Homeland's Season 2 Premiere: Fifty Shades of Grey

Homeland S02E01: "The Smile"

Homeland has a great premise... for a miniseries, many say. Winning the major categories at the Emmys was easy. Keeping the series going into a second season? Now that's hard. But Homeland's Season 2 premiere, "The Smile" (oh that smile!), didn't disappoint and made its case that this series has enough direction to keep things interesting for another season.

What made Homeland's first season so remarkable was the very black-and-white question that propped up the series: Is Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) working for Al Qaeda? There was no "sorta." Brody wasn't kinda working for terrorists. He either was or he wasn't, and the game that executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa were playing was on us, making the case that he was working for the bad guys through the eyes of an untrustworthy bipolar CIA agent, and making the case that he wasn't working for the bad guys through the eyes of Brody himself, the accused war hero and family man. But no matter how you looked at it, there were only two answers: yes or no. It was black or white. And when we found out the answer to that burning question in the later episodes, there was enough momentum to ride out the season with snipers, bombs, and assassination plots. Season 1's structure and pace was about as perfect as a single season gets.

Things are looking a lot grayer in Season 2 as the main question has evolved. It's no longer IS Brody working for Al Qaeda, but how far is he willing to go with them? Does his faith match that of Abu Nazir's? Will his responsibility to his family trump his allegiance to his religion? And that's the conflict Season 2 needs to maintain the sense of paranoia that made Season 1 so great. While that's most important for Brody's character, it also carries over to Carrie Matheson's (Claire Danes). Shamed and exiled by the CIA but temporarily brought back, Carrie's now caught between doing what she loves and partnering with people she can no longer trust. Smashing these characters and spreading them across the page in a blur until we're unsure of what they'll do next is vital to the series, and somehow we're no more certain of their behavior than we were before, even with a full season's worth of hanging out with them under our belt vest. And we haven't even thrown in any romance yet!

"The Smile" had a lot of housekeeping to do early on, which made for an uneventful beginning as we played catch up. We jumped forward months to find Carrie at a more peaceful time of her life, gardening and teaching English to non-English speakers. Brody used the summer vacation to join Congress and speed-climb the D.C. mountain, and has already been pegged as a potential vice-presidential candidate for Walden. But there are lots of unanswered questions. What were the effects of Carrie's electro-shock therapy, if any? Memory doesn't seem to be an issue, and the pill regimen appears the same. How does a released prisoner of war go from a bearded waif to knocking on the door of second-most-powerful man in the world? He couldn't even tell you the last eight Super Bowl champs, which sadly counts for a lot in voters' minds. It will be interesting to see if Homeland takes shots at answering these questions, or whether it just presses forward so much that we're forced to accept them as things of the past, like the series' questionable explanation of how Brody turned in "Crossfire."

But Homeland is so good at creating excellent individual moments that trains our focus on the present. There were at least four outstanding scenes in the opener, two of which showed masterful control of tension. Dana's schooling of her narrow-minded classmate was choice (I seem to be one of the rare fans of Dana out there; for all her angst, there's a bright girl in there who knows right from wrong), and Brody's admission to Jessica that he was Muslim and the ensuing fit thrown in the garage was a bomb I didn't expect to drop so soon into the season (Morena Baccarin also turned in her best work of the series in that scene). But it was Brody riffling through Estes' office and Carrie's evasion through the streets of Lebanon that showed off Homeland's ability to make the audience feel so uncomfortable. They're simple scenes, really, and we've seen plenty of shows do similar things, but in the hands of Homeland's directors and crew the stakes seem that much higher and the misses that much narrower.

It's that smile, though, that sends the episode into the territory of television that deserves little golden statuettes. Naming the episode "The Smile" is bold and arrogant, like a guitar player naming a song "My Guitar Solo," but it's played so incredibly well by Danes and it's such a Carrie moment–an instance that sums up a character–that it's well deserved. Sure, plots to vaporize America are interesting, but Homeland's main attraction without a doubt is Carrie Matheson and her raging battle between her brittle psyche and brilliant mind, and the childish exuberance she exhibits after kicking her pursuer in the sensitive man goods and ducking out of a crowded Lebanese marketplace is exhilarating for her and us; it's an immersive shared moment between the character and the audience. She's not flying into danger because she wants to stop terrorist plots, she's there because she NEEDS to be there. Just like she NEEDS to be with Brody. But that good romance stuff–my favorite part of the series–is still yet to come. Yes, thanks to its complicated characters, Homeland has enough left to become one of the longest miniseries ever.



