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'Homeland' Season 2 premiere recap, The Smile

ElectionsHomeland (tv program)National Security Agency

Welcome back to 'Homeland', where some reasonable length of time has passed since we last saw our heroes, and everything seems normal despite the fact that Northern Virginians have elected a possible terrorist sleeper to Congress.

The season premiere of the Emmy-crushing Showtime drama begins with Carrie living at her father's house, gardening, teaching what appears to be English as a second language and managing to mostly unplug from her life as a now-disgraced national security agent. She's taking her anti-psychotics and the weird blotches she was sporting on her face at the end of last season have disappeared.

Brody seems to believe he has fulfilled his most difficult obligations to his friend Abu Nazir, and has made the short list for Vice President as an election nears. His family seems to have returned to some level of normalcy, angsty teenage daughter aside. Basically, everybody's put some distance between themselves and the unpleasantness from last year.

The characters begin to tilt back toward each other as crusty NSA mentor Sol finds an intelligence asset who claims to know about an attack on Americans, but will only talk to Carrie. She agrees to come back. Meanwhile, Brody's political rise begins to run up against his desire to be a secret devotee of Islam while maintaining ties to a terrorist (and also to separate his faith from the extreme views of his mentor).

What follows is a Season 2 premiere that hints at the emotional complexity of the main characters. We all had a nice adventure together last year, but we're really going to get to know them. The plot intersections are not huge just yet, so let's take a look at what Carrie and Brody got up to.

Carrie:

She's feeling better, a little better, but she really shouldn't go back to the Middle East to help with an investigation, right? Carrie tries to resist her former colleague (and one-time lover) David Estes, who wants her to go talk to the woman who says she has a tip. She goes, and the process shows how sick she really still is. It also reminds us how good she is and how much she needs the job.

As we revisit Carrie throughout the episode, she's struggling to focus and having trouble memorizing details about her alias. But she makes it to Lebanon, where she is pursued by some bad guy (not clear what he's after, precisely) and is able to disarm him and get away. Her flickering smile as she walks away safely may be the highlight of the episode. Carrie Mathison is back and more awkward than ever.

Brody:

Oh, we are going to see some fireworks here this season. A reporter comes into Brody's office, and turns out to be bearing a message from Abu Nazir. Brody at first demurs but winds up saying okay, he'll steal some information from Estes. He is conflicted, but convinced by a reminder of the drone-strike death of the little boy he befriended in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, his daughter is struggling to adapt to her new Quaker school in Washington, where she gets into a bit of an awkward exchange at morning meeting and blurts out that her dad is a Muslim. When his wife finds out about Brody's religious views, she flips her wig.

Great stuff in this plot line, which looks like it could offer us an intelligent, nuanced look at Brody's relationship with his faith. .

Upside-down Obama:

He's still in the opening credits. Weird every time.

A few questions:

Who is this reporter? I think she's going to be a big factor this year. She had a big role in the episode and is now going on a date with Estes.

What's up with Sol's wife? He's in Beirut now, and she's presumably in India like she said she'd be. They spent a lot of time on this last year. I think it's going to re-emerge.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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