Homeland: Spies Unlike Us

Fresh off an Emmy win for Best Drama Series, including best lead actor and actress (in a drama series) nods for Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, Homeland raked in more viewers than at any point in season one. And why not?

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

The series picks up some time after the events of season 1 with the spisode ‘Smile’. Carrie is no longer working for the CIA, as she is recuperating in her sister’s home. Brody, on the other hand, is in full swing as Senator, riding the coattails of the Vice President, while still keeping on as suave husband and too-cool-for-school father.

I was thrilled with the events leading to last season’s finale, and I had been patiently awaiting all the intrigue and psychological drama the series is known for. But will this season pay off?

In spite of my enthusiasm for the second season, I did have some questions regarding the direction of this new season. Perhaps most prominently was the issue of Carrie’s dismissal from the CIA.  In what significant way could she be brought back into the paranoid world of espionage? Would she work in tandem with the agency, or perhaps as an independent agent?  Or a mercenary?

To that end, I was somewhat unenthused.  The show had to introduce a back story involving an asset in Lebanon that had been kept off the books for at least 7 years or more. Of course, she can’t trust anyone other than Carrie, which is reason enough for the agency to come crawling back for her help.

And why is it so important for Carrie to meet with this asset?

Because she has information about a possible attack on U.S. soil. All of this is in the backdrop of a supposed Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites, which has seemingly inspired terrorists to seek vengeance on the West.

All of that is introduced by one of Nazir’s agents, Roya, who has somehow cleverly infiltrated the most dangerous place of all—the U.S. media. She, under the guise of reporter, meets with Brody in private and informs him that his former torturer-turned-terrorist pimp Abu Nazir wants him to steal some codes from the CIA head honcho’s office (David Estes).

The pacing of the episode was great. The acting was superb. And the mood (which is accentuated by deep, bass droning notes during certain tense scenes) is top notch.

Homeland: Carrie Being Followed

But I am still cautiously moving forward with this one. What made the last season great was the slow pacing which only upped the ante ever so subtly, until that final scene in the bunker where all that angst was squeezed between a vise, but never quite pressed fully to the point of explosion (if you catch my drift).

What made the ending particularly effective is that Carrie was never redeemed, not even to herself. And Brody’s secret remained with him. It wasn’t about whether he would follow through with his orders, but rather, what he had to go through emotionally to prepare himself, as well as the experience of being in the position that he was.

This season has to be a little different. Secrets can’t lie dormant forever. Having Brody’s wife Jessica find out about her husband being a Muslim was a good start. And ultimately, it is Carrie’s smile as she escapes her tail that becomes strangely comforting, but slightly alarming as well. This is Carrie in her element, and that’s good to see. But it also reveals the fragility of her mental state. She lives for this, but at what cost to her pysche?

There are a lot of avenues left to explore, such as the location of Brody’s SD card that contains his suicide note, as well as trying to deal with the CIA mole.

In 1985, Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd starred in Spies Like Us, where a couple of unlikely misfits are cleared to go on a mission to stop the Soviets from some sort of evil plan. It turns out that it was the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) all along that had devised said evil plan, with the result of nearly starting a nuclear war between the East and the West. If not for the all-too-fortunate spies (our heroes), it would have been the end of the world.

The movie is as ridiculous as it sounds (and a good time too). But that’s sort of the feeling I got when Carrie was sent on her mission to Lebanon. Would a bipolar, former-spy who had been caught breeching all sorts of protocols by her involvement with Brody be our last bastion of hope in order to prevent the onset of war?

As the episode moved on, I nearly forgot about that question. I was already hooked …

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