NOTES

– I'm totally okay with making this season more Cloak and Dagger-ish. "The Smile" showed the series can pull that off.

– Hey look! It's Zuleikha Robinson, as the journalist that's working with Abu Nazir! Already, Robinson's character is way more important than her character Ilana was in Lost. How far up does Nazir have people? And how common is it for journalists to take the Director of the CIA out for dinner?

– Still wondering why there was no room for Mandy Patinkin (Saul) to get nominated for an Emmy. He's absolutely fantastic.

– Another moment deserving of recognition was Saul calling Carrie to ask her to help out the CIA. The silences in the conversation carried so much weight. That's just two actors turning a simple phone call into something so much more, and the writers enriching the scene by not over-writing.

– All you Dana-haters out there need to ask yourself a question: Is Chris any better? Or worse? That kid needs something to do.

– Dana and Brody's relationship continues to be one of the more intriguing tandems on the show, and it's all taken shape from the Season 1 episode where Brody took her to see all those locks locked on the fence. Her fights with her mom clearly push her towards dad, and I think the rebel in her is fascinated by her dad's choice of religion, hence she's more interested in the Muslim practice than repulsed by it, as Jessica is. Is Dana on her way to converting to her daddy's religion? I've got her praying five times a day by Episode 4.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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I think that I am the only one who loves Dana ( her relationship with her father) and hates the eommance between Carrie and Brody, I liked when they hooked up the first time, but no the weekend and I would feel dispponted if they come back together
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Fantastic episode.

Also, I love Dana. While she has her heart in the right place, she's acting a bit bratty. But hey, she's 16, her dad was a prisoner of war for most of her life and her mother cheated on her dad and is mainly a slight pain in the ass. So yeah, she can be a bit bratty.
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I enjoyed this episode. With the bar set as high as it deserves, this wasn't an outstanding episode, but it was a solid setup, and easily reminded us why we were looking forward to the show's return.

As far as Brody's dilemma, it's really the only thing that could be expected at this point. He can't be a full-blown terrorist, as I don't think enough people would sit through that, but he can't just wipe his slate clean, as it would defeat the purpose of last season. I expect Brody to deliver certain things to Nazir, but I also expect Brody to foil just as many for him, and the same for the VP.

So yeah, the best parts will fall into the grey, where we find out just how much he's willing to do in both directions, and the consequences that follow.
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I actually really like Dana, and after her defensive speech at school I now like her even more. Jessica's reaction to Brody being muslim was horrible, for being a cheating btch she's kind of narrow minded. I do hope that Brody stays muslim, it would be sad to see him let his beliefs go just because of his wife's disapproval.
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wow I was expecting this episode so much!!! it was great, i love carrie and her crazy eyes
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What a smile! What an episode!
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what an excellent episode i cant help but fell that carrie will get shat on agian by the agency and i feel theres going to be lots of plot twists such as towards the end they will realize that carrie was correct when they take down brody maybe with a few bullets the marines will disclose that brody was infact still working for the government all along or maybe they arrest him then turn him and the next season will be him trying not to get found out by nazir who infact knows as saul is the real traitor im sure it was him that sllipped the razor blade and tipped of the terrorists every time they got close to being caught last season
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Making Mandy Patinkin the bad guy? Impossible. (I hope)
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The main question for me this season is probably who I am rooting for. I can't figure it out. I don't condone acts of terrorism. But season 1 showed us American terrorist-like attacks on Iraqi soil, so really the question for me is - who's the 'bigger' terrorist? Who should I be rooting for? Carrie is a homeland security pawn. She's doing what she believes is right, but the 'truth' is above her pay-grade, she's hasn't lived on the other side. Brody, on the other hand, has. He knows what despicable acts of cruelty has been committed by 'his' side, and is also fully aware of the actions of al-Qaeda. He has made a more informed decision on who to fight for. At the same time you can't fully dismiss the idea that he has been manipulated severely during his imprisonment.

