Of all the big shows set to return this fall, perhaps none had raised expectations as high as Showtime's Homeland. The series spectacular first season was already critically acclaimed and highly touted before walking away with all the Emmys. Yep. The pressure was on and the second season premiere, "The Smile," delivered. And how about that fantastic titular moment? Carrie's 'smile,' fully deserving of the 'the,' was exactly the mix of complex character work unfolding within a thrilling story that made the debut season so special. Not to mention the unbelievably great acting from Claire Danes, who conveys so much in that one gesture as well as the other thirty or so minutes she's on screen.
"The Smile" followed Homeland's structure, splitting the episode between Carrie and Brody, with both of them juggling their respective missions with their personal lives. It opened on Carrie recovering well living with her dad (James Rebhorn!) and sister but the moment she spots her former fellow agent in the doorway, you can see it in Danes eyes, something is triggered. The same something that probably prompts the smile when her mission takes her away from the comfort of her family and puts her in the field in Beirut. We all wondered how the writers could possibly (believably) get Carrie back to working for the CIA but it was handled with ease, using an 'asset' that would only deal with her. These are the guys who somehow kept Jack Bauer a government employee for many seasons.
Brody's story was equally thrilling, using the same mission versus family time split, however, his family is so much more engrained in the overall narrative that those sequences work even better than the initial scenes with Carrie. I'm a huge fan of everything that his daughter Dana does for the show and Morgan Saylor is almost as impressive as the actor playing her father. Lewis shines again as the tortured soldier whose allegiances are constantly tested and the final scenes with the pair in the backyard was as thrilling as his spy cracking the safe sequence. A different kind of thrilling perhaps, but director Michael Cuesta manages to fill every frame with tension.
Showtime has released a few looks at next week's "Beirut is Back," starting with a traditional trailer-style "Preview" that has Carrie lost, found and then lost again. Brody, however, gets access to the goings-on in Beirut and may be in the hot seat at a pivotal moment...
There are also two clips from "Beirut is Back" with the first, "It's Not Fair," putting Carrie and Saul together on a rooftop in the titular city in Lebanon. It's hard to tell if this is during the first found bit or somewhere near the end of the episode but one thing is for sure, she can't get Brody off her mind. So wrong? Hm.
The next clip, titled "Secret Messages," has our Congressman having another meeting with the newly introduced Abu Nazir ally, Roya the Reporter (sounds like a good nickname). It looks like things didn't go so well even after Brody stuck his neck out. I wonder where she's getting her information? Also, I wonder how her date with Estes went?
Finally, there's a Homeland Season 2 "A Look Ahead" feature which cuts a bunch of footage from next week with a few major surprises from further down the road. If you've seen the previous trailers, nothing new should stand out but if you've been staying spoiler free, you may want to skip this one. I will say this, it is intense. Take a look (or don't).
Homeland returns with Episode 2, “Beirut is Back,” Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. It stars Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin and Morena Baccarin. It was adapted for American television by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon from the Israeli series Prisoners of War (or Hatufim) by Gideon Raff.