Warning: Contains spoilers
According to many sources on the internet, Homeland’s Dana Brody is one of television’s most hated characters. There are numerous Dana Brody “hate sites” out there exploring topics such as “If I were Dana Brody from Homeland, I would have every reason to decapitate myself” or “I think we can all agree that Dana Brody should be blown up.” There are sites dedicated to hating on everything from the characters “annoying face” to the fact that “she only wears one pair of boots”. Why so much hate for the moral centre of one of television’s most loved shows? I don’t get it.
In their article “Dana on Homeland: TV’s Most Hated Character”, The Cultural Pervory (http://culturalpurveyor.com/dana-on-homeland-tvs-most-hated-character/) states, “The sullen, insolent, whiny, eye-brow furrowing, hand-wringing daughter of US Marine/Traitor/Terrorist Nick Brody has ignited a firestorm of loathing not seen over a teenager girl since Kim Bauer of 24 sent viewers into a rage when the cougar didn’t devour her”. Yikes. Of course Dana is sullen, insolent and whiny. Not only is she a teenager but she’s been through a lot lately. Her father, who was considered dead for the past 8 years, has returned home and may or may not be a terrorist who attempted to blow up the Vice President of the United States via suicide vest. There is much more going on in Morgan Saylor’s impressive portrayal of Dana, though. While she plays brooding and sullen perfectly, the truth of what Dana is really feeling can always been seen in her eyes. I believe that what Saylor is up to as an actress is to guard her emotions (like any teen would) through snarky dialogue, but if you look closely her true feelings are lurking behind her eyes. This is a strong and risky acting choice as she can easily be dismissed as merely sulking (and often is).
In a show bursting with great pairings, Dana’s relationship with Brody (her father) is one of my favourites. While Jess (her mother) is clinging to her idealized past with Brody (Damian Lewis,) Dana is trying to build a relationship in the present. She is trying desperately to understand who her father is now. After Dana accidentally outs Brody’s Muslim faith in her weird new school, Brody is forced to admit this truth to his family. It is a truth that Jess would prefer not to know. It stands in the way of the fantasy that the family can be normal again. In the powerful scene that follows, Dana and Brody silently bury the Quran that Jess desecrated earlier by throwing it to the ground. The bond between Dana and Brody is beautifully depicted without words as Dana is delicate with her father’s faith.
A hit and run subplot designed to chip away at this bond is, in my opinion, the catalyst for much of the Dana Brody hatred. Without going into tedious detail, Dana and her new BF Finn (who happens to be the son of the Vice President of the United States) hit a woman with their car while joyriding on their first date. They don’t tell anyone and the woman eventually dies. The writers are clearly drawing a parallel between Dana’s situation and Brody’s. Unlike her father, however, Dana is unable to keep the secret and tries (at all the wrong times) to do the right thing and turn herself in. In any other drama this subplot would be gripping, but on a show like Homeland, populated with terrorists, double agents and bipolar FBI Agents, Dana’s guilt stands no chance of any dramatic tension. She comes off as annoying and sulky when she interrupts action which has much higher stakes.
There is still something to be mined from the wedge the accident placed in Dana and Brody’s relationship. After the blowout from Brody missing Jess’s charity dinner (because he was killing the guy who fashioned his suicide vest) the silent exchange between Dana and Brody is as potent as anything on the show. Through the experience of the hit and run, Dana understands better what Brody is going through, however, this knowledge only drives the pair farther apart. Dana is the only character the viewer has to look to for moral guidance, which is another burden that is placed on her .
I said earlier that Morgan Saylor wears her subtext in her eyes. In a brilliant scene between Damien Lewis and Morgan Saylor from the Season 2 finale, Brody admits to his daughter that he was a terrorist. The scene begins in Brody’s room and immediately recalls the scene from Season 1 when Brody is putting on his suicide vest while Dana stands outside the door. This time the bedroom door is open. Dana is completely present and Brody is completely vacant. She is pleading with Brody with her eyes to tell her the truth. It is an honesty that he can’t turn away from. When Dana finally hears the truth and realizes she was right about her father her eyes seem to gasp in pain. It is a heartbreaking climax to the most honest relationship on the show.