Homeland: “The Smile”
Riding the Emmy wave, the season two premiere is a solid set-up for things to come.
October 3, 2012 9:34 pmAdam Blackwell
Homeland's first season was everything an audience could want in a television thriller. An intricately written, sensational drama that, while coming from the creators of 24, echoed more of Hitchcock's Rear Window than the overly patriotic adventures of Jack Bauer. Claire Danes' Carrie Matheson and Damian Lewis' Nicholas Brody are two of the most complex characters in television, and the cat-and-mouse game between them kept viewers guessing and ultimately won Emmys for both actors, as well as a best drama series writing and the top-honor best drama Emmy for the show.
The second season premiere, titled “The Smile”, spends most of its time explaining what has happened to the characters in the months that have passed since the events of last season's finale. Both of our main characters are completely out of their element; Carrie is living a content, “normal” life, having moved in with her sister and father and teaching English as a second language. Sergeant Brody is now Congressman Brody (replacing the hilariously named Richard Johnson from last season), and his relationship with the Vice President has gone so far that the veep is floating his name as a potential VP candidate for his own presidential run...which is kind of ridiculous, considering Brody had been living in a hole for 8 years prior. But, as Brody himself says, his name carries a lot of weight with the American people these days.
Of course, just as both Brody and Carrie are starting to feel comfortable in their new lives, their pasts catch up with them. Brody's call to action comes in the form of a reporter and fellow friend of Abu Nazir, Roya (Zuleikha Robinson), who gives him a task straight from Nazir: to retrieve classified information from a safe that happens to be (where else?) in the office of CIA Deputy Director David Estes (David Harewood). Brody tries to refuse, saying “I am not a terrorist”, yet the look on his face reveals just how much he is struggling with his identity - is he the American war hero and family man everyone thinks he is? Or is he a “freedom fighter”, out to avenge the deaths of innocent children at the hands of the Vice President? Ultimately Brody decides to go through with Nazir's plan, resulting in an incredibly tense scene that had me literally on the edge of my seat.
In the meantime, Carrie comes home from teaching to a phone call from her old pal Saul (the incredible Mandy Patinkin), asking for her help. Estes, who was already waiting outside of Carries house, reveals her newest mission: one of Carrie's old sources has information on an attack on America, and refuses to speak to anyone but her. Carrie is forced to come to try to come to terms with everything she left behind at Langley, as well as leave behind her new, loving, family life. The way Carrie is suddenly dragged back into working for the agency was a little cliché, but honestly, it had to happen. Carrie's intelligence, paranoia, and whatever-it-takes drive are all huge parts of what makes Homeland great, and we don't really get to see any of those traits come forward when she's still sitting at home grading blue books.
Carrie is sent to Lebanon, and here we see that she's still not the badass super-spy she was in season one. She's sleeping in late, can hardly remember the details of her cover, and, not being able to deal with the stress, considering going home. She's almost completely lost the edge that once made her a terrorist's worst nightmare. However, the euphoric smile (note the episode title) on her face after she evades a tail shows us that she hasn't forgotten everything, and that despite how much she might need the simple citizen's life to keep her from another mental breakdown, she belongs out in the field with the agency.
One of the reasons Homeland's first season was so great was the interactions between Carrie and Brody, and we don't get to see any of that in this episode- but we know it's coming. As Jessica makes it clear in the garage scene, Brody's Achilles heel as a politician is his religion, and there are only so many people that know he is a Muslim...one of them being Carrie. And let's not forget that not only was Carrie in love with Brody, but the last season left us with quite the cliffhanger: Carrie's realization that Brody was having nightmares about Abu Nazir's son, Issa.
Some aspects of the episode were a little melodramatic, the prime example being the final scene where Dana and Brody bury Brody's desecrated Koran to some almost hilariously cheesy music. Yet most of the time, the drama is very real, with all credit due to the performances from the actors. While Homeland's supporting cast is nothing short of incredible (Morgan Saylor as Dana was awesome this episode), and Danes definitely deserved that Emmy, the real star in this episode was Damien Lewis. The look of rage and pain on Brody's face when the vice president makes an offhand comment about drone strikes wordlessly reveals the emotion within Lewis' character as he recalls the memory of Issa.
Just like Carrie, we can't expect the first episode of this season to just jump right back into the complicated, somewhat unresolved shitstorm that was last season. Like any good drama, things need time to set up before we can start to watch them fall apart. Bottom line: if you were a fan of last season, be patient- the cloaks and daggers will soon come. If you're new to the series, you should definitely take the time to watch all of the first season before this one. You can thank me later.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10