In its second episode, Homeland does some very good second-episode things. Specifically, it expands the universes of its main characters in a way that opens up some interesting avenues for the story. Carrie's world is expanding outward while Brody's is expanding inward. And poor Virgil's world is expanding toward remembering to go grocery shopping before showing up for surveillance duty at Carrie's.
In between extended bouts of vegging out on the couch in front of her monitors, Carrie gets a surprise contact from one of her assets in the field: Lynne "Two E's" Reed (played by General Hospital's wild-eyed psycho Brianna Brown, for those of you who still recognize America's dying genre) is interviewing prospective harem girls for a certain Saudi prince when she places a call to set up a meeting with Carrie. She has intel about the Prince meeting with Abu Nazir. Carrie is of course thrilled to hear that Nazir has surfaced, but Lynen — whom we learn is not a trained CIA agent but a regular girl recruited for service by Carrie years ago — is taking a great personal risk by spying on the prince. Carrie is not exactly callous with Lynne's life. She makes a passionate case to David Estes that she needs a four-person security unit on Lynne. But when Estes turns her down, rather than pulling Lynne out of the field, Carrie goes and makes her assignment more dangerous by giving her something to plant in the Prince's phone, and then lying to her about how protected she is. Obviously, Lynne is a walking corpse, though she somehow makes it to the end of the episode.
We've already seen that Carrie's immovable certainty is the scariest thing about her. If she turns out to be right, it's also the most heroic thing about her. But thus far ... she tells Saul that Nazir resurfacing is proof that Brody has indeed been turned. Is it? She sees Brody's at-home behavior — his nightmares, his cowering in dark corners of the house when his family has gone — as more proof. Saul keeps advising her to slow down, but for Carrie there is a ticking clock that only she can hear, and everything she does is suffused with a desperate urgency. Even her pills are running out! This leads her to pay a visit to her sister, Maggie, and her nieces, which gives us another glimpse at her life away from the monitors. Maggie is supplying Carrie with her anti-psychotic meds so Carrie doesn't have to disclose her condition to the Agency, and we also get hints about their father, whom Maggie says suffers from a similar affliction. The danger when introducing familial subplots to a show like Homeland is that they become ways for the show to fill out episodes and stretch out the main plot. Call it The Killing Syndrome. By no means am I saying that's the case here; Carrie's quasi-diagnosed emotional problems are one of the more interesting aspects of the show. But if the terrorism plot starts to lag, Carrie's family could be as easy a target as Ted Beneke on Breaking Bad.
If I haven't already freaked you out by bringing up a comparison to The Killing, I'm also going to compare this show to another TV critic punching bag: Damages. That's the show I keep thinking about as we get deeper and deeper into Brody's flashbacks. This week, we see Brody perched over Thomas Walker's grave, the fellow soldier he beat to death, traumatized and with a gun to his head. It feels like we're going to keep getting these flashbacks, piece by piece and out of sequence, until a full picture emerges. In the meantime, how are we supposed to read Brody's actions back at home? He's yelling in Arabic in his sleep, cowering in the corner during the day, making angry statements against the war to Mike. It's all perfectly normal post-traumatic response to what he's been through, but obviously it's more than that if you're Carrie. Her surveillance hits a roadblock this week as she finds out that the Brodys' garage was the one spot in the house where Virgil couldn't install cameras. Hey, extra-legal surveillance is one thing, but they've got limited resources! This blind spot will certainly be exploited by the show to keep Carrie from knowing too much, and that starts this week, as we see what Carrie can't: Brody lays a rug on the garage floor, kneels down facing Mecca, and prays to Allah in Arabic. Again, this isn't necessarily damning. Couldn't Brody have found God in captivity in a non-security-threatening way? We know from the family dinner scene that he's not accustomed to the kids saying grace before dinner, so we can assume he wasn't religious before the war. Might he have groped for faith while in such a dark place and latched onto the one that was there? This kind of plausible deniability is par for the course for mystery thrillers, but it also illustrates the thin line separating complicated humanity from suspicious behavior.
Carrie and Brody aren't the only ones whose worlds are expanding. We see Saul meet with a judge, played by the wonderful Michael McKean, whom he wants to grant him a FISA warrant to wire-tap Brody. Judge McKean is on the fence, but Saul manages to leverage a mysterious something he knows about McKean in order to get his way. We've seen this a few times already in the series; how much of what happens in central intelligence is influenced by the personal histories of the players? Estes stonewalls Carrie in part because she lost his trust. Saul is still trying to get past the shit Carrie pulled with him last week. Still, he got her the FISA warrant, meaning four weeks of legal surveillance on Brody. Bets on whether Carrie abides by that timeline?
Not likely when Brody keeps behaving according to her narrative about what a secret terrorist would do. After chafing with the press camped out on his lawn, Brody snaps and totally THROAT-PUNCHES a particularly intrusive shutterbug. But after a therapeutic (suspicious?) trip to the local big-box store (for a rug to pray on, as it turns out), Brody wakes up the next day ready and willing to dress up in his Marine uniform and take questions from the press. Carrie totally pounces on this — he's playing the hero card! Just like Saul said he would! Once again, Carrie's nailed it. After all, if the War on Terror has taught us anything, it's that certainty is king.