TV review: “Homeland” Season 3 success hangs on Brody

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From the September 26, 2013 edition

“Homeland” fired out of the gate as a great new series, and in Season 2 the writers (led by showrunners Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon) pretty much s--- the bed. It started strong, but that season’s major storylines concluded in exceptionally poor fashion.

[Season 2 spoiler alert] Abu Nazir’s death and how it led to the Langley bombing was contrived and mostly unbelievable. The separation of star-crossed lovers Carrie (Claire Danes) and Brody (Damian Lewis) was lackluster because their relationship isn’t compelling if there’s no ambiguity about each character’s motives.

This leaves Season 3 as questionable. The first two episodes have a distance from Season 2 as the story has moved forward three months. This could be a smart method to slightly reboot “Homeland” while maintaining continuity. Or it’s a poor sidestep giving central characters new avenues, before circling back to same-old-same-old.

After the bombing — stupidly called “Second 9/11” — Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is the C.I.A. Director working to track down those responsible. Carrie is the subject of a Senate hearing on the bombing, and her entire investigation of Brody is under suspicion.

Carrie can’t provide truthful answers without exposing herself, Saul and the entire C.I.A. The whole thing is fracturing her relationship with Saul, while taking quite a toll on her tenuous mental state. Danes obviously shines in all this.

The Brody family, particularly Jessica (Morena Baccarin) and Dana (Morgan Saylor), are also struggling with the fallout. It fits well with “”Homeland’s” ongoing theme of collateral damage in this new-age war of spycraft and terrorists, but still operates on the periphery of everything else.

The biggest and boldest change in Season 3 is [minor spoiler alert] Brody is nowhere to be found … yet. He’s out there somewhere, but does “Homeland” really need him anymore?

“Homeland” could be more interesting without Brody. Carrie, Saul and various C.I.A plots are enough for a compelling narrative. But Brody will be back (most likely soon), and this entire season will depend on how that happens, and what transpires thereafter.