And therein lies the basic, terrifying tenet of Homeland: In order for either of the series’ main characters to be given their day, something horrible will likely happen. This puts the audience on a permanent state of alert, paradoxically looking forward to a resolution, but knowing it may only be possible through some horrific occurrence.
In the season premiere, ‘The Smile,’ Homeland is primarily concerned with reestablishing where Carrie and Brody have been, and showing how, at some point while the audience was away, both may have found themselves in a place where the thought of continuing on as they were became more distant, and that was largely a positive for them both. Because as each is sucked back into their respective positions, it doesn’t take long to see just how caustic it was for them to maintain such single-minded pursuits – and how, as Carrie later comes to realize, she relished the way that pursuit defined her.
But with no means of interaction, it’s no longer a game of cat and mouse between Carrie and Brody; it’s their pasts hunting each of them. And while, for the time being, anyway, this helps Homeland to avoid falling into the trap presented by its basic premise, it isn’t trying to rewrite how the series works, either. Brody is still very much at the whim of Abu Nazir, being contacted in his new office by a reporter (and fellow Nazir loyalist) named Roya (Zuleikha Robinson), with instructions to pull classified information out of a safe that happens to be in the office of CIA Deputy Director David Estes (David Harewood). And in the first hour, a small notebook left on a desk stands as a testament to just how well Homeland handles tension.