Review of Homeland ‘The Smile’

Homeland 1 300x225 Review of Homeland The Smile

(Channel 4)

SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 1, series 2 of ‘Homeland’

After the widely received praise and awards success of the first series, the makers of Homeland faced the challenge of living up to people’s expectations with series two, and fortunately they did not disappoint.

The story resumes several months after the dramatic events of the previous series’ finale and almost immediately we are reacquainted with the central trio of protagonists.

Carrie (Claire Danes) is now under the watchful eye of her family, growing vegetables, teaching English as a foreign language and trying to rebuild her life. Yet for all the simplicity and stress-free nature of her new life, from the way Carrie, rather unsubtly, is shown checking up on a ‘Worldwide Intel website, it is clear she has not completely let go of the past.

Saul (Mandy Patinkin) meanwhile is now working in the field in Beirut and we soon see that despite looking like a bearded version of the man from Del Monte, he is actually an accomplished agent, willing to take personal risks and highly adept at losing a tail.

Brody (Damian Lewis) is now a congressman on the way up and with powerful new friends, much to the delight of his wife and son and the surly indifference of his daughter Dana.

With the audience reintroduced to the main characters, the plot begins to pick up the pace and perhaps a little too conveniently. Carrie is soon roped back into things, a course of action that quickly ensures she produces her trademark grimaces and bulging eyes – just in case we hadn’t realised she was a bit stressed.

They are reasonably rare, but there are times when things feel a little unnecessarily overdramatised, such as when David Estes (David Harewood) tells Carrie that they have received “information about an attack on America” and suddenly ominous music begins to play in the background.

Zuleikha Robinson’s introduction as Roya Hammad, a journalist and intermediary between Abu Nazir and Brody, also seems a little bit too convenient. Although there is something slightly reassuring about having a baddie with an English accent.

Carrie’s re-integration as a field operative is also perhaps a little rushed. At first she is terrible, unable to remember basic details of her cover story and apprehensive about the mission ahead. But in no time at all she is on the streets of Beirut, evading capture and judging from her slightly scary smile, very much enjoying being back.

However despite these flaws, the first episode returns to a crucial element of what made the first series so watchable – the ambiguity between good and bad and the resultant blurring of where one’s sympathies lie. It is somehow hard not to like Brody, despite all that he has done, whereas his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), comes across as pushy, self-centered and ignorant – perhaps a metaphor for many people’s perceptions of the typical American.

In particular, her unenlightened view of Islam and furious reaction to Brody’s confession that he is a Muslim, do not elicit much sympathy, especially when saying things like “I thought you were done with all that crazy stuff” and “I married a US marine!”

However the surprise star of the episode is Morgan Saylor, who plays Dana, Brody’s daughter, and she looks set to be more important as the series progresses. Her defence of her father’s religion at school highlights her more open-minded approach to things, while her relationship with Brody is one of the main things that help to make him a more sympathetic character.

The episode ends with the touching scene of them burying Brody’s desecrated Koran. Is this meant to symbolise him trying to stop his involvement with Islam and Abu Nazir? Only time will tell. By the time the episode ends, although we have been reacquainted with all the main characters, not an enormous amount has actually occurred in terms of major plot developments. However the stage is certainly set for next week and I for one can’t wait.

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  • jkatb

    very slow and padded

  • nick richards

    What a boring review of an excellent first episode from series 2. It is pacy and what makes it so good is that it seems credible … and of course it is also TV.

  • stonedwolf

    Is Series 2 going to be like Series 1… an open-ended mind-bogglingly insane rant worthy of Julius Streicher except targeting Islam instead of the Jews?

  • Richard Carter

    I gave up on series 1 as I couldn’t stand the terrible acting of Danes – and here she is again, all boggle-eyed and grimacing. If this is good acting, I’m a turnip.

    Actually, the best bit in the opening episode, which Charles somewhat glossed over, was the scene when Brody’s wife discovered he was – shock horror! – a MUSLIM!!! Her reaction made me laugh out loud: “I married [choke] a US marine!” Priceless!

    And the underlying trouble with the whole damned thing: you’re supposed to give a sh1t whether some bunch of cartoon terrorists are going to blow up the US. I found myself willing them on, but sadly (we know how it’ll end, with the US on top) that doesn’t look like happening.

  • Privet Romashki

    that smile… it was so wicked… it’s so hard to believe it was acting… that dame sure can act well, that’s for sure.

  • stonedwolf

    I loathe the series and the ghastly sectarian politics behind it but Dane is a magnificent actor.

    The poker-faced upper class ginger is okay but he’s the same poker-faced upper class ginger in everything he does.

  • funisforassholes

    I thought this, as good as it was, was starting to paint in heavier strokes. I can see it going on for several more seasons to diminishing returns. The first series was a guessing game right up til the end, and presented a nearly-believable premise. Although I liked some of the new elements in last night’s show, it began to look slightly generic. It feels like the daughter is being set up for a prominent role as a suicide bomber in Homeland: series 4. I can see this run being enjoyable, but I hope they don’t stretch it beyond its natural lifespan.

  • Jean des Esseintes

    The ‘I married a US Marine bit’ is specifically singled out… Did you not read the whole article? It’s not THAT long.

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