Following an epic, award-winning opening run of episodes, Homeland Season 2 kicked off Sunday with "The Smile," a reference to Carrie's mid-mission expression - and the looks on the faces of viewers around the country as soon as the opening credits rolled.
In this edition of the TV Fanatic Round Table, staffers Matt Richenthal, Dan Forcella, Carla Day and Carissa Pavlica break down the return of this terrific drama...
What was your favorite moment from the episode?
Matt: I don't care if it's the obvious answer, it's the obvious answer for a reason: when Carrie can't help but smile after foiling her pursuer abroad.
Carla: Agreed. Carrie's smile after evading capture in the market. It's amazing to me how Claire Danes can take a simple smile and provide insight and meaning in that one gesture.
Dan: It was "The Smile." What an absolutely terrific title for the episode. It emphasized what was such an important piece to the puzzle, and it certainly made it clear how good Danes can be with a simple twitch of the mouth.
Carissa: Jessica realizing Brody was a Muslim. Once again, she's had everything turned on its axis. She can't possibly know what to believe at this point. If I were her, I'd be scared shitless.
More thrilling; Carrie's move in the market, or Brody getting into the safe?
Matt: Brody getting into the safe. It had the tension of first whether he would actually take that step, followed by the question of whether he'd get caught. It also featured Mr. Damian Lewis, a worthy Best Actor winner if there ever was one.
Carla: Definitely, Carrie's move in the market. After being out of practice for so long, it was surprising that she was able to think on her feet and get rid of her tail.
Dan: As great as it was to see Carrie getting back in the game, I wasn't any more nervous during the hour than when Brody was sitting in that room first deciding to make the move, and then following through with it.
Carissa: Carrie's move. She's been so betrayed she was even questioning herself, and it was fantastic to see her get a bit of her groove back.
Is season two destined to be less exciting because we have a much better understanding of what drives Brody?
Matt: Not at all. Do we really have that understanding? How far is he willing to go for Nazir? How long until Carrie remembers Issa? Might Brody's improved relationship with his daughter trump his terrorist-driven agenda? Homeland has given me no reason to doubt its ability to shock and titillate viewers. (NOTE: Trust me. I've seen the next episode.)
Carla: If anything, we know less about what is driving Brody. He is being pulled in two polar opposite directions and he could make a decision based on either loyalty at any time. Having also seen the second episode, I can say it only gets more intense, not less.
Dan: I think my fellow Round Tablers are forgetting that we had absolutely no idea what was going on with Brody through the majority of season one. At points it was possible he had no terrorist connections at all. Then we thought maybe he was completely on board with Nazir. Now we KNOW that he is conflicted because of his relationship with Issa. What he will do and how much he feels one way or another is certainly still in question, but we definitely aren't nearly as in the dark as in season one. Will it be less exciting, though? Probably not.
Carissa: Do we have a better understanding of what drives Brody? I don't think even Brody knows what drives him. He SAYS he's not willing to kill innocent civilians, but so do many when they start. What does he think is going to happen by delivering the information? Nothing with Brody or this situation is simple, and the only one who truly knows it is Carrie.
More interesting response to Brody's Qur'an; Jessica throwing a fit, or Dana helping him bury it?
Matt: Brody's reaction to Jessica's fit. It depicted more passion from the man than she's likely seen since he returned. Doesn't bode well for their marriage.
Carla: Jessica's fit was understandable, but her unwillingness to even consider Brody's reasons was intriguing. Her line of "Did you actually just say that?" after Brody was upset the Qur'an hit the ground sums it up. Her hatred of the religion and what happened to Brody, while he embraces it, is a dichotomy to watch play out this season. Dana wants to support her father, so it made sense that she would help him.
Dan: Jessica's response was more interesting because of what it might bring to the Brody household in the near future.
Carissa: Dana helping him bury it. I also don't understand how her calling out her dad as a Muslim in class isn't going to come back and bite Brody and his chances for the VP candidacy in the butt.
Imagining Carrie as an athlete, at what percentage of her tip top CIA strength is she back?
Matt: If, as Yogi Berra said, 90% of the game if half mental, and if Carrie is functioning at approximately 70% mental status, I give it a 68% overall.
Carla: Carrie is at about 70%. This mission re-awakened her skills, but she isn't back to her mental or physical CIA prowess.
Dan: The mission rejuvenated her enough that I think she's at about 80%. I give it half a season before our old Carrie is back in action.
Carissa: I know nothing about athletes, but I'd say she's at 75%. However, the remainder is a mental block that was driven into her by the betrayals she experienced. She's going to come back stronger and more formidable than ever.