So - who should I be rooting for? I find myself rooting for both Carrie and Brody, while disgusted by the organizations they represent. I can't wait to explore the two sides more during this season.

Also, loved the episode.
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And that is precisely what makes this show so compelling. There are no *just* good guys or *just* bad guys (even Nasir is made slightly sympathetic due to the loss of his son which gives him a powerful - and justifiable to an extent - motive). As in real life, truth and the notions of right and wrong are much more complicated than it may seem on the surface.
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Pleasant return. Held the eyes glued to the screen from the beginning to the end. The smile of Carrie was the epic moment of the whole series to me and Claire Daines nails her in a way that she deserves a powerful standing ovation anytime. Brody's dilemma, this season, maybe. Then I think that there will be also the definitive return on the pitch of Carrie, with consequent problems of not little account. Great season premiere and very beautiful (the pursuit of Carrie above all) scenes.
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Well I must say it disappointed me. Homeland had an excellent first season up until the ending when it suddenly turned to awful in just a few minutes. And so far this season premiere is not leaving me optimistic for the future. It just seems like this series was about the Carrie-Brody confrontation. The climax towards which the entire show was geared has passed (and left a bad taste). Once that's gone, what's left? Brody running for Congress? Meh. Carrie's adventures in rehab/Beirut? Double meh. it's like a whole season about nothing at all. Hope they have a plan I'm not seeing yet.
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Seriously? First of all Brody isn't running for Congress (that happened between the seasons). Now he's about to become the vice-president in the running. Can you comprehend the idea of a terrorist having full access to the kind of sensitive information a vice-president has? And than passing that intel on to a psychopath like Abu Nasir? That's not meh. That's a very very scary thought.

And Carrie's adventures in Beirut? Gosh, that's amazing. The kind of struggle the character will have to face is as far from meh as it gets. Not only will she be in immediate danger but she will have to get by without the benefit of full confidence in her own abilities and instincts, let alone - in other people who don't trust (in) her either. That's a very very bad situation to be in and how Carrie will come out of this on top is the question here. Will she somehow rebuild herself or will she break into a thousand tiny pieces (again). That's the beauty of such a strong yet vulnerable heroine. And Homeland already showed us that they won't shy away from tearing her down.
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Danes was a LOT better in this premiere than in the whole last season.
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Dont forget about Jessica too ;)
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i love this show but there are some things that bug me. There are so many inaccuracies in showing Islamic practice. Brody's Arabic is garbage. Prayers aren't just Allah-u-Akbar over and over again. If a person is offering his prayers alone he does not need to say everything out loud. Most importantly, one does not just cut off from a prayer. You need to finish it. Also, I have never heard of burying The Holy Quran even if its torn up or something. You keep it in the Mosque. All I'm saying is that please do some heavy research for this. Don't get me wrong. Its a great show, but me being a Muslim, it really gets on my nerves when people are misinformed about other religion.
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I immediately accept everything you said here, but as far as Brody's Arabic goes, people just can't learn languages well if they didn't learn them when they were (very) young. I don't know a word of Arabic, but speaking French, Japanese, Chinese and (some) Thai, I've seen people butcher them on a daily basis, and actors are no exception.

Sigourney Weaver (French), Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Olivia Munn (Japanese), and even Morena Baccarin (Japanese and Chinese) on V. Some would say they did great, but I don't think any native speaker would.

We just have to accept that this is pretty much the best they can speak without a good 20 years of polishing. But don't get me started on Firefly..
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> Most importantly, one does not just cut off from a prayer. You need to finish it.



