The Season 2 opener for Showtime's Emmy Award-winning series "Homeland" is an expertly crafted example of how to kick off a season.
When we left Carrie (Claire Danes) and Brody (Damian Lewis) at the end of Season 1, they were both launching into new worlds: Carrie was ousted from the CIA, and Brody had just stopped himself from committing a grievous act of terrorism on American soil. Now, six months later, Carrie has readjusted to civilian life, taking pleasure in gardening, teaching, and sticking to a comforting schedule; a life unencumbered by the harsher realities of unrest in the Middle East.
Brody, in contrast, is forging ahead in his role as congressman and is given one of the biggest breaks in his career: a chance to become vice president of the United States. This offer comes at a cost, because Brody's affiliate and former mentor, Abu Nazir, wants to take full advantage of this new chain of events.
Through a meeting with journalist Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson), who supports Nazir, Brody is urged to "choose sides." Nazir wants access to a database of potential targets, which Brody is expected to obtain surreptitiously during a homeland security briefing with Deputy Director David Estes (David Harewood). "I will influence lawmakers through my access," Brody reminds Roya. "That's what we agreed to." But Brody's connection to Nazir's machinations are too deep, and his resolve eventually collapses.
For Carrie, the CIA comes knocking on her door, appealing to her as a "U.S. Citizen" and a patriot by asking her to meet with the wife of a Hezbollah commander who has intel on an imminent attack on America. She won't speak to anyone but Carrie, and so, honor bound, she makes the trip to Beirut.
Then, at her new school, Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor) lets it slip that her father is a Muslim, which her mother, Jessica Brody (Morena Baccarin) denies until she sees the evidence herself. Despite her discovery, she is willing to look beyond Brody's commitment to Islam as the national spotlight -- and her husband's shot at the White House -- overrides those concerns. The power that her attitude seems to suggest is worth the price.
"The Smile," the episode's title, isn't made explicit until the last five minutes of the show, and it's actually one of the lighter moments of the premiere. Right before the end credits, it's clear that Carrie and Brody are on parallel tracks, each diving into something deeper that will likely cause their fates to collide again.