After much anticipation and a slew of Emmys, Showtime's Homeland returned for its second season. Greg Otto and Tierney Sneed discussed their reaction to the premiere, and what they're hoping to see with the rest of the season.
Tierney: So what did you think of the first episode? It certainly wasn't "slow," but I felt it had sort of a "Let's catch everyone up and lay the foundation for Season 2" feel to it. It did have some, heart-beating, sweaty-palms moments: particularly when Brody stole the target sites from Estes, and Carrie evaded her tail in Beirut. As some critics have pointed out, Season 1 could have ended with a big bang (literally) had Brody gone through with his suicide bomb and Carrie redeemed for her Brody-obsession.
Instead, it ended much more ambiguously, with Brody backing down from the terrorist plot, trying to justify its failure by telling its mastermind Abu Nazir that he would "influence policy" from the inside (ha!), and Carrie succumbing to her fears that her erratic mental state has gotten the best of her. "The Smile" seemed to start at the point of ambiguity, but gained momentum as each of those characters decided to run in more a deliberate direction, with Carrie embracing her new CIA gig, and Brody deciding to break into the safe. How did this episode's arc feel to you?
Greg: I loved that we were off and running in the season debut. I noticed some striking similarities between the construct of 24 (EPs Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa used to work on the Fox hit) and Homeland. Carrie seems to have settled into a normal (or as normal as it can get for Carrie) life and is summoned back into her past by her higher calling. It used to be the same thing for Jack Bauer: Jack was off raising his family the best he could, but bad people were going to do bad things unless Jack stepped back into the fray. The country needed Jack then, just like we need Carrie now.
And the sly groin kick to escape at the end? A complete homage to Bauer. It made me sentimental for the days when Jack would break terrorist necks with his legs.
Tierney: There was so much parallelism between Carrie and Brody: in both climatic scenes I described above (Carrie in the Beirut market, Brody in Estes's office), but also earlier when both were approached to abandon their seemingly "normal" lives and get back to the business started in Season 1. Carrie is approached by Estes and Co. to debrief an old agent who says she'll only talk to Carrie, and Brody by the Nazir-tied journalist Roya to steal the targets. We aren't sure how happy Carrie and Brody are tending gardens and adhering to political allegiances, and how willing they are to get back on the paths that nearly destroyed them in Season 1. They both even have a similar line in these conversations, something along the lines of "I didn't say yes yet" before ultimately saying yes.
What do you think of the parallels between Carrie and Brody? How much are they alike? How much are they different?
Greg: I think the characters have to know they are alike, otherwise they never would have hopped in the sack. Both are loyal to a fault, extremely talented at their work, and both have been (somewhat) successful in hiding their own deep secrets.
But you could make the argument that its purely subconscious at this point (which is kind of a weird thing to say, given they are fictional characters), because Carrie doesn't know that she's dead on about Brody. Their behaviors strike such a similar chord, that even without previews, it would be hard to imagine they would never cross paths again.
Speaking of hiding past secrets, I was floored when Brody's daughter Dana dropped the bomb about her dad's religion to her fellow classmates. Double floored when Brody admitted everything to his family! I am fascinated to find out how this plays out, given how Islam is such an incendiary subject in America. I was also amazed to see that Brody's wife had developed a sense of political consciousness: "I married a U.S. Marine! This can't happen!" Seriously? If she only knew.
Tierney: I am glad you brought up Brody's daughter. First of all, Morgan Saylor is killing it as Dana Brody. The scene in the Season 1 finale when she called her dad and (unknowingly) convinced him not to flip the switch on the bomb will stick with me for a while. But in this episode, she nailed the rotten teenage attitude, down to the smirk. But she melts at all the right moments, as in the final scene when she helped her dad bury the Koran. Their relationship is one of my favorite aspects of the show. As much as you want to hate Brody for what he has done to Carrie and the whole terrorist thing, the bond he has with his daughter makes it super difficult.
And a small detail I picked up on when Jessica confronted her husband about the Muslim thing that I think speaks to your point about her "image consciousness": she called him "Brody," not "Nick" when she was yelling at him. If there is anyone who should be calling Brody by his first name, it's his wife, especially in such a tense moment. But I think you're right. She's really bought into this whole Sgt. Brody/Congressman Brody/possible Vice President Brody—she doesn't see him as "Nick, the man" any more, at least not in that moment.
Greg: And as much as her character bothers me, I can feel for how Jessica is behaving. Six months ago, Brody was a distant memory, and now she's been shoved into multiple messy relationships, plus become a puppet in the eyes of the Beltway Elite. I don't think she is adjusting well to everything that has been thrown her way, but I can't imagine most people would handle that well.
One thing I couldn't understand is how Carrie was so eager to dive back into the world of the CIA, especially with the history between her and Estes. If your employer cut you loose in that fashion, wouldn't you have a little more reservation about diving head-first into the very environment that landed you on hospital gurney waiting for an ECT session?
Tierney: I got kind of a Hurt Locker feel from this episode, in that Carrie is almost addicted to the spy stuff. Her bitterness towards Estes is one thing. But the excuses she made at first? "I make dinner for the family on Thursdays." Please! How happy is she really in her post-CIA world? I find it interesting that it is her father, who also suffers from the same mental condition she does, that says she should go if she wants to. And that smile when she ditches her tail in the Beirut market: pure euphoria. I think aside from the addictive quality of it all, it's also a pride thing. I think Carrie will make sure that she continues to be indispensable to the CIA.
Greg: It goes back to the whole Carrie/Jack dynamic. Bauer lost a wife, nearly lost a child (multiple times), and spent time being horrifically tortured. Yet he always came back for the greater good. It's the same thing in Carrie. The institution turned its back on her, ultimately ending in (literally) a shock to her brain, and yet now she's on her way to Lebanon to work for the same people without very much resistance. Carrie needs the CIA as much as the CIA needs her.
Tierney: And considering that she is the only one (as far as we know) who's figured out Brody's true colors, the whole country needs her. You have to wonder how long this show can pull it off: Can it keep going once Brody is finally revealed to have terrorist intentions—either by Carrie, or by successfully pulling off an attack (which seem to be our two most viable options)?
Greg: If you watched the Season 2 trailer at the end of the episode, there is no doubt that Brody's secret circle is starting to close in on him (I spent a good 15 minutes tinkering with my DVR to figure out who Brody buries in the woods), and we clearly aren't done with the Carrie/Brody romance. So it's going to be interesting to see how the web of deceit is woven and if it can still lead to compelling seasons down the road. I hope so, otherwise I'm stuck watching Michael C. Hall make the same tired, brooding face that he has been making for seven seasons. Pass.
Tierney Sneed is associate editor of U.S. News Opinion. E-mail her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter.