Dana Brody on Homeland isn't a perfect character, but she's not as indefensible as so many people make her out to be. In fact, Dana's teenage turmoil helps connect the show to one of its original themes.
[Spoliers ensue for anyone who still has last night's episode waiting on your DVR.]
Dana Brody (played by 18-year-old Morgan Saylor) became a critical punching bag last season after her storyline careened out of control, quite literally, when she was involved in a hit and run with the vice president's son. Her angst-ridden gestures and whining became fodder for a BuzzFeed listicle a series-deflating SNL parody. Now, two episodes into the third season, Dana's at it again, and she's pissing people off. (Michael Hogan titled his recap at Vanity Fair: "Too. Much. Dana.") She's back home after a suicide attempt, but sneaking off to have sex with her still-in-rehab boyfriend. In her family's garage she decides to flip through photos of her parents in happier times, take out her dad's old prayer mat, and kneel on it as if in prayer. Complain all you want about the teen sex, but the story of a girl trying to wrestle with (what she believes) is her dad's conversion to a terrorist gets at the heart of the secrets the show initially tackled.
In the first lauded season of the show—before we knew that, yes, Brody was in fact a terrorist—the conflict not only surrounded CIA agent Carrie Mathison's suspicions, but also how war and terrorism affects, well, the home. The show then dealt with the question of how can a family even possibly begin to grasp the experience of being exposed to what is happening overseas. Now violence has hit American soil, and the Brody family is once again simply trying to understand. Showrunner Alex Gansa explained in an interview with Vulture's Denise Martin that the writers decided to return to the Brodys this season (even without Brody himself present in the show so far) to explore what its like for the families who have to contend with one of their relations committing an act of horrific violence. "Whether it’s Sandy Hook, whether it’s Columbine, the Boston Marathon bombers, these people all have families who suffer the consequences of these psychopathic actions," he said. "It was interesting to think about what would happen to the Brody family." That's a worthwhile topic to explore and the scene with Dana studying photos of her father seems like a great jumping off point for that topic.
Because Homeland is technically supposed to be a show about espionage, this season's early preoccupation with the romantic travails of a moody teenage girl can seem out of place. But the vitriol directed toward Dana means the audience might be missing the subtle, more interesting aspects of her character that the writers of Homeland have also chosen to dilute by honing in on Dana's hormones. The story of a daughter coping with a father who committed an act of terrorism is an interesting one. The show's writers just need to realize that Dana can do more than have inconvenient romances.
Still, we're not the only ones to defend Dana. Andrew Romano of The Daily Beast, in introducing an interview with Saylor, compared the Internet hate directed toward Dana to the Internet hate directed toward Skyler White of Breaking Bad. "Is Dana irritating sometimes? Sure," he wrote. "But that’s because teenagers are irritating sometimes, as anyone who has ever been or met a teenager knows firsthand." For what it's worth, Saylor isn't phased by the haters.
Meanwhile, in her assessment of the episode on Entertainment Weekly, Shirley Li explained that "highlighting Dana isn't a bad idea. It's a fascinating choice, because her conflict has to do with her feeling trapped in her own home, with no control of what's going on around her. That's a feeling Carrie shares at this point in the series, and the two characters mirror each other, helping the show drive that theme home." Still, Li was careful not to praise Dana's plot—which admittedly has many problems—just to note that perhaps the character doesn't deserve what we throw her way.