A Bazaar, a Chase, and a Swift Kick to the Groin
A Television Review
By Akash Singh
FULL SPOILERS FOLLOW!
Homeland begins its highly anticipated season two with a thrilling premiere that promises to set up a brilliant season. We pick up with Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) looking oddly calm while gardening, which frankly are the last things we expect Carrie to do – it’s like expecting Game of Thrones’ Walder Frey to hand out free cookies to the peasants of the Riverlands. But it’s frankly nice to see her in a place where she’s at least calm – Carrie deserves it. So here we are, with a quick recap and analysis.
The news begins with an Israeli strike against five Iranian nuclear reactors (how timely) and we discover Carrie’s father worrying about the amount of lithium she’s consuming in her medications. Carrie it turns out also teaches English to non-native speakers – another odd job for her, and this is where Danny (Hirach Titatzan) shows up a bit later, telling Carrie Estes (David Harewood) wanted to talk to her. Now as far as I am concerned, that jack has quite the nerve even looking in her direction after he tore her apart in Season 1’s excellent The Vest, let alone asking her for a meeting. She tells Galvez openly that Estes was right and she didn’t belong at the CIA, but we see very clearly how big of a lie that is immediately after she closes the door.
Protests rage outside the American embassy in Beirut, as angry protestors burn Israeli and American flags in leiu of Israel rejecting the death toll reported from its airstrikes. We meet Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) there, all calm and reserved as he watches all hell break loose outside the windows. He receives intel of an Arabic woman wishing to give information about a terrorist attack on America and we finally get to see Saul in action, in beard! He’s quite the crafty fellow, although I assume that’s to be expected of someone in his position. The contact, however, refuses to talk to him at all – she only trusts Carrie (which then leads to Galvez talking to Carrie).
Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is now a Congressman as was heavily pointed towards last season. In the gap between seasons one and two, however, it has appeared that Nicholas has grown quite popular, being informed by Vice President NAME Walden (Jamey Sheridan) that he is under consideration of his own post, as Walden himself is running for president. Progress, Brody, progress. Last season you almost blew yourself to bits, and now you might become the Vice President of the United States of America. See, life does get better. If a potential suicide bomber can turn his life around, then so can M. Night Shyamalan. The amusing thing here, if dark noir comedy is your thing, is that Walden had Brody “thoroughly vetted”, although they did miss the minute detail that he was a suicide bomber last season who almost blew off an entire echelon of the American government with a flip of a switch. Hey, you can’t catch every detail now, can you?
Jessica Brody meanwhile is enjoying the life, which under all consideration she does deserve to quite a degree. The poor thing hasn’t exactly had it easy. She loves the panache they’re surrounded by, it makes her absolutely ecstatic – it is quite clear that this is her niche. Considering how much she was against Brody running for Congress, she is now positively pushing him off the proverbial cliff. I wonder if First Lady potentially would be enough for her. Enter the Brody kids Chris and Dana, the first whom just apparently exists for the sake of existence and the second of whom has a personality like the Rotten Tomatoes score for an Adam Sandler movie recently. Jessica makes an astute observation that at sixteen, she was working and saving up money for community college. Brody was repeating his sophomore year of high school (and now he’s a political hotshot with a chance at one of the highest positions in elected government). Which just tells you kids how much GPAs really do matter. Just work hard.