Or what happens?
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Its like breaking a commitment. It leaves an unfavourable impression and you have to start your prayer again. One should only break away from a prayer if they're in immediate danger from something.
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zaid , you are totally right! Brody's arabic lang and praying is totally a fuc**** up ! About Quran part is also true but i guess it was intentionally done by the director or whatever to make an awesome moment between Brody and Dana at the end of the episode .There are alot of cheezy moments in the religion parts and i think if they make more research or at least asked some of the arabian /muslims staff in lebanon or whatever the real location were it would be better ......BUT STILL....AN AWESOME SHOW!
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Zaid, this happens to almost all other cultures depicted in American TV shows. I had these problems too initially. Brody and Isa were once wearing shoes while praying. I laughed out loud when I saw that. But here's the thing, having a Muslim lead character in such a brilliant show that actually shows the viewers his devotion to a religion that is currently under such scrutiny in itself absolutely amazing. I think a lot of the things such as the process of ablution and the actual act of prayer are things that were probably new for most people. I doubt the mistakes were intentional so I for one, applaud the effort.
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I second that. The thing to remember is that the vast majority of Americans don't travel abroad, don't read quality newspapers, and don't get quality news. The makers of such shows either belong to that group or have to cater to it. So, when foreign languages are wrong, foreign cultures shown incorrectly, or there are wrong establishing shots of foreign places, consider it normal. Unfortunately.
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And also, I think that Brody is relatively "new" to Islam, he practiced the religion for three years, and I can imagine that he did something "not right". And also is an american speaking arabic. It's so different from someone with first language different from arabic trying to speak it? Just wondering.

I too think it's important to show the devotion to Islam and also to bring up some thoughts like in the assembly at Dana's school. I hope people watch this show with the right state of mind.
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Whatever discrepancies there may be between the Islamic practices in reality and on the show, the point was made and got through loud and clear.

On a side note, It kinda surprises me that people tend to be bother this much by such things. Sometimes it seems like the practice of a religion (and I'm not talking about only Islam, but other religions as well) overshadows the spirit of it.
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How I missed this show! I'm a huge fan of Dana too, the bond that she shares with her father is shown in such a quiet and beautiful manner and there's an aura of mystery around her that much like with Brody and Carrie, I feel intrigued about what she's gonna do next. For all of Jessica's efforts to 'normalize' her life and Brody, she's never tried to reconcile herself with the man that he was when he was away. Dana has, she's tried to understand him and she connects with him on a level that's surpassed by Carrie only.



The family confrontation and then Jessica's crazed reaction in the garage followed by THE question were my favourite moments of the episode.
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Dana haters unite! (great ep).
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The thing that made me hold my breath till the answer came was when Jessica asked Brody if Carrie knew he has converted to Islam... Oh God... That silence was so thick, you could cut it with a knife! Am I too romantic if I say that I believe his character knows deep inside that although he loves his wife, Carrie understands him better after all that he's been through? I'm just saying... ;-)
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Great episode and i agree with the review. Homeland is exceptional at those thrilling, seemingly unspectecular scenes. But to your question about the effects of Carries shock therapy. You immediately write that memory doesn't seem an issue. If you mean that she doesn't appear to suffered any long term memory loss i agree, but she kept forgetting things throughout the episode. Maybe that was just missing practice, but maybe....
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Absolutely loved this episode. It was the show I was most looking forward to this season and it didn't disappoint. Love Sunday nights!
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Dana has been top notch since "The Vest". She knows that she's the only person who's keeping her dad sane and has made it her duty to protect him.



Very good premiere, particularly the second half. Maybe it was a lil too 24-ish, but I'm fine with it getting a lil 24-ish every once in a while.



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I'm a big Dana fan. I think she's a really interesting character and not a caricature of teenage-girls. She had legitimate reasons to be upset with her mother, while her father had always been a victim-hero in her eyes. She is intelligent, perceptive, and idealistic, and her relationship with her father is very interesting.

Anyways, so happy Homeland is back on tv.
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What a great episode !

Dana rocks , she is smart and not stupid like her mother .Geez the mother was so annoying that i hoped to STFU !

Carrie is awesome like always but the smile was kinda funny ....hmm...and creepy !
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i actually like Dana too, the moody teenager with a bad attitude is so cliche but she plays it well. the way her mom acts with her is what bothers me, "why dont you hang out with any friends from your new school?" and dana's response, "because i dont have any friends at my new school", was perfect. that is the worst thing to ask your kid, it reminds me when i started at a new school when i moved from canada to california and i didnt make any friends for a while. i wasn't as angsty as Dana but i still totally get it
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Loved every minute of it! Person of Interest... and Homeland... the two best things on TV!



