Homeland season 2 managed to follow in season 1's footsteps by securing the Golden Globe for Best Drama. However, for many fans of the Showtime CIA drama series, it was a wild roller coaster ride - one that featured some extreme highs, but also lulls in storytelling that were all the more obvious by comparison.
Regardless, the game-changing event that transpired in the season 2 finale offered more than just the characters a new (if traumatic) beginning. It also laid down the groundwork for a third season that could throw unprecedented challenges at the brilliant - but not always stable - Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), in addition to Carrie's loyal mentor/friend and the new acting CIA director, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR HOMELAND SEASON 2 AHEAD
As the latest short Homeland season 3 teaser suggests, the U.S. government will be demanding answers and accountability during the immediate aftermath for that devastating terrorist attack that occurred during the (ex-)Vice President Walden's memorial service - one which not only left the CIA as an organization crippled, but may lead to awkward questions about the (presumed-dead) man who appears to be responsible: the former POW Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis).
Homeland co-showrunner Alex Gansa has addressed the state of things, when season 3 picks up (via THR):
"As a result of the attack last year, the CIA itself is on trial. Saul finds himself in a unique position that he's never been in before. He's in the director's chair. He has to make some very uncharacteristic choices that he's not comfortable making... Both Carrie and Saul feel a devastating amount of guilt from this loss. Even though they're estranged, they experienced that trauma in a way that no one else has."
Saul's old acquaintance Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) - who will become a full-time cast member in season 3 - foreshadowed rough waters ahead for the former back in season 2, when he accused Saul of having never been cut-out for their line of work. Combine that with Saul's continued frustration - one also shared by a number of Homeland viewers no doubt - about Carrie's true Achille's Heel (i.e. her love for Brody), and the days ahead look to really test the character's loyalties to his protege (and vice versa).
On that note: the scenes focused on Brody and Carrie's relationship during season 2 started to become tests in patience along the way (in this writer's opinion). That was not so much due to