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The 12 Best Moments From ‘Homeland”s Bad Season 2

Plenty of reasons we can’t stop caring about this frustrating show

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How the mighty have fallen. Supervillain-style showdowns staged like something out of a bad first-person-shooter, plot twists you wouldn't buy if they were on sale, material so head-scratching that not even Emmy darlings Claire Danes and Damian Lewis could pull it off . . . Homeland Season Two has been a slow-motion car accident, and not just because it's featured two car accidents.

But like a flash drive sewn into the lining of a messenger bag, there's still good stuff embedded in there, if you've got the patience to look. If anything, that makes Homeland's devolution following its strong first season even more frustrating – if it were all crap, we could stop caring. What follows, in chronological order, are the 10 best moments from a bad season of a once-great show. They're the ones we'd pin to our corkboard as evidence that Carrie and company are still actively making great TV, now and then. And they're why the lack of a spectacular turnaround during the season finale left us making a Claire Danes cryface.

By Sean T. Collins

homeland carrie

Ronen Akerman/SHOWTIME

The Smile

Episode One: "The Smile"

Who needs a Claire Danes cryface when you can turn that frown upside down? Danes is rightly renowned for her twisted teary-eyed grimaces, and this season had no shortage of world-class examples, such as her breakdown in Brody's office after the murder of federal agents in Gettysburg. She's also got a great "you've gotta be shitting me" look of righteous incredulity, most often thrown in David Estes's direction for obvious reasons. But it was the grin that gave the season premiere its title, appearing in the final shot after Carrie Mathison eluded a Hezbollah pursuer by kneeing him in the balls, that showed how viscerally Carrie responds to her intelligence work, and how good it is for her broken soul to be back in the game.

carrie saul homeland

Ronen Akerman/SHOWTIME

Carrie and Saul on the Rooftop

Episode Two: "Beirut Is Back"

"It fucked me up, Saul, being wrong about Brody. It fucked me up. Because I've never been so sure, or so wrong." Carrie's heartrending admission of failure to her mentor Saul Berenson, on the gorgeously sunlit rooftop of a CIA safehouse in Beirut, neatly sums up how and why Brody's deception destroyed Carrie's confidence and sanity. When she smiles through her tears and says "I was right" at the end of the next episode, it's because of this scene that we know what that really means to her.

homeland carrie

Carrie in the House of Hezbollah

Episode Two: "Beirut Is Back"

By the end of the season Homeland's stabs (hardy har) at suspense and action were a mess of horror-movie-meets-24 clichés. So it's worth remembering that the show is capable of delivering teeth-grinding, breath-stopping sequences like the one in which Carrie sneaks back into the apartment of her asset in Beirut in order to loot it for information on Hezbollah and their new ally Abu Nazir. The cross-cutting between Carrie's search for documents and the tense scene on the street as suspicious militants surround Saul and Carrie's contact in their SUV, the realistically inelegant chase choreography as Carrie runs from level to level dodging bullets, the sense that Carrie's reputation is on the line along with her life – add it up and it's terrifically thrilling filmmaking.

saul homeland

Ronen Akerman/SHOWTIME

Saul Finds Brody’s Confession Tape

Episode Two: "Beirut Is Back"

"Gamechanger" is a hideously overused term, but shit, man, what else do you call this? Saul finds a hidden memory card, pops it in, and instantly annihilates the previous premise of the entire show. No more cat and mouse: The cat just swallowed the mouse hole. It takes serious guts to upset your own apple cart like that, and watching it happen was one of the most exciting moments on TV all year.

homeland brody tailor

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Brody and the Tailor

Episode Three: "State of Independence"

Yes, there are probably better uses of your high-profile, highly-trained terrorist sleeper agent than "chauffeur." But forget for a moment how odd it was of Abu Nazir to request that Brody personally whisk the Gettysburg-based tailor-slash-bombmaker to safety and focus on the result: a sequence of pitch-black comedy straight out of The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, culminating in Brody killing a man, audibly, while on the phone with his wife. Homeland could have used more mordant humor like this.

homeland carrie

Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

Carrie Chooses Life

Episode Three: "State of Independence"

The thing about Carrie Mathison is that she's, you know, a good person. That's a rarity among the leads of prestige cable dramas. And that's a big part of why we want Homeland to work: we want this character to be treated with the care we feel for her. That's why the scene in which she stops herself mid-suicide attempt, suddenly popping up from the bed where she lay down to die and forcing herself to puke up her pill-and-Pinot cocktail – leaving her alive to enjoy her total vindication minutes later – gives me such a fist-pump/round-of-applause charge right now. We've got the faith in her that she doesn't have.

