When we last saw Carrie Mathison, she was strapped to a gurney and voluntarily undergoing electroconvulsive therapy after (seemingly) failing to stop a domestic terrorist attack. It was tough to call it her lowest point as she has had so many others in "Homeland"'s short run, but it was clear she had bottomed out from the stress of the job and her ill-advised relationship with P.O.W.-turned-terrorist Sgt. Nicholas Brody.
The second season premiere serves largely to set the stage, and it sets the stage fairly quickly, as where we were is not so far from where we are now. Her mentor Saul Berenson is in Lebanon, still on the job amid peaceful protests outside a U.S. Embassy. The situation in the Middle East is ever-tenuous, with imminent retaliation from Iran on Israeli attacks as Saul's current focus. Sergeant (now Congressman) Brody is firmly entrenched in the political game of Washington D.C., his work in the House apparently going well enough for him to be in talks to join the Presidential ticket. Carrie is still recovering from her recent bipolar bout, drugged up on lithium and living with the calming influence of her sister and her family.
Of course, Carrie's tranquil existence can't last -- wouldn't be much of a show if it did. And even if she wasn't feeling the pull of her old life, suddenly an old informant who trusts and will speak only to her has valuable information that drags Carrie back into the game.
Claire Danes continues to knock it out of the park conveying how out of her element and on-edge Carrie feels getting dragged back into reality, countered by the adrenaline rush from kneeing a bad guy in the balls. Yep. Right in the balls, complete with "Ouch my balls" face. Now, perhaps such an occurrence is a realistic account of an actual CIA undercover escape, but it certainly seems out of place in what is an otherwise tense, white-knuckle scene and on a dramatically masterful show.
On the other side of coin -- a scene not-at-all realistic, but perhaps fitting for a television drama -- we are introduced to new character Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson), progressive Middle Eastern journalist. Oh, and she's a mole for Abu Nazir and she has an assignment for Brody, a revelation she makes when meeting Brody in his office. IN CONGRESS. Again, this is a scene that's perhaps fitting for a show like "NCIS", that takes realistic scenarios and amps up the drama to just shy of (and sometimes far past) absurdity. But on a show so rooted in realism as "Homeland" I couldn't help but roll my eyes, how a master terrorist would send a contact to an area of the highest security to relay a highly sensitive message.
Aside from these two glaring black marks, the premiere for "Homeland" was a strong one. I recall thinking along similar lines after the series premiere -- a couple of odd or badly done scenes not completely overshadowing what looked to be a promising series, and that was certainly the case. Numerous threads are open to explore, from old ones, like Brody and Carrie's illicit relationship and Dana's growing relationship with her father, to new, like Dana letting slip that her father is a Muslim in a very public setting and, of course, whatever the next Nazir attack will be. Regardless of which direction it goes, count me in for the ride.
Final Grade: A-