Homeland: Season 2 Premiere, “The Smile”

Season 2 of Homeland returned with a premiere episode that thrust us back into the action as seamlessly as if no time had passed—even though it had. It’s six months since we left Carrie on a hospital bed having electroshock therapy, to ease the effects of her bipolar condition, and Brody on his way up the political ladder, trading on his new position as a congressman with the vice president’s ear to appease Abu Nazir, promising the terrorist that he’ll be more effective working “inside the system.”

Carrie is a new woman—calm and safe in a daily routine where she putters in the garden, cooks dinner for her family, and teaches English as a second language. We get hints of the old Carrie, she’s snappish when people nag or small talk her, she furtively checks her laptop for news on the brewing crisis in Iran, but we can see she’s trying to heal. And then Saul calls unexpectedly with news: they need her. To rub a little salt in the wound, her old boss Estes is the one who comes to tell her that a former informant has intel about a terrorist attack on America and will talk to no one but Carrie. She’s terrified by the idea of going back, and outraged that Estes would ask her after he unceremoniously stripped her of her job. But the pull of duty, and no doubt the lure of being active again, is too much. Of course, she says yes.

Claire DanesBrody is also a new man, one on a bright trajectory. Vice President Walden comes to visit the fledgling congressman and tell him he’s considering him as a possible running mate in his presidential campaign. Brody is blown away, giving a definitive “hell yes” that he’s interested, and deftly deflects Walden’s concern that there may be something the vetting process didn’t turn up about Brody. Brody’s wife, Jessica, is thrilled by the news, his kids less so, especially Dana who seems to be struggling with their new higher-profile life, which includes a new private school for her.

Abu Nazir has also heard the news and he sends a proxy, a reporter, to confront Brody in his office, testing his loyalty by challenging Brody to break into Estes’s safe in his CIA office to get some information. When Brody reluctantly does so, it results in the kind of tense sequence this show excels at, with Brody nervously getting the info and at the last second realizing he left his notebook in plain sight on the desk. But Brody’s the ultimate pressure player, and he sweeps out of the office with Estes none the wiser.

At Dana’s new school, she gets in trouble for speaking out of turn when some fellow students, including Walden’s son, start theorizing about the Israel-Iran conflict and suggest that Arabs don’t regard human life like Americans do and blithely declaring that perhaps the U.S. should nuke them in a pre-emptive strike. Things get heated and Dana accidentally blurts out that her father is Muslim, a fact that Jessica is none too pleased to relate to Brody when he gets home from work that night. He is silent as his wife rails at their daughter’s “cry for attention,” and then quietly tells her that it’s true.

Shocked and not a little betrayed, she ends up running to the garage and ransacking it to find his Qu’ran, which in a pique she throws to the floor. Damien Lewis shows exactly why he (deservedly) won that Best Actor Emmy last weekend with the pained look he immediately has, as he protectively scoops up the book and quietly utters, horrified, that “it’s not supposed to touch the floor.” Jessica just stares in shock and wonders aloud who this man is, since he’s not the “U.S. marine that she married.” She warns him that no one can know this, as he’s well aware.

Meanwhile Carrie is prepping for her mission, but whether she’s just rusty or panicked or it’s the literal side effect of electroshock, she’s having trouble nailing down the details of her cover alias. Carrie’s nervous, fitful, even pleading at one point that she wants to go home. It’s a shock to see her this way. Even when her illness was at a fever pitch last season, Carrie was always confident, forging ahead, sure she was doing the right thing, even when it was incredibly wrongheaded. It’s hard to see this muted, tentative version of her, even if it’s healthier.

She’s determined to stick it out though and heads to Beirut, nervously looking over her shoulder the whole way. She’s headed to meet Saul at a café when he informs her he’s been made and tells her to ditch her radio phone and let herself be taken into custody, sticking to her alibi. But as she runs, the adrenaline must spark something, because the old Carrie rears her head suddenly, insisting she can lose the tail. She runs through the crowded cramped streets and into a market stall and a dead end. Inspired she quickly buys a new head scarf, effectively hiding right in plain sight, then attacks the armed pursuer, knocking his gun discreetly away and knocking him down, then pleading for people to help her husband in the native tongue. As good Samaritans descend on the man, Carrie turns and flees, and the victorious smile that breaks over her face is breathtaking. It seems our girl is back, or at least on the way there.

Back at home, Brody is performing a loving ceremony, wrapping the Qu’ran in cloth and kissing it before he prepares to bury the desecrated book. He goes outside with a shovel and digs a hole, when Dana comes out and questions what he’s doing. Brody tells her, and after a few quiet beats, she offers to help him, kneeling to push dirt into the hole with her hands. Brody drops down beside her and they complete the task together in a truly lovely moment. Their relationship continues to be one of the most heartwarming on the show and maybe even one of the best father-daughter relationships on TV right now.

This final scene well illustrates that Homeland is so much more than a political thriller or terrorist drama, but an intimate portrait of complex, flawed people. I can’t wait to see what they all do next.
 


Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.

Read all Tara Gelsomino’s posts for Criminal Element.

Comments

  1. Saundra Peck

    This show is amazing. Every relationship is well played, not to mention well developed. The minute it is over, I think “how has it been an hour” and wish it was time for the next one!!! AWESOME!!!

  2. Tara Gelsomino

    sk1336, I know! It’s so good and it goes so fast. I love how they manage to maintain both the tension AND the nuanced emotion. Can’t wait for more!

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