Homeland Season 2 episode 1 recap

You can only do it once, what I just did. No matter how many seasons of a show there are, you can only once catch up so that you’re ready with the rest of the world.   After that, you have to wait between breaks like everyone else. I do know this – and yet I still feel like I got the best gift of all.

Because for me, it was only a week without Carrie Matheson – and still I got anxious.  Seeing her again was so… not just comforting, but structuring. I felt like the world had parameters. In fact, we begin with no end of parameters. Carrie is decidedly not in intelligence, working as an ESL teacher and living with her family (does her sister’s husband never appear? Why am I the only one who finds this mysterious?)  Meanwhile, the Brodies are moving on up – Congressman Dad means better schools for Dana and Chris, and while they still live in that house that I can’t help but find depressing, it is, at least, seeming brighter. Life continues apace.

But what I love about this show is how readily all these characters accept change.   Brody goes from being a congressman to a candidate for Vice President to a double agent still working for Nazir to a faithful, brokenhearted Muslim in the space of a couple of days. He’s multilayered, and each thing that he is doesn’t preclude what he was before. David Estes goes from being scornful of Carrie to immediately respectful when he needs her – even impressed with the idea that she created a relationship so strong that now, nobody else will do.   

It’s a human trait. We adapt to the situations we’re in. We accept the new realities surprisingly easily. I have only love for Dana Brody, obviously, but even though she knows she was right in the school argument (although the setup was a little much), it will be a very, very long time before she talks out of turn again. She’s seen what can happen when she doesn’t watch her mouth. She is scared. She has reason to be – and I’m not just talking about the histrionics of that mother. Morena Baccarin is probably a good actress, but Jessica irritates me more than I can possibly say.

And then there’s Carrie.

When we saw her last, she was undergoing shock therapy. We were all but promised that she would have memory loss. Is that why she’s having trouble committing the details of Kate Morrisey’s life to memory? (As a sidebar, I should, as a woman of the world, be unmoved when people on TV mention real places in Canada such as the Queensway Carleton Hospital. I am not, however, unmoved. I was chuffed.)

Isn’t this exactly what Carrie wanted? To be not only back in a mission, but begged to be back in? Pursued?  Did she know what she was doing when she turned down the agent outside her classroom?  Had she eagerly gone with him, she wouldn’t have had David Estes outside her door, Saul on the phone, and her family clucking around her as she made her plans to leave. Did Carrie luck into the exact situation she wanted, or did she engineer it into being somehow? We know she’s capable of a long game. How long?

We’re not meant to know the answer, I don’t think. We’re meant only to notice how Carrie drops back into her life. Easily, quickly throws together a small bag, navigates the streets with aplomb, and picks up conversations with Saul as though it’s been hours, not months, since they last spoke. There is muscle memory here, and it picks up for her immediately, even if Carrie’s conscious mind is feeling hesitant.   

Did you notice, too, how Saul’s demeanor changes when he talks to Carrie? No matter how he didn’t want her there, whether for her protection or his own sanity, as soon as they’re talking, like old times, his voice takes on a lilt, reacting to her world-weary sardonic talk.   

And then, in just a few moves, she becomes Carrie again. How long did she think about ditching that cellphone? A second? Five?  As soon as she did it, she was our girl. Into the bazaar, dashing around – and I was begging and pleading for her to get a new headscarf, so shout-out to the producers for making me wait as long as humanly possible – to the last possible second – and then, once she’s been caught and quickly dispensed with her pursuer…

That smile. I’m sure it’s been the most remarked-upon element of the episode, so let me just pile on. I loved it so much. It was so smart. It is victorious and elated as she comes back into herself, and not a little unglued. It is not the measured Carrie of a season ago – if that Carrie could be considered measured. She is wild, she is completely on her own, and she is remembering what it is like to do something you were meant to do – which is also the something that may spell your downfall.   Not by accident is it true that genius is so often next to madness. 

Carrie Matheson returns. All hail Carrie Matheson.

Attached - Damian Lewis in New York last week.