BTW - not to ignite a hot debate or anything, but "Will his responsibility to his family trump his allegiance to his religion?" it isn't allegiance to his religion that's in question here... for Al-Qaeda and Islam are as different as Christianity and Atheism. Oh well, ok, that's a bit too much but you get the point... what the terrorists call religion and what Islam represents are completely different things. Just saying... it's not Brody's allegiance to the religion but it is to the screwed up bond that he has with Abu Nazir and the memory of Eisah!
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You're of course right that Al Qaeda and Islam are two very different things, but it's pretty strange to mention atheism. The Lord's Resistance Army (Joseph Kony) would have been a better example, or the Westboro Baptist Church, or Anders Behring Breivik.
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It's the No True Scotsman fallacy though. You have to own the bad with the good. Religion provides a means for a person to bypass their conscience by blaming a god for their actions rather than accepting personal responsibility and the guilt that would entail. It's the same "I was just following orders" excuse that showed up after WWII and demonstrated how ordinary people could end up doing horrible things - their minds were able to transfer blame onto someone else and thus short-circuit the conscience that normally prevents such things.
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I'd rather make the comparison with Christianity of the crusades period. You know, the pope and his gang of supposedly Christian priests and kings promising redemption to all sinners and amnesty to rapists and murderers in exchange for killing as many Saracens as possible? Or maybe the Catholic church burning people at the stake for expressing their faith in the same God in a slightly different way? Those instances were as much a perversion of Christianity as is the terrorists' ideology a perversion of Islam.
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Great episode. The tension had me going the whole while. As to the smile, to me it seemed slightly maniac, unsettling. The vibe I got was that of a crazy getting off, not that of a seasoned agent succeeding at an evasion.

When Carrie was called back I actually hoped she'd tell them all to bugger off. But then, end of show.

America and religion. Sigh. I'd love to see the day when someone runs for high office, and nobody bothered to ask about his /her religion.

BTW, I didn't recognize Beirut. One of these days they're going to show a backdrop that actually corresponds to reality.
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Yes, the smile definitely wasn't that of a seasoned agent. It felt half 'I'm doing what I love which I thought I'd never be able to do again' and half 'I'm crazy.'
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I thought it was more than half crazy. It was closer to maniacal, I'd say. Which is what makes her such a strong character. You never know when, or even *if* the top of her head is gonna fall off. XD
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"What were the effects of Carrie's electro-shock therapy, if any? Memory doesn't seem to be an issue..." Beg to differ: If she hadn't suffered any memory loss, then she would have remembered Isah (sp) and tried to plead her case to the CIA one more time, don't you think?
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I actually like Dana too, when she's being herself and not being shoehorned in to Brody's arc. The last scene, for example, when Brody is filling in the hole, and she wants to help and starts pushing dirt in with her hands....that just doesn't ring true for me for a 16 year old girl to do. I did enjoy her scene with her class though, I actually wish they had given her more ammunition, let her throw some facts back at them and show how intelligent she is.
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me too, i wanted to see more of her intelligence rather than just calling the guy a douche
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I think Homeland is the only show I ever saw (EVER) where everyone (or at lease, most of us) is pulling for the MISTRESS, because the romance of Carrie&Brody my favorite part of the series also. And I don't know what to say about Dana...I'm not a hater, I'm not a lover, I'm not indifferent...the girl is annoying at times, but she is also admirable! She is smart, yet dumb...so I don't really know what to make of her
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If Person of Interest had been the best network show that debuted last season, then Homeland would've been the best cable show. And what makes a show not just great, but terrific and a must-watch? When there isn't black or white. Just gray.

The exciting part for me has always been that I really liked Brody and felt for him, even though he might have been a terrorist. And this season is no different. When he opened Estes's safe, I really hoped he wouldn't get caught. And that's the weird part that drives me crazy when watching Homeland. I should hate him, because he starts working for Abu Nazir again, but I just...don't.

Damian Lewis in Life was the reason I started watching tv shows. And this show has so many terrific actors, so it's really up to the writers. But I'm pretty confident it's gonna be great! How far will Brody go? I don't know, but I think Dana will be very important. Because she was the one that stopped him from blowing himself up. And she actually is the only one right now that really is completely on his side.

The most beautiful scene of the episode: Both of them burying the Qur'an. Love it! Can't wait for Sunday to come!
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u'r not alone. love dana too! she is very 'my so called life' type of cool teenager
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Great episode. Loved the smile at the end.

