TV REVIEW: Homeland season two opener does not disappoint
Episode: 1,“The Smile”
By: Willard, 1 October 2012
After nine long months, Showtime’s runaway hit and Emmy juggernaut Homeland is finally back. After emerging last fall as one of television’s best new dramas, expectations from fans of the series are higher than ever, and the first chapter of it’s sophomore season doesn’t disappoint. The tension is racheted up bigtime, courtesy of show creator and former “24″ head honcho Alex Gansa. Things get jittery literally seconds into the episode, when we learn Israel has bombed multiple Nuclear reactors in Iran, sparking protests around the Middle East, including one at the American Embassy in Beirut. Right off the bat, they’re hitting dangerous close to home(land).
When we last left our disgraced heroine Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), she had been abruptly fired from her job as a counterterrorism agent with the CIA, and was electively undergoing electroshock therapy to treat her bipolar condition (a fairly incovenient malady, considering her career and National Security clearance level).
Season two opens six months down the road, and it appears that Carrie has put her all-encompassing professional and personal obsession with former POW, new Congressman, AND current terrorist Sergeant Nicholas Brody entirely behind her. As a result of her EST treatments, Carrie no longer “remembers Issa” (a key plot point in season one) and is now happily teaching an English as a second language course at a local Community College and enjoying gardening.
Sergeant Brody (Damien Lewis) has also been quite busy, as he’s now a Congressman and his name is even being floated as a potential VP candidate in the upcoming Presidential election. Mrs. Brody (the pixie-ish Morena Baccarin) is practically orgasmic over the news, and has obviously embraced her husband’s skyrocketing political career since expressing a decidedly bitchy attitude about the whole damn thing late last season. Their appropriately sullen teenage daughter Dana, (Morgan Saylor) is visibly less-than-impressed. One episode in, and it’s already crystal clear that Dana and her “Sumpin’s up wit Pop” vibe will be playing a big part of the proceedings moving forward. Brody’s close relationship with Dana makes her suspicions a little more potent than your average pain-in-the-ass teenager. She is her father’s weakness, and is quickly becoming a liability – on a multitude of levels.
Meanwhile, at the CIA – The shit is already, albeit unsurprisingly, going down. Carrie’s former mentor and father figure Saul Berenson (Mandy Patankin) and his incredible beard are no longer pushing pencils at Langley. He’s actually doing real “spy stuff”! After switching vehicles 007 style during a mild car chase, he meets with a female “asset” in Beirut that claims to have information about an impending terrorist attack on America. The catch? She needs to speak to Carrie, who as it turns out, recruited her. Hmmm, imagine that. While this little subplot of convenience does strain the credibility factor a little, it’s certainly more plausible than Brody’s meteoric and improbable rise from POW hero to Congressman in just a few short months.
Anxiety scrawled over his clammy, sweat-beaded brow – Lewis continues his dense, ambiguous portrayal of an impossibly conflicted man. His rise as the great American hero for a post 9/11 America at home has given him more power, but ironically, he’s now under more scrutiny than ever from his terrorist handlers and Bin Laden-esque boss, Abu Nazir – who is pressuring Brody to make something happen. They want action and as a result, Brody is being backed into a corner he won’t be able to talk himself out of. The Congressman’s Stockholm Syndrome is ebbing fast, and Nazir knows it.
Predictably, the CIA asks Carrie to travel to Beirut to speak with the asset. After an on-the-job visit from a former underling, a hat-in-hand plea from Daddy Saul, plus a house call from her former boss and chocolate lover David Estes, she agrees to go – much to her protective family’s consternation. You knew she would. She had to. She just doesn’t want us to get hit again!
Brody’s increasingly comfortable world comes crashing down when an Al Qaeda-esque operative masquerading as a friendly journalist (cue NBC’s “intense” background music) invades his private office, and delivers the newly-minted Congressman a vague, yet threatening ultimatum. Across town, as if on cue, Daughter Brody interrupts what looks like a prep school young Republicans meeting, and reveals to an entire congregation of politically-connected snot-nosed Quaker youth, her father – (the Congressman! In case you forgot) is indeed a converted Muslim. Doh!!
MEANWHILE……..Carrie is just trying to get back to gettin’ her CIA groove on, but despite a seven dollar box of Ms. Clairol and some opaque contact lenses – she mad. It’s cool, though.. SHE JUST DOESN’T WANT US TO GET HIT AGAIN!
Back at the Brody cell, Dana’s douchehole classmate totally sold her out and Jessica finds out Nick has converted to Islam. This also sets off recent memories of cray-cray Carrie in the front yard, telling.. No, SCREAMING to 2/3rds of the Brody family he was a terrorist, and claimed he was out to kill the Vice President and half a dozen other Government officials. The seed has been planted. Awwwwww, shit! This is probably going to affect Nick’s status as a “floated potential VP candidate”, but we won’t be sure until next Sunday.
Later in Langleyville, Brody almost tips his hand in a brief, but tense sitdown with Director Estes. Estes is then summoned before a journalist, who (Duh-Duh Duhhhhhhhhh!) is Brody’s terrorist handler. Is Estes in on this shizznit? We don’t know, but he is toally down with getting some Arab tail. Either way, she can make Mr. Sexual Necktie Chocolate squirm.
Carrie has hit the streets of Beirut, and is being tailed by a baddie – No worries, though… She ducks into the local Burkas-R-Us, changes her head dress and pistol-whips the evil bastard.
What makes Homeland such a tight, incredibly crucial drama about terrorism, is that it is extraordinarily realistic – there are no Kiefer Sutherlands or Bruce Willises climbing skyscrapers or Federal Office buildings bursting at the seams with Jihadist spies.. That’s what makes it great. What is is truth? We don’t know. What happened to Brody’s suicide video? There was obviously a CIA mole last season, whats up with that? What kind of name is “Morena Baccarin”, anyway? Will we get to see her breasts next week?