It’s quite surprising when you see a US television show deal with a sensitive issue head-on. So it seems like quite an apt, but ballsy, move that some of the first images we see in Homeland’s second season opener involve protests at the US Embassy in Lebanon, which are clearly in danger of spinning out of control. Months have past since the conclusion to the first season and now the US are faced with a potential new terrorist threat. So, in much the same way Jack Bauer was, Carrie Mathison is brought out of retirement to help the C.I.A. get information about a potential attack from the wife of a Hezbollah commander hiding in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Nicholas Brody is now a congressman and potential running mate to the vice-president in the forthcoming election, unless the plans of Abu Nazir get in the way.
Throughout the course of Homeland’s first season, the tension was constantly racked up to deliver a superior finale that held you firmly on the edge of your seat. Thankfully, season 2 is not trying to top the excitement of the season 1 finale, but instead begins to rebuild the tension, before accelerating the pace during the final third of the episode. By the time we see Carrie running through the streets of Beirut, away from some pursuers, you shall be well and truly hooked.
As is to be expected, the acting is top quality from all of the regular cast members, especially the two leads. Danes does a fantastic job of making Carrie an unjust victim; she is still furious at the way the C.I.A. turned their backs on her, Estes in particular, and is more than a little apprehensive about returning to duty. This adds an interesting new layer of vulnerability to Carrie; not only do we have to worry about her mental state getting the better of her, now we worry she may be professionally out of her depth.
Meanwhile, Damian Lewis captures Brody’s changing state of mind effortlessly. Brody is now a congressman and his life is clearly getting back on track, and the shock and worry when ‘a friend of a friend’ appears is plain to see. Brody is no longer the constantly relaxed character he was for the majority of the first season; the activities of the previous season finale appears to have had an affect on him and he is now, if anything, just as vulnerable as Carrie. At one point Brody exclaims “I’m not a terrorist”; suggesting that he wants to, but may not be able to, put the events of the last season behind him. But, as always, we are left asking ourselves; whose side is he really on?
This ‘friend of a friend’ is a reporter played by Zuleikha Robinson, who grew up knowing Nazir and is now helping him pass information to Brody. This new character lays the groundwork for the narrative of this season, with Abu Nazir seemingly not as content with Brody’s plan to sabotage America from within the government as he was before.
The Smile is a sensational opening episode to the new series of Homeland, laying groundwork for the narrative while continuing to be exciting and unpredictable with spectacular performances to boot. Homeland is back and is once again the best thing on the TV!