Carrie arrives home to see a car opposite her house, and she immediately thinks of Estes. Her sister Maggie informs her that Saul has been calling her. It turns out Estes is in the car outside her home. Carrie is naturally incensed – it’s Thursday night, and she was going to make vegetable lasagna with vegetables she picked in the morning from her background garden. Only Claire Danes’s performance can make vegetables sound even remotely threatening. She meets Estes after protesting vehemently with Saul, and honestly, who can blame her? And frankly, Estes deserves a good round kick to every body part possible. He informs her of the Arabic woman from the beginning of the episode, whom Carrie identifies as Fatima Ali, wife of Abbas Ali, the Hezbollah District Commander, one of Carrie’s recruits. It turns out she was a secret recruit, kept under wraps by Carrie to prevent Fatima’s death and presumable torture before so. He informs her that Fatima, who hadn’t contacted Carrie since 2005, had info and Carrie despite herself has her interest piqued. Fatima will only talk to Carrie. Estes also makes it clear that he only wants Carrie to meet in secret with the wife of a Hezbollah district commander and possibly get murdered or worse in the process and that she would be back in three days if she was still alive. I had always presumed Estes couldn’t become a bigger ass than he was, but color me corrected. Carrie is continuously peeved and makes a stand against Estes, but she relents and packs. Maggie makes a good point of Carrie being idiotic for trusting the CIA “after what they did to you”, but Carrie points out she trusts Saul. But there’s little conviction within her voice. Maggie is furious, but her father tells her to let Carrie go.
We switch back to Brody’s office, where we are introduced to a reporter named Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson), who is a friend of Nazir’s, a family friend whose connections run back to 1947 in Palestine. Brody freaks out and then Roya very pointedly says that Issa would have turned thirteen the following Monday if he had survived the drone strike. She needs target info and even has the codes to Estes’s safe. Brody reluctantly agrees, the Issa push by Roya working its trick.
Dana meanwhile is at her Quaker school, which frankly looks like absolute torture. A girl stands up and makes a point of how illogical it was that Israel would bomb Iran to prevent Iran from bombing them. Finn Walden (NAME), the son of the Vice President, makes a point that Israel had the right to defend itself. Then a kid named Tad gets up, beginning with his contention that Muslims don’t value life “the way we do” and contends that we should give the Muslims a nuke or two before they ineavitable strike at us. Dana calls him a douche and accidentally blurts out that her dad is a Muslim. Jessica is furious and here she comes across as extremely unlikeable. It is frank that she cared less about Dana’s comments than her potentially alienating the Brodys from the lifestyle she had fallen in love with. Speaking of lifestyles at home…
In a dramatic and incredibly awkward moment, Brody comes clean about being a Muslim. Jessica races into the garage, tearing it apart to find the Quran. She holds it up and the exchange follows roughly like this:
“These are the people who tortured you! These are the people that if they knew Dana and Xander were having sex would throw stones at her in a soccer stadium!”
She throws the Quran on the ground.
“That’s not supposed to touch the ground!”
“Did – you – actually – just – say – that?”
“Does she know?” Jessica asks, mentioning Carrie’s tirade on their front lawn in the season one finale.
“She was fired by the CIA and locked up in a mental asylum.”
Then Brody is at the CIA itself, meeting up with Estes. He mentions only having 8 predator drones above Baghdad when he joined and now there’s over 8,000-9,000. If only other things grew at that pace, like the bell peppers in my garden or the education expenditures. Roya is there as well, providing a great window of opportunity for Brody to get the codes, which he promptly does. Not too keen on information, and then Roya asks Estes out for dinner. Even for a terrorist, Roya can do better.
Brody goes to his backyard to bury the desecrated Quran and Dana joins him. It’s touching to see the both of them like this, calm, quiet, understanding each other in ways that no one else in their family can. But how long is it before his truth is revealed?
Carrie arrives in Beirut after a harrowing brief in Nicosia, Cyprus in which she goes brunette. Even temporary undercover CIA agents need adventure for their hair. There’s a lovely fruit basket with a clandestine note. The meeting between her and Saul, however, is rudely prevented from occurring by a couple men who are presumably Hezbollah’s men. Saul options for Carrie to be taken into custody but naturally, Carrie being Carrie, she does exactly the opposite when a man recognizes her. And so the chase begins. A bazaar, a dead end, and a kick to the groin. As Carrie races away triumphant, the episode’s titular smile opens upon her visage – this is where she belongs. It’s thrilling.
Title: The Smile
Writer: Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa
Director: Michael Cuesta
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