Whether or not you agree with Claire Danes and Damian Lewis winning Emmys, watching “The Smile,” it’s not hard to see why they won. Danes’ mastery of facial contortions take Carrie Mathison from doped stupor to childlike glee; we can feel her fragility. Lewis has a way of wordlessly showing the wheels turning inside Nick Brody’s tortured mind—his control when Jessica throws the Koran on the floor, and the way he lovingly wrapped it like a newborn—just brilliant. “Homeland’s “Season 2 opener brought us right back to the edge of our seats, where we belong.
“The Smile” opens with Israel having bombed five Iranian nuclear sites, and Carrie’s former boss/mentor CIA Middle East Division Chief, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) in Beruit, dealing with protesters and unrest when an unknown informant makes contact, claiming she has information about an imminent attack against the United States. Meanwhile, Carrie—recovering from electroshock therapy to treat her bipolar disorder—is now living with her father (James Rebhorn) and sister Maggie (Amy Hargreaves), spending her days gardening and teaching ESL (though she can’t help a peek at the headlines). A major Season 2 issue is how (and in what capacity) Carrie can be reinserted into CIA operations; for now she’s brought to Beruit as a “helpful citizen” when it turns out Saul’s informant will only speak to Carrie. After a challenging briefing and a harrowing trip that clearly takes a toll on her psyche, the undercover brown-eyed, brunette Carrie arrives in Lebanon and receives instructions on a meet with Saul. As she speaks with Saul by cell phone, making her way to the rendezvous point, Saul realizes he’s under surveillance by police and though Carrie follows his instructions to pass Saul by, the cop goes after her. Saul goes into panic mode, advising Carrie to turn herself in, but she instead insists she can lose the cop. After winding through a marketplace, Carrie quickly changes headscarves, catches the cop by surprise and knees him, allowing for a quick escape and a glorious (smiling) moment for both Carrie and Danes.
Back in the States, Brody—now a Congressman and potential Vice Presidential running mate (with current Vice President William Walden)—is approached in his office by journalist Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson) who turns out to be delivering a mission from Abu Nazir. Brody meets with CIA Counterterrorism Head David Estes (David Harewood) the following morning, uses the code Roya gave him to get into Estes’ safe and copies names from a list of potential targets. (And how about that look Brody gave Estes when the director gloated over the drone program success?) Meanwhile, in her first Kim Bauer-like move, Brody’s daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) outs her Dad as a Muslim in a class discussion, prompting the school dean to call Mom—which in turn prompts a brilliant scene by Damian Lewis, as he has to instantly decide how to handle the showdown with his wife (Morena Baccarin) and daughter. Before uttering a single word of confession, Lewis’ expressions run through the panic, the options, the decision, the reassurance (to Dana) and the resignation. Brody’s freedom of honest emotions with his daughter are in sharp contrast with everything he hides from his wife, and everyone else, nowhere more evident than as they bury his defiled Koran together under cover of night.
And that’s the theme of “The Smile”—secrets. Carrie secretly still wants to be a part of the CIA world, she has a secret memory waiting to be discovered by her own mind. There are secrets between mother and daughter, husband and wife, Congressman and country, perhaps even a man and himself—does Brody know exactly how far he’ll go for Nazir? The thrill of coming back to “Homeland” is that we, the audience, think we know them all; we’re just waiting for the secrets to be kept or exposed.
Cindy Davis really hopes Mandy Patinkin isn’t a mole.