‘Homeland’ Season 2 Premiere Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated October 1st, 2012 at 7:45 am,

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes in Homeland Season 2 Homeland Season 2 Premiere Review

Whether or not you are of the mindset that Homeland trumps such television darlings as Mad Men and Breaking Bad in terms of cable television drama, it’s difficult to ignore just how taut and thrilling the series can be. Just look at how quickly the series brings things to a boil following a cooling period between seasons with a storyline that jumps forward in time, but manages to feel terrifyingly present in terms of the events in the Middle East and the way the American political machine is built almost entirely on hype.

Some time has passed since last season’s breathless finale, and things have largely quieted down in the respective households of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). For one thing, Carrie is living with her father and sister, teaching English as a second language, while Sergeant Brody is now Congressman Brody – and in a ridiculous, yet poignant stab at the insanity of an election year, the potential running mate of Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan). During the transition from increasingly paranoid CIA agent to humble English teacher, and American war hero to effortlessly popular political entity, the common ground that links them, Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban), has largely remained quiet. But, as luck (or the season premiere) would have it, the wheels of the international spy game and of global terrorist organizations never cease to spin.

And therein lies the basic, terrifying tenet of Homeland: In order for either of the series’ main characters to be given their day, something horrible will likely happen. This puts the audience on a permanent state of alert, paradoxically looking forward to a resolution, but knowing it may only be possible through some horrific occurrence.

Damian Lewis as Marcus Brody Homeland The Smile Homeland Season 2 Premiere Review

In the season premiere, ‘The Smile,’ Homeland is primarily concerned with reestablishing where Carrie and Brody have been, and showing how, at some point while the audience was away, both may have found themselves in a place where the thought of continuing on as they were became more distant, and that was largely a positive for them both. Because as each is sucked back into their respective positions, it doesn’t take long to see just how caustic it was for them to maintain such single-minded pursuits – and how, as Carrie later comes to realize, she relished the way that pursuit defined her.

But with no means of interaction, it’s no longer a game of cat and mouse between Carrie and Brody; it’s their pasts hunting each of them. And while, for the time being, anyway, this helps Homeland to avoid falling into the trap presented by its basic premise, it isn’t trying to rewrite how the series works, either. Brody is still very much at the whim of Abu Nazir, being contacted in his new office by a reporter (and fellow Nazir loyalist) named Roya (Zuleikha Robinson), with instructions to pull classified information out of a safe that happens to be in the office of CIA Deputy Director David Estes (David Harewood). And in the first hour, a small notebook left on a desk stands as a testament to just how well Homeland handles tension.

Meanwhile, Carrie responds to a request by Estes for assistance with the kind of reaction one wouldn’t expect, considering the way she was removed from the CIA. While Nazir’s request of Brody is treason, it feels downright simple compared to Estes asking Carrie to travel to Beirut and gather intelligence from the wife of a Hezbollah leader. The work means drudging up painful memories and emotions; it means working with Saul (Mandy Patinkin), and getting information about an imminent attack on America out of a source Carrie kept off the books and hasn’t seen in years. It means everything Carrie sacrificed so much to suppress comes flooding back to the surface once more.

Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson Homeland The Smile Homeland Season 2 Premiere Review

But Brody’s battle is increasingly set at home. His wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin), has moved past accepting her late husband’s sudden resurrection, and begun enjoying the profile that comes with being the wife of a man whose name is suddenly a hair’s breadth from the presidency. So when Dana (Morgan Saylor) outs him as a Muslim, to the disbelief of her class, but later, again to Jessica – a fact that Brody confirms – it’s clear the truth that separates the two distinct halves of Congressman Brody is beginning to dissolve. And once again, as it is with Carrie, Brody finds himself at war with the person he is now, and who he once was.

Homeland does many things very well, but one of them is the show’s awareness of just how long certain revelations must wait before they’re made known by its characters. Brody’s keeping a lot of secrets from his wife, but this one defines him. More importantly, Jessica’s response makes who she is clearer to the audience. She’s no longer an ancillary character who Brody has to keep secrets from; she’s now an active participant in keeping truths about her husband from the public he serves. The writers know that building tension is great, but sooner or later, if its not released – even in little doses – it has a tendency to go flat. The trick to keeping certain areas of apprehension high is by relieving the pressure every so often.

This, in turn, serves to highlight Homeland‘s ability to give its plots multiple threads to explore, while still managing to pull those threads into a cohesive line by the end of most episodes – that’s no simple feat, as often even the best serialized dramas opt to leave various threads dangling to be picked up (or not) several episodes down the line. The show is also blessed with an abundance of talent that, although it doubles up on two of the more popular forms of television characters right now, e.g., the unreliable protagonist and the morally ambiguous central character, manages to offer something unique and compelling about both. To their credit, Danes and Lewis are equally superb and affecting in their roles.

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland The Smile Homeland Season 2 Premiere Review

Most importantly, though, it’s the way Carrie and Brody manage to surprise, even when the audience is given information the CIA doesn’t. Having questions about your characters are the kind of questions a good series wants to have. There’s still plenty we don’t know about Brody and Carrie. And what’s most intriguing is the way both characters are tempted to lead the audience down the road of predictability, but wind up surprising. As Brody proclaims to be something other than what people perceive him as, the same can be said for nearly everything on Homeland.


Homeland continues next Sunday with ‘Beirut Is Back’ @10pm on Showtime.

TAGS: Homeland
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  2. Marcus Brody? Hmm..

  3. Dexter was on last night and your reviewing this garbage?

    • ^I am ‘like’ buttoning this comment :)

    • homeland is a very good show , dexter is good too. you have to respect two totally different series before you sit here and call it garbage

    • its not garbage , dexter and homeland are two totally different series with completely different plots

      • I agree, Jennifer. While I don’t think this is the best show, it is pretty damn close. They really made it to where you crave more. I also can’t believe they are doing this to a bi-polar former agent who finally fixed her life. But the smile at the end of that chase scene where she kicked her tail by kicking him in the junk, was priceless.

        I’m not on the computer enough to know or care what a troll is, but I think Sean & Rabbit would qualify. At least they qualify for something else. Why would they bother coming to this message board if they aren’t even fans of the show? Nothing else to do? Life must get lonely.

        • I was actually taking a dump at work at the time and was pissed that this was the best article

        • I was actually taking a dump at work at the time and was pissed that this was the best article but hey freedom of speech right? Nice paragraph btw lmfao

      • I do respect it just not as much as dexter lol its only my opinion

  4. Really looking foward to this season. When I first watched it last year i wasnt expecting much, just kind of left it on cause it was after Dexter. I was hooked from the first episode!! Last season was great and this show is becoming my favorite on tv. The acting and writing are superb and I can wait to see what’s going to happen to Carrie and Brody.

  5. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised bye how quick this hour moved and bye how much that happened.
    In the days leading up to the premire I was thinking that the season would start as a slow burn and it would be a couple of episodes before Carrie and Brody were back in action. But they really didn’t waste any time and episode 1 played out pretty great.
    The highlight without doubt was “The Smile”. I didn’t know that was the title of the episode until I read this review but now that I do I have to say it was perfect.

  6. Thanks , Kevin 7!
    I watched this twice and I just realized the signifigance of the title .

  7. I can only believe that any commentors that doubt Homeland’s quality have simply not seen the show. I used to think that a premise about terrorist conspiracies wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but after ceaselessly hearing my DISH coworkers talking about the first season, I decided I had to see this show for myself. As it turns out, Homeland is brilliant, suspenseful and flawlessly executed. Like you guys mentioned, I know Dexter and tons of other great shows air on Sundays, but Homeland is worth making room for. I’m just lucky that my Hopper DVR has more than enough memory space to house everything from Dexter to Boardwalk Empire to Homeland, or else I don’t know how I’d keep up. Sundays are seriously starting to be my favorite night of the week!

    • I know its sad i look foreward to sunday more than friday lol

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