over the confessor. Brody’s confession within these episodes becomes an interesting case in point of this very power structure.
After Carrie takes over Brody’s interrogation from Quinn, she reassures Brody that a confession will be a relief, that his continued lies are unsustainable and that truth is the only thing standing between him and an inner peace of mind. Brody seems to take this to heart and unburden’s himself after some additional convincing.
Unfortunately for Brody, his confession does little to liberate him and, instead, leads to the expectation that he will come under the control and use of the CIA in an attempt to thwart whatever attack Abu Nazir has planned against the United States. Brody’s confession may have warranted him a limited amount of relief, but the pressures associated with maintaining the appearance of loyalty to Abu Nazir while simultaneously assisting the CIA and attempting to keep the peace with his wife (after their fallout), eventually leads Brody to break down.
Dana is also under duress in these episodes after she and Finn hit a pedestrian who dies following the incident. Dana is asked not to say anything by Finn, who is worried about how his father will react since they are a family that is often in the limelight. Dana, as one of the moral centers of the show, finds Finn’s request almost impossible to honor. Her convictions will not allow her to do the wrong thing. Eventually she tells Finn that they must confess, which she finally does for both of them (much to Finn’s chagrin) to their mothers.
Much like the experience of her father, the act of confessing, which is supposed to bring about feelings of liberation, does essentially the opposite. Cynthia Walden expresses a similar disregard for the law as her son in an attempt to keep the wrong doings of their family out of the public eye. Cynthia, as the ultimate authority in this confessional exchange, ultimately agrees with her son’s initial response. The Walden family’s money and prestige allow them to skirt the “right thing” in favor of the “easiest thing.”
Dana and Jessica each have a strong distaste for the idea of exerting power and privilege as a means to escape punishment for wrong-doing. After consulting with Brody, it is agreed that he will bring Dana to the police department to confess there. This act, however, is halted by an even greater authority (the CIA) as it will compromise their current investigation into Abu Nazir’s unfolding plot. Dana is ultimately denied her request for confession.
Eventually, Dana finds her way directly to the daughter of the hit and run victim. She confesses her part in the crime and offers her condolences, only to be shut down again. The daughter of the victim has already been paid off by the walden family and would like Dana to keep quiet as to allow her to keep the “hush” money that the Walden’s have provided for her. At each turn where Dana attempts to do the right thing, she is shut downs as a result of dominant forces. She essentially gets stuck in a confessional cycle that never actually ends nor cognitively liberates her from her guilt in the way that the confessional’s “social contract” implies it will do.
For both Dana and Brody this week, the confession fails to live up to the hype. Dana and Brody both illustrate in these episodes that there is a close relationship between the act of confession and one’s vulnerability to control.