‘Homeland’ Review: “The Smile”
"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Someone at 'Homeland' has been catching up on their mafia films. When we last left Carrie Mathison, she had decided to undergo electroshock therapy treatments, risking the loss of her memory for the chance to be healthy and sane. And when we last left Sergeant Nicholas Brody, he'd decided not to blow up a room full of people after all, and his life had been spared by terrorist Abu Nazir.
The second season opens with a (mostly) happy Carrie, who has found contentment living with her father, gardening, and teaching English to a class of Middle Eastern kids. But the CIA isn't done with her just yet. A woman she once courted as an off-the-books informant is hesitant to share information with Saul on his mission overseas, so Carrie is asked to return under the assumed identity of Kate Morrissey to try and coax the woman into providing valuable information on a planned terrorist attack on US soil. It's almost unconvincing how little convincing Carrie needs to return to the field, but that's the point -- she's been waiting for this. She goes about her day picking her vegetables and grading her papers under this cozy, false little life she's cultivated, but people like Carrie know how to fake it. They know how to smile and nod and do what needs to be done as they patiently wait for their moment. And here is Carrie's moment. We'll get to the title of the episode and how awesome its meaning is in a bit, but first...
Nicholas Brody is living the apple pie life, right? Things between him and his wife Jessica seem to be going well, and it's almost impossible to believe this is the same guy that uncomfortably masturbated in front of his wife last season. Brody has a cushy job as a congressman and he's being vetted for a sweet vice presidential bid, and his daughter Dana has been sent to a fancy new private school. Everything is coming up Brody until he receives a visit from a woman who says she's a reporter -- actually, she's a friend of Abu Nazir's, and Nazir has a little request: Brody has a meeting with Homeland officer David Estes, and Estes has a safe with codes for possible human targets that Nazir wants. Brody insists that his agreement with Nazir was that he would use his government influence to help the cause legally, but she reminds him of Nazir's little boy, and though we never hear Brody say yes, it's all but guaranteed with the fleeting mention of a name.
The faux journalist character and Brody's re-involvement with the terrorists is strangely the least interesting element of his arc in the premiere. More compelling is his home life -- Jessica is putting on airs as the wife of a congressman, and her voice drips with superficiality whether she's on the phone with a friend or scolding her daughter. Jessica is all about appearances and power, and it's pretty easy to side with Dana when she's sent home from school for giving a classmate grief over his confusion between Arabs and Persians, and calling him a douche for suggesting the US engage in preemptive strikes on foreign soil. Her real slip-up was saying her dad is a Muslim in front of everyone at school, and though no one believed it, it's enough to upset Jessica because nothing is going to stand between her and becoming Mrs. Vice President.
Brody admits his secret religious leanings, sending Jessica into a conniption fit -- when she tosses his Quran on the floor (a big no-no), he gets up in the middle of the night to bury it properly, in secret, but Dana joins him and offers to help. Their bond is something truly special, and Dana represents the moral grounding Brody needs -- and will need -- in the coming episodes.
Carrie makes the trip overseas and just as she's primed to meet Saul at a local cafe, he's been followed and one of his tails is on to Carrie. Saul urges her to get herself arrested and they'll work it out in no time, but Carrie is determined to prove herself -- she can lose this guy. She leads him through the bazaar and into a boutique where she fools him by switching her head-covering. When he corners her, she knees him in the groin, kicks his gun out of sight, and screams out that her husband needs help, causing a crowd of people to concern themselves with the injured man while Carrie makes her escape... and she does so with a huge grin on her face, confident that she's proven she can still work for the CIA. Has she proven this to anyone in a position of authority? No. But the only authority that matters to Carrie right now is the authority of herself.