But the second season was, of course, under way long before the Emmy nominations were even announced, and there's no sense whatsoever of executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (who co-penned this episode) feeling the need to prove anything.
That's not to say things haven't changed in Homeland-land - in fact, save for those divisive opening credits, just about nothing is where we left it. Six months on from last season's finale, Carrie (Claire Danes) has been released from psychiatric care following a course of electroconvulsive therapy to treat her bipolar disorder, and is gradually recuperating on a strict regime of gardening, veggie food and EFL teaching.
Brody (Damian Lewis) is now a congressman, and a frontrunner to be picked as the Vice President's running mate in the upcoming presidential election. Jessica (Morenda Baccarin) is revelling in the new lifestyle - though she's still inexplicably calling her husband by his last name - while miracle bomb-diffusing daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) is less convinced, at once irritated by what she sees as her mother's social climbing, and unnerved by the conflicting information she has about her father.
There were times last season when Dana bordered on being a generic moody teenager, but her bond with Brody has been increasingly well handled and its resolution was one of the things last year's finale did right. Similarly, her role in this episode prompted its best scene - the long-awaited confrontation between Brody and Jessica, in which she all but accuses him of being a terrorist. It felt like something of a leap for her to get from the Quran to there, but at the same time it's more than plausible that Carrie's accusations might have stayed with her on some level, waiting to re-emerge given the right circumstances.
Whether intentional or not, Jessica does not come across well in this episode. Her Lady Macbeth-lite warning that "This cannot happen... I married a US marine" was several shades more Machiavellian than anything we saw from her last season.
Dana, on the other hand, continues to be quietly supportive of her father - the Quran burial was such a simple, sad note on which to end the episode - despite her obvious suspicions about how his public image matches up to the private one she's seen. Lewis gets some terrifically compelling nuance out of this conflict; Brody doesn't want to think of himself as a terrorist, nor as someone who hates his country, but Estes' blasé attitude to the drone attacks doesn't give him much reason to turn away from Abu Nazir's command, especially with Isa's name being used to twist the knife.
There's one particularly great moment from Lewis, just after the Vice President floats the running mate suggestion. Brody's hesitant, almost physically recoiling; then abruptly seems to remember the gung-ho, all-American war hero he's meant to be, and pulls the façade back into place as he responds with a boisterous "Hell yes!" If the cracks are already showing, though, it's not going to go unnoticed for long.
There can't be many viewers who didn't twig, the moment Carrie forced herself to close down the laptop rather than keeping reading news from Iran, that she was going to be back in the field before the hour was out. While it's vaguely disappointing to see her back at work so quickly given how explosively her CIA tenure ended, it's at least a plot machination that makes absolute sense for her as a character. Carrie hasn't ever cared much about her own wellbeing when there's work at stake, and Estes (David Harewood) certainly doesn't, so back to Beirut it is.
That being said, the impact of Carrie's treatment isn't being glossed over - far from being her old self, she's sleeping more than before thanks to the drugs she's on, and struggling to retain basic information thanks to the after-effects of her ECT. And while her euphoric grin after taking out her pursuer in the market was a victory of one sort (and momentous enough to give the episode its title), there was something manic about it, something that suggests CIA work and mental wellbeing just don't go hand in hand for Carrie.
- We've said it once already, but seriously, who calls their husband by his surname in intimate domestic conversations? It's just plain weird, guys.
- While it's first and foremost a thriller, Homeland does at times hit on something resonant about the modern world. In this episode, the reactions first of Dana's schoolmates and later Jessica to the prospect of him being Muslim - disbelief, denial, horror - said a lot about just how deep-rooted a certain type of religious bigotry has become in the US. When Dana says "Muslim", these characters hear "terrorist", and the blurring between the two is gallingly plausible.
- So last season, Brody's son had one sole character trait: he did karate. Now he has Facebook friends too! One day, he might grow a whole personality.
- There's no mention yet of Carrie's last-minute recollection about Isa, but memory loss after ECT often persists for months without being permanent. We're betting on episode seven for the memory to come back, chiefly because it'd make a neat parallel with last season's 'The Weekend'.
- After all the talk of Carrie's new veggie regime, did anybody else expect the episode to end with her chowing down on a massive steak, still grinning maniacally? Just us? Okay.
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