homeland brody carrie

Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

The Confrontation

Episode Four: "New Car Smell"

Again, you've gotta hand it to Homeland: Its new status quo lasted less than one episode. Practically no sooner than Estes, Saul, Carrie, Peter Quinn and company decided to work Brody by leaving him alone, Carrie suspects he's on to her following an awkward attempt at small talk – so she strides into his hotel room and blows it all up, telling him they've found his confession tape and berating him for being a "demented" terrorist "who hates America." The creepily sexualized confrontation is a perverse inversion of their Edenic escape to Carrie's cabin in the first season, and it made for serious holy-shit television.

homeland brody carrie sex

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The Sex Scene

Episode Eight: "I'll Fly Away"

Sex can be a natural, zesty enterprise, but depictions of it as such are rare even in the anything-goes world of pay cable, where joyless bare-buttocked humping is the default mode. So there was something exciting and liberating and, yes, very sexy about watching and hearing Carrie and Brody go at it in some no-tell motel with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. But it was also funny, because A., this was a huge mistake on both their parts, and B., poor Saul Berenson was listening the whole time, head in hands. And it was vital story information as well, since we were never quite sure if they were giving into their sexual chemistry to further their secret goals or just because they really wanted to. It's a sex scene as alive and complex as sex itself.

brody peter interrogation homeland

Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

The Interrogation

Episode Five: "Q&A"

Until its final minutes, this felt like the episode where Homeland cracked its own code, doing the one thing it did best and almost nothing else: put a cornered, desperate Brody in small room with a victorious yet heartsick Carrie, tell Damian Lewis and Claire Danes to do their thing, and roll the cameras. The characters' complicated, poisonous, passionate relationship had never before been explored in such depth, and the performers did their best work to date. Sadly, Homeland never really recovered from its baffling decision to knock the near-perfect episode off-balance by jamming Dana and Finn's gimmicky hit-and-run into the final minutes, no matter how hard it tried to keep that storyline serious rather than soapy in future episodes.

peter homeland

Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

Peter’s Gun

Episode Nine: "Two Hats"

The beauty of the closing sequence in this episode, by far the best of Homeland season two's dire back half, is that you didn't know what was happening until it had already stopped happening. The crisp, brisk cross-cutting between the arrest of terrorist reporter Roya Hammad and her goon squad with a limousine pulling into a surburban was neighborhood was already deliciously disorienting, even before the familiar faces pop up. Why is Peter Quinn dressed in a suit and driving a limo? Why is Brody getting into the back seat? Where are they – oh my god he's got a gun! In a flash, we find out the truth about this mysterious agent, get a peak of the bleak future awaiting Brody even if he "wins" against his former terrorist handlers, and watch the entire interpersonal dynamic between Carrie's team shift before our very eyes. And in the decision to keep Peter from pulling the trigger and delivering yet another big shock ending, we get one last glimpse of the intelligence and restraint that was once Homeland's best asset.

peter quinn homeland

Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

Peter in Carrie’s Corner

Episode Twelve: "The Choice"

"Hitman with a heart of gold" is a tiresome cliche, but it's all in the execution. (No pun intended.) Sure, it's a bit much to suggest that someone who makes a living killing people even the CIA is uncomfortable killing would suddenly get cold feet about an assignment because Brody and Carrie are good people. But the way Peter makes this announcement to the odious David Estes – sitting calmly, immobile and gravelly-voiced and wielding a silencer-equipped pistol while wearing gloves, in the armchair in the guy's bedroom – is menacing to the max. After all, a hitman with a heart of gold is still a hitman.

saul homeland

Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

Saul’s Agony

Episode Twelve: "The Choice"

Mandy Patinkin's Saul gets a lot of attention just because everybody loves Mandy Patinkin, but compared to Danes and Lewis, his performance has shot off comparatively few fireworks. That's why it was such an agonizing delight to watch him cling to composure with everything he had when he received a phone call out of the blue from his estranged wife Mira following the attack on Langley. Watching him express to her, in as few syllables as possible, how his life has just been completely destroyed was as wrenching as watching him welcome her home was relieving. Forget Brody and Carrie – these are the two crazy mixed-up kids I hope things work out for.

In This Article: Homeland

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