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While critics remain divided on whether or not Homeland deserved the many accolades, including best dramatic series, it received during the recent Emmys, they are near-unanimous in their approval of the second season.
The Showtime series returned Sunday night with “The Smile,” a tense hour that set up Carrie’s (Claire Danes) return to government service and Brody’s (Damian Lewis) lingering allegiances to terrorist leader Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban).
With the exception of Jessica (Morena Baccarin) discovering her husband’s new-found status as Muslim, there were no shockers, per se, but there was a surplus of action — something The Hollywood Reporter‘s chief TV critic Tim Goodman praised in his write-up.
“This is the textbook way a series wants to return after dominating the industries highest awards just a week earlier,” writes Goodman. “Homeland is as riveting and addictive as when we last saw it, kicking off with no lull in the pulse-pounding action.”
Most write-ups praise the episode for maintaining the pace of its freshman season while also devoting significant attention to the two leads’ conflicted antiheroes.
“It’s the fraught fragility these two characters endure,” writes EW‘s Ken Tucker, “a delicate suspense that Homeland dramatizes in a swift, sure manner that transfers all that suspense to the viewer — that enables this show to sustain its excellent unnervingness.”
As its stars had previously spoken of, the second season seems poised for a shift in power between the recently institutionalized Carrie and the newly elected Brody. No scene serves as better fuel for that argument than the last shot of Danes, sporting the episode’s titular grin.
“There’s a long gap between writing, ‘Carrie smiles’ on the page and whatever it is that Danes does,” writes Onion AV Club‘s Todd VanDerWerff, “which suggests both the many ways in which Carrie’s brain is prone to breaking, as well as why she had never been able to avoid this life for too long.”
How long the show can maintain the pace of its premiere isn’t clear, but many seem optimistic about the rest of the season.
“I don’t know if Homeland has six or seven seasons of this in it, and I don’t want it to become Dexter, keeping its premise alive at all costs past the point of creative returns,” writes James Poniewozik at Time.”But I think, and hope, it at least has another great season left in it this year, and I left this episode glad to see Carrie and Brody pressed back into service.”
For those who didn’t catch the Homeland premiere, Showtime has made it available online. Watch below:
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