''Scandal,'' ''HIMYM,'' 9 more: Key episodes to revisit before new season (SPOILERS!)
Best Starting Point: ''Pilot'' (101) Sorry, bingers you just can't skip the pilot. It's gripping, fast-paced, and not only introduces Carrie, Brody, Saul, and the rest of the character, but it also reveals Carrie's intensity and demons. Plus, the episode immediately poses the question that propels the series: Who is Sergeant Nicholas Brody? If you're not hooked by the end, you won't be ready for the rest.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''The Weekend'' (107) Carrie and Brody's tryst in her cabin the country is essential viewing for understanding the pair's complicated relationship. Beyond that, their sudden romance coupled with Brody's discovery of Carrie's suspicions lead to a tense, crackling climax. It's Lewis and Danes at their best.
Ultimate Game Changer: ''Q&A'' (205) There are precious few shows on television that can capture both the intensity and exhilaration of an interrogation at the same time, and Homeland succeeds with ''Q&A'' because it hones in on Carrie and Brody, finally in a setting where Carrie can pick through Brody's lies and unravel each of his secrets. When Brody breaks and confesses, there's a fleeting moment of relief for Carrie before the episode picks the action right back up, as the CIA readies Brody for his new role. It's a near-perfect episode only marred by the final Dana and Finn scene.
Most Skippable: ''A Gettysburg Address'' (206) As with most Homeland episodes, ''Gettysburg'' has its moments (the shootout at the tailor's shop, Carrie confronting Brody in his office), but it's bogged down by two of the worst plots from the second season: Dana's guilty conscience over a hit-and-run accident, and Mike's fruitless investigation of Tom Walker's death. With too much time wasted on a pair of angsty teenagers and an op that ultimately goes nowhere, this episode is more boring than thrilling, and barely moves the plot forward.
Finale Fall-Out: ''The Choice'' (212) Season 2's finale inverted the season 1 closer: Carrie's now the only one convinced of Brody's innocence, but she's not alone in having her world turned upside down. Brody's on the run, Saul's left to carry the weight after the destruction of the CIA headquarters and the Big Bad of the first two seasons is dead. Season 3 will have to pick up all the pieces hopefully while delivering the same punch. Shirley Li
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