Morena Baccarin...When I first saw her (as Inara, on Firefly), I just thought that she was an absurdly beautiful woman with so much lipstick that it almost made her ugly. I didn't really think of her as an acting talent. But she keeps proving herself. She was fantastic on V, and she was great in this episode too. I hope she will continue to get good parts when this is over.

The question that Dana haters should be asking themselves is "What's wrong with me?". The character is at least OK, and the actress is doing a great job. I didn't like that she let it slip out that her father is a muslim, but I think the writers knew exactly what they were doing. They knew that it would be a bit silly and annoying, but decided that it would be a small price to pay to make the next few scenes possible.

One thing that I liked about this episode was that it didn't have the typical structure of a season premiere. Instead of spending most of the episode telling us what the rest of the season will be will be about, they just started telling the story. I like this so much better. It was still easy enough to see what the season will be about.
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That was crazy smile of Carrie at the end) It left me feeling uncomfortable but in a good way. great job by Danes. I think it was good premiere. it didn't feel uneventful for me. there is plenty inner events going on. inside people. there were some intense scenes. family fight was incredibly tense (especially throwing a Qur'an on the floor - i hope no fundamentalists muslims not gonna riot over that coz in these days you can't be sure)) they're so sensitive.

I think that they wouldn't show us how Brody get to that highest point in his life - for me it is still implausible that fucked up soldier with damaged psyche got to white house after some nonsense over VP's failed assassination) it's unrealistic and I can't buy it. I think you shouldn't wait for that Tim. they clearly show us that point to move thing from there. why bother showing how he did it during summer. he was asked in finale so it doens't matter now. we moved on to the game inside white house. but honestly I'd better see messed up Brody again living poorly with family with no help from government.

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The part I have a hard time buying is that it would be possible to turn a captured soldier into a terrorist. Even if they'd be able to put him in that state of mind, I would expect him to snap out of it after some time at home with his wife and children.

I agree that it's a bit implausible that they're already talking about him as a possible vice president, but if *that* bothers you, just think of Sarah Palin.
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Homeland, along with Person of Interest, were the two shows I was most looking forward to coming back this fall... and I haven't been disappointed by either's season two premieres.



As this article mentions, I questioned whether Homeland could stay strong... they accomplished so much in season one that I just couldn't fathom season two being anywhere near as effective. It may have been best to end it last season... it may be best to end it this season. But I really have no clue, and if this episode is any indication, this season will be pretty damn great. Maybe -- probably -- not as good as the first, but very good nonetheless.

I didn't know that this episode is titled 'The Smile' until now but it's cool that it is, because of all the great scenes and moments in the episode Carrie's gleeful smile may have been the most memorable. I saw that scene -- her smiling while briskly walking away after kneeing a dude in the 'nads -- and couldn't help but smile with her. I didn't really feel it at the time, but Carrie's sister was right... a big part of her really wants to be in this spy world again.

Also, I don't remember if I said so at any point in your reviews last season, but I've never had a problem with Dana. Yes, she's bratty, but teenagers often are. The problem is that most shows do a horrible job portraying it -- making them too over-the-top or unbearable or giving them no other characteristic to make them 'redeemable' -- but I think Homeland's Dana has been a good portrayal of a good bratty kid. And I agree... that final scene tells me Dana's going to convert to Islam at some point.
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I totally agree with you on the point of Mandy Patinkin not getting enough recognition. I'm still hung up on his role of Gideon on Criminal Minds and even after this many seasons I still miss him every single episode. This man is so awesome in everything he does, it's like he's a superhuman being. And his work on Homeland is so superb I can't even find words for it.



And yes, Homeland's second season promises to be just as good as the first one. If not better. The season premiere ended much much too soon and the second episode cannot come fast enough.

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Fantastic episode, on a night filled with returning series Homeland nailed it. Couldn't agree more with your comments about naming the episode 'The Smile' (ok I don't think the guitar analogy thing truly works but in general yes such good writing). I love a well named episode, and both Dexter and Homeland delivered on that front.

Like many I was worried this second season might not be up to scratch in comparison with the last but so far the signs are good.
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