HOMELAND Season 2 Premiere Recap: “The Smile”

     September 30, 2012


The exciting thing about reviewing a show like Homeland that is in its sophomore season is that it’s so incredibly full of potential.  Unlike a new show finding its footing (which Homeland never had to do — it had one of the best drama pilots I’ve ever seen) or a show struggling to keep up with interesting narratives past its prime, I don’t think anyone would believe that Homeland had already peaked, or that it would provide any disappointments this year.  Admittedly, it’s a show that might struggle to keep its central conflict (between Carrie and Brody) going for many seasons longer, but for now it’s still deep in verdant storytelling.  After the first season’s heart-pounding finale, some (myself included) may have suspected that this year would start off with a slow roll or a subtle build.  But nope, Homeland has returned with the stakes as raised as ever, getting our blood pressure up much too high for an opening episode.  For more, hit the jump.

homeland-season-2-poster-1“The Smile” drops us a little forward in time from where we left off in in Season One — Brody is already comfortable as a Freshman Congressman, and Carrie is living a quiet and restful life at home with her family.  Serenity doesn’t last long for either of them, though.  Both are forced to start balancing conflicting parts of their lives and personalities.

Let’s start with Carrie, who appears to be recovering well (even though her father suspects her Lithium dose is too high — little moments like these and his mention of the side-effect of not being able to read when he was on too much Lithium that help make the show’s already exceptional portrayal of bipolar disorder even more competent and real).  In my 5 Questions For This Season I wondered if Carrie would remember about Brody’s connection to Issa after her electroshock therapy, and it seems that so far that remains buried in her subconscious.  As for her connection with the CIA, that return happened fast.  She doesn’t have her job back, but they still need her because of the unique connections she made during her time there.

Though Carrie is (rightfully) at odds with her recovery versus her commitment to not just her patriotism but to what was her life’s work, what sort of “normal life” would she ever have otherwise?  Without a focus on something to keep her brilliant mind occupied, what peace would she ever really find?  It’s something her father clearly understands given his own battle with bipolar, and why he overrules Carrie’s long-suffering sister regarding the trip to Beriut.  Is Carrie ready?  Maybe not, as we see her struggle with her memory as well as her confidence, but could she ever reasonably turn her back on this life, either?

homeland-the-smile-claire-danesBrody faced similar quandaries this week, being split between his role as the most upstanding citizen in the country (so everyone believes) and being a terrorist.  Or, as he is corrected about, not a “terrorist” but “someone who commits acts of justified retaliation.”  That Vice President Walden has floated Brody’s name as a running-mate is no surprise, not narratively or within the real world.  Perhaps not enough credit is given to Homeland‘s astute feel for politics, which correctly features a man who had to repeat the tenth grade become (potentially) catapulted to the second-highest office in the land on the wings of patriotism because he was captured and tortured in the line of duty (admirable, absolutely. But does that make him right for office?)  That irony is the crux of the series, that a country’s actions (America or elsewhere) do have repercussions not just abroad but at home.  Look at all of the informants on the series and in real life looking to help thwart attacks on America — they aren’t pleased with the way their countries, or factions within it, are behaving, either.  There will always be two sides.

Homeland highlighted this dichotomy in a self-aware Quaker meeting at Dana’s school, where students stood up and were able to voice their opinions about terrorism and other extreme issues without judgement (except from Dana).  But the scene was elevated from the preachy by Dana’s outburst that her father is a Muslim … played off as laughs by the other students, as is so often the case when Brody tells a truth about his own life.  It’s so absurd to consider it has to be false, right?  Except …

homeland-the-smile-damien-lewisAs for Homeland taking it slow to start the season, nothing could be further from the truth.  We had Carrie feature in (finally) a real “spy thriller” situation where she regained her confidence by losing her tail in a breathlessly badass way.  Elsewhere, Brody was tasked by a “friend of Nazir” to steal the codes for upcoming attacks from Estes office.  Even though we could reasonably presume that Brody would get away with it, nothing is certain on Homeland.  In the same episode we saw Brody have to admit his adherence of Islam to Jessica.  Secrets come out.  It wouldn’t be unheard of for Brody to get turned into a triple spy at this point.  But Brody did get the information, but how long that will appease Nazir remains to be seen.  Still, the sequence was heart-pounding.

Obviously, it’s far too early to tell how well Homeland is doing overall in its sophomore year, but if its premiere is any indication, we’re in for another fantastic ride.

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

homeland-season-2-poster– “Do you want to blow up your father’s relationship with the Vice President?!” – Jess, with a fun meta reference there.

– Dana is always creeping around, isn’t she?  Her brother is hardly so inquisitive.  The moment where she helped her father bury his Qur’an was a really sweet and interesting one, though.  Perhaps there is a part of her that knows that accepting her father and keeping him close keeps him out of trouble.

– Brody is so damn good not only at lying but at deflecting curveballs, as Walden says.  The way he just calmly admits things to Jessica was so ace, and dismissing Carrie’s rantings as her being mentally ill … I still think Bryan Cranston deserved the Emmy for Breaking Bad, but damn, Damian Lewis is pretty amazing in how he plays the layers of Brody.

– One of the best things about Brody’s character is how he always mixes truth with lies of omission (or he tells the truth but, as mentioned above, it seems so absurd that no one believes it).  Such great commentary on our prejudices, even positive ones.  We believe what we want to believe!

– So now it seems we have moved out of Iraq and into issues with Israel and Iran.

– I imagine Carrie is probably quite a good English teacher.


  • Mars

    It was a great season opener. The Iran/Israel stuff was pretty astute, considering it was probably written months ago. The scene where he steals the codes was predictable and went down exactly like I’d expect because we’ve seen it so many times before, but it still had me on the edge of my seat. As soon as he closed the safe and sat back down, I was yelling, “You left the fucking notepad on the table, dummy!”
    Damien Lewis is so good. It blew my mind reading an interview with Gansa where he originally thought Brody wouldn’t last past one season. But now, he’s the guy we root for the most because of his relationship with his daughter particularly, even though he’s the one that’s a so called “terrorist.” Whereas Carrie is uneven and often effectively obnoxious and supersedes the law in the name of national security. I love the way the writers flip the sentiments of people on their head.
    My only complaint was not enough Mandy Patinkin in this episode. We need more great one-liners from him this season like, “Eviscerate the motherfucker.”

  • Jay McKells

    It peaked the moment Brody’s bomb failed to go off in the bunker at the end of season 1… That was so lame and predictable, it put it on a par with NCIS: Los Angeles for me but without even LL Cool J to save it.

    • James Freud

      The fact that you name-checked LL Cool J to be the saving grace for anything totally makes your opinion invalid and wrong.

  • Blake

    Some Bloopers i think are , why does brody daughter always up even at 2:12 at night .
    The quran throwing scene by Mrs Brody might cause some controversy as muslim world is pretty angry these days on some stupidity done by some one making a anti islamic film .

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  • gina

    This episode was AWESOME! Like you said, this well written script would’ve been nothing without the impeccable acting of the cast. Wow! I think Brody’s wife nailed the scene where she finds out about his religion. If there’s one thing I liked more than the acting, I’d have to say I loved how this premiere left so much room for where the season could take us from here. I’ve already heard numerous predictions buzzing around my office at DISH, and each one seems just as plausible as the last. What do you guys think will happen next? I’m dying to find out! I just can’t believe that this show has to air on Sundays, out of all the days in the week. Between this, Dexter, The Amazing Race and Boardwalk Empire, I am practically glued to my couch on Sundays! I’m just lucky that my Hopper DVR can record up to six things, because I wouldn’t want to choose between any of those shows. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this season plays out.

  • faiza abdinoor

    i really didnt lyk da scene where the wife throws the Quran on the floor.VERY disrespctfl