Confession (Homeland Rewatch S2.05-S2.08)

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. brody-confessThe 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-quinnBrody’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. dana-visits-hospitalAfter 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.



8 thoughts on “Confession (Homeland Rewatch S2.05-S2.08)

  1. As you know, I focused in on Dana for my blog this week. Kevin also wrote about Dana and Brody so I really like how you took a different angle in your analysis. I see how confession is a common thread in these four episodes. When I was viewing these episodes, I sympathized with Dana. The actions of Finn and Cynthia (skirting the law because of their social position) reinforce the negative characterization of the Walden family.


    1. This post really got me thinking about the similarities/differences between Brody and Dana’s desire to confess. One of the interesting aspects of confession is the desire not just for forgiveness, but for a recognition that the issue being confessed warrants some sort of penalty. Brody, ever cognizant of the danger he puts himself in by confessing, is fixated on the penalty aspect of confession. He never really seeks forgiveness for his crimes (or near-crimes), even though they leave a toll on his mental health. Dana, on the other hand, really feels guilty about the car accident, and seeks forgiveness AND the notion that penalty is warranted. However, the powers that be, as you point out, in covering up the issue, take both forgiveness and penalty away. Rather than allowing for true confession, forgiveness, and to take a bit from Catholic theology, penance, Dana is left searching for a party ready not only to forgive, but to acknowledge that her and Finn’s actions were truly wrong.


  2. Marilyn
    I also thought Brody’s “confession” while I watched his interrogation and I wonder if it was a legitimate purging of his sin or if it was a “forced” act and therefore, I wonder if he still has a “hidden” agenda as Peter suggests. Dana’s confession to me was more a freedom and expression of guilt. It was clear she wasn’t handling the outcomes of her and Finn’s actions.


  3. That was really fascinating, well done! I want to point out one more important confession in the interrogation scene: Carrie’s! She uses the intensity of the interrogation to tell him the truth, she really does love him and wants him to leave his family. She acts like she understands it can’t happen, but she seems liberated by being able to say it to him, even if it’s a pretext to get him to make a similar confession of things buried in his heart.
    But let’s get back to Foucault. Brian correctly noted that the ecstatic release of confession does not seem operative for Brody and Dana. Of course not, elsewhere Foucault notes that confession, certainly as practiced by the Catholic Church, was always about surveillance and social control. Information is power and who knows more about the community than the priest? The CIA sweating a confession out of a potential informant is only the latest iteration of something mastered in the Catholic Church. I’m not Catholic, but I think the drill is: you confess the sin, the priest tells you to say some amount of prayers as an act of contrition. You are therefore granted some sort of release from your sins.
    But as you and Brian are suggesting, the bargain is not working here. Brody only gets in deeper shit and Dana has the soul-rattling revelation that her confession is not wanted by the very person who has been harmed by her sin. I will try not to spoil here, but maybe the payoff for Brody AND Carrie’s confession is further down the road. Can’t wait for the next four!


  4. I wonder if disabling the cameras during the interrogation gave Brody more license to confess the way he did. The only other time we have seen him this emotional is when he discovered Issa dead from the drone strike. Also, he seems to wait until Carrie shifts the narrative from “YOU are a terrorist tell us what you are going to do” into “you are our best hope to stop THE terrorist so tell us what you know”. Great analysis, you doctoral students have skills.


  5. I agree that Dana’s confession did not work out the way she wanted, nor did it give her the control she wanted, but I think she was more in control after/because of her confession than her father was after/because of his. Dana wanted to confess and was liberated from at least a little bit of her guilt because of it, but Brody didn’t experience the same relief after his confession. Dana didn’t get to go to the police, but she still got to make the decision to go to the daughter of the victim.


  6. Really interesting post! I’ll just add my two cents to what some of the other comments have already touched on. You mention that Cynthia Walden is the “ultimate authority,” when it comes to Dana’s confession. After looking at Foucault’s words, I think it’s interesting to consider that, perhaps Dana’s confession fails to bring her peace because it is not to an “authority who requires the confession, prescribes and appreciates it, and intervenes in order to judge, punish, forgive, console, and reconcile.” While it is important for Dana to first confess to her parents (in order to take the next step of reporting to the police,) her parents (and the Waldens,) ultimately do not have the authority to offer a final “judgment,” in this circumstance.
    When it comes to Brody, I think that something at play is that fact that he does not confess to everything he has done. To feel “unburdened,” would require him to fully confess to all of his actions (such as killing Tom Walker and the tailor/bombmaker.) Additionally, I don’t think he ever actually concedes to the (correct,) accusation about him wearing a bomber’s vest. And of course- as you mentioned (and others have pointed out,) his confession leads to a situation where he has to tell more lies (and continue to cover up old ones.) When he has a bit of a breakdown from the pressure and tells Roya he wants nothing to do with what they have planned, he seems to have a bit of the “peace,” that is associated with confession (simply because he can stop keeping up appearances and lying, etc.)


  7. The confessions in these episodes was really frustrating for me. It seemed that every single time someone tried to do the right thing it’s thrown back in their face as if it was unimportant. Its like every saying about how the truth shall set you free is only a device used to take control of a person. It is not liberating, but being put in another prison of another person’s making.


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