Homeland Season 2 Review “The Smile”

Homeland Season 2 Review The Smile

With one swift knee to the groin, Crazy Carrie has returned.

By the end of last season on Homeland, we knew several things: Brody was a terrorist, Carrie was clinically insane, Mrs. Brody was really attractive, and Saul was exceptional at both intelligence gathering and spreading peanut butter with a ruler. Also, after Carrie was disgraced in her dismissal from the agency before undergoing (valuable) memory erasing electroshock, we all knew that it was going to take quite a plot contrivance to get her back in the game. Certainly the cynical television watcher could look at the plot contrivance used to get Carrie on a plane to Cyprus and be disappointed, but I choose to look at the bright side of things really like Homeland so its okay. Carrie Mathison is back to doing Carrie Mathison things. Would you rather her stay home and make vegetable lasagna for the family? I thought not.

Ultimately, this episode will be remembered for Carrie’s decision to return, but seeing Carrie attempt to gain a measure of peace living with her family did create some interesting opportunities for Claire Danes. We did see Carrie vulnerable last season, but her uneasy tranquility at the start of this season was fascinating to watch in its own right. Watching Danes portray this character as her little insulated world crumbles is a good reminder that Danes really is the best actress on television right now. It may not be close.

Though she let her vulnerability show through frequently in this episode, we got a beautifully crafted reminder that the Carrie we came to love(?) last season is still in there. The sequence that led to the moment that lends its name to the episode was both harrowing and well put together. The smile at the end of the sequence lets us all in on Carrie Mathison’s thoughts: Saul may hate asking her to do it, but Carrie will never be as happy in suburbia with her sister as she will be in a Middle Eastern nation being chased by terrorists. Maybe Carrie’s dad is right about this one. She can’t run from who she is.

While we all win because Crazy Carrie is back, it’s hard to see anybody but Brody as this week’s big winner. Despite being a congressman for all 5 minutes, Brody is approached by the Vice-POTUS to be considered as a running mate (talk about your plot contrivances). While you’re head is still spinning from that announcement, the Abu Nazir-friendly Washington reporter tells Brody that he’s going to need to steal some information with Estes. Even though I’m all for making David Estes look foolish (Team Carrie!), Brody is making it tougher and tougher to empathize with him. We’re going to need some more Issa flashbacks before Brody starts to be seen as nothing more than a terrorist monster. Still, scenes like the one at the end where he and his daughter bury a Quran (after Mrs. Brody desecrates it) is a very touching scene. It’s a sweet moment between a father and a daughter that further goes to illustrate why he put down the bomb trigger switch at the end of last season. It will be interesting to watch Brody continue to squirm as they ramp up the tension throughout the season, but moments like the final scene allow Damian Lewis to ground the character. These moments are important to the overall health of the show, and Lewis plays them brilliantly. What a great episode to back up his Emmy win from last week.

The other takeaway I had from watching this episode is exactly how relevant and worldly this show is. As Saul attempts to leave the US embassy he’s working from, the drive through the Arab protesters in Beirut reminded me of the riots that killed a US ambassador in Libya and damaged several other embassies. I can’t help but wonder if there will be people upset by the scene because of the recent events in the Middle East. In typical Homeland style, no side is taken by the show after it presents that scene or the Israeli attacks on Iran to open the season. It’s a fascinating way to look at Middle East relations. Homeland is one of the rare dramas on cable these days that looks outward more than it looks inward. It is a show that is truly OF our times. I guess the twists, intrigue, and standout performances aren’t bad either.

What did you think of tonight’s Homeland?