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Homeland 2.01 "The Smile"

A tv review article by: Dylan Garsee

 

I really hope Homeland doesn’t go the way of Weeds or Dexter and become really terrible. Both of these shows marked Showtime becoming a serious contender in creating original content that could be seen on the same level as HBO programming. Now both of those shows have turned into parodies of themselves, especially Weeds, whose series finale was met with cheers of “finally!” Now with Homeland’s Outstanding Drama Series Emmy, the show has to not only reaffirm its acclaim, but also ensure that it doesn’t fall down the same pit that its fellow shows fell trap to.

Thankfully, with “The Smile”, we don’t have to worry about that just yet. Six months after the bleak finale “Marine One”, Sgt. Brodie is now Congressman Brodie (Damian Lewis) and CIA Operative Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is now and ESL teacher. Both have taken paths less exciting than their previous jobs, but after the events of last season, who wouldn’t? However calm both of their lives seem at the moment, things quickly change when the Vice President (Jamey Sheridan) suggests that he would choose Brodie as his running mate in the upcoming presidential election. Brodie informally and uncharacteristically accepts the offer with a “hell yes!” Brodie then meets with a journalist, Roya (Zuleikha Robinson), who reveals herself to be working with Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban), and asks him to break into Estes’ safe and take the list of potential targets of attack against Abu Nazir.

What makes Homeland so brilliant is that it makes the audience celebrate and cheer for the success of a man who is using his power to influence policy to aid a terrorist organization. I watched the scene where Brodie breaks into Estes’ safe through webbed fingers while shouting at the screen. Similar to this season of Breaking Bad when Walt put the wire tap in Hank’s office, I couldn’t believe myself for cheering on the villain, but that’s why Damian Lewis and Bryan Cranston have Emmy’s, and I don’t.

Carrie is normal now. “Normal” in the sense that she isn’t as insane as she was last season. She lives with her dad and sister, teaches ESL to adults, and, in Carrie’s words, COOKS VEGETABLE LASAGNA WITH VEGETABLES SHE PICKED THIS MORNING! Her calm life is shaken up, as usual, by an appearance by her former boss Estes (David Harewood), who doesn’t force her to go to Beirut, but highly suggests it. Carrie gives in against her sister’s warning and leaves anyway.

Former mentor Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is currently in Beirut with a woman who supposedly has information about an upcoming attack, but refuses to talk to anyone but Carrie, who was her handler the last time she was overseas. After taking on a new identity, which looks strangely like Mary Louise-Parker, Carrie meets up with this woman, only to be followed by a Lebanese police officer. After subtly attacking the man and fleeing the scene, Carrie lets loose a monster of a smile, unable to control the fact that she is now back in action. That smile, while only lasting a second contains so much joy and fear that Claire Danes should just pre-submit this episode for the 2013 Emmy Awards.

The only one of Brodie’s children the writers seem to care about (the daughter, Dana - Morgan Saylor) gets into an argument in class at her preppy D.C. Quaker School, and accidentally blurts out that her father, Congressman and former Marine Brodie, is in fact a Muslim. While brushed off as a joke, word gets out and by the time Brodie gets home from stealing classified government secrets, his wife confronts him on this allegation. And Brodie admits that, yes, he is a Muslim. Scared, upset, and shocked that her husband, Mr. All-American Marine is a Muslim, Jessica finds is Quaran, and throws it on the ground, and Brodie is visibly pained at his wife’s actions, seeming more upset that his sacred text is desecrated than the fact that his wife is so furious with him that she’s in tears. We have yet to see the repercussions of this getting out, but with America’s aversion to Muslims, this can’t bode well for Brodie, and may be a wrench in his master plan.

What gives me only the slightest bit of trepidation is the sort of CBS procedural-esque actions some of the characters took to push the plot along. Roya using femme fatale techniques against Estes would make since if her character was slinky and mysterious, instead of the nameless beltway journalist she is written as. She needs to be tightened up, which I have total faith the writers can accomplish.

It’s been a long nine months, but Homeland is back in full swing, and this is just the beginning. With eleven more episodes, and the stakes even higher, this season is guaranteed to be nothing short of insane. Whether this will be insanely good like Breaking Bad, or mind numbingly insane like American Horror Story, we’ll just have to see. Right now, I’m hoping and wishing for the best. But remember, this is Showtime we’re talking about here.


Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.

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