07/10/2012 23:45 | By Dan Owen, contributor, MSN TV

TV review: Homeland's season two premiere lived up to hype

Homeland kicked off season two with its episode entitled, The Smile. And it was good.

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody (© Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody. Image Channel 4)


Emmy-winning espionage thriller Homeland (about a US war hero suspected of being a brainwashed Al-Qaeda terrorist) returns for its second season.


It must be Carrie's (Claire Danes) resourceful evasion of a man in a Beirut marketplace, resulting in the expression that gave the episode its title.


A few gripes with the likelihood of Brody (Damian Lewis) being so close to the Vice-Presidency after months as a congressman, or the fact he was left alone in Estes' (David Harewood) office to steal secret files.

Full review

Homeland instantly became a favourite show of mine; I loved the excruciatingly tense finale (remember how it sparked a huge debate at the time?) which offered enough of a climax while keeping the door ajar for more.

Season two opens six months after Sgt Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) failed to detonate a suicide vest (thanks to a phone call from daughter Dana, played by Morgan Saylor).

It was interesting to see where all the characters are in their lives; Brody's a popular congressman linked to the Vice-Presidency, while Carrie (Claire Danes) is recovering from electroconvulsive treatment and rebuilding her life away from the CIA.

"Homeland instantly became a favourite show of mine"

However, when an agency asset in Beirut refuses to talk to anyone but her, Carrie's called back into service by old boss Estes (played by Brit actor David Harewood) and mentor Saul (Mandy Patinkin).

Providing extra colour was the introduction of journalist Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson), an undercover asset of terrorist leader Abu Nazir who wants Brody to steal strategic information from Estes. Also of note was the reveal to Jessica (Morena Baccarin) that her husband's secretly converted to Islam.

Credit to the writers

Last year, debate raged as to whether Homeland could keep its story afloat for a whole season. Many suspected it would crumble once Brody's loyalty was decided on, but it didn't so people started questioning how long the concept (a US soldier is working for terrorists) will remain viable.

I say the writers should be cut some slack - they evidently know what they're doing. We've lost some abstruseness with Brody, but hopefully it'll be rewarding to see him pulled in two directions. He doesn't want people to die, but he also knows the US is responsible for unreported war crimes and someone has to pay for that.

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The grey morals are what make Homeland so enriching. Is Brody a brainwashed puppet of Al-Qaeda, or does he have a valid argument? To the show's credit, you watch with a mixture of opinions battling for supremacy.

The conduit to Brody's salvation still appears to be his daughter, who shows increased maturity in her political beliefs (taking a level-headed position during a debate about Iran; later helping bury her dad's Quran after it's desecrated by her mother).

It was also great to see a different Carrie, recovering with her family after her bipolar breakdown. The needs of the plot dictate she has to get back into the saddle again, and so far it's plausible enough that the CIA would need her assistance with a tight-lipped asset - but will she get her job back full-time?

Her mental problems won't vanish, and it would difficult to swallow an exception being made in her particular case.

This second season premiere was more sedate compared to recent episodes, but that's OK because Homeland requires patience in order for future pay-offs to work. Rather than flashy and showy, we had a confident, intriguing, intelligent return that shouldered the added weight of expectations admirably.

What matters is the show can't be boring or predictable, and with such an impressive cast that feels unlikely to happen.

  • Verdict: Homeland underlines its status, and reputation, as a top-notch drama.

    Star grade

What other reviews say

The Independent - "The strength of Homeland isn't the occasionally dubious tradecraft... it's the way it feeds human feeling into a spy thriller."

Cultfix.co.uk - "Homeland is at the forefront of a new breed of television drama and this episode explains undoubtedly why it belongs there."

What people on Twitter said

Dan Wootton (‏@danwootton) - "Homeland was utterly brilliant. I want episode two NOW! Drama at its greatest."

Gabby Logan‏ (@Gabby_Logan) - "Homeland - it's the tv equivalent of a large glass of expensive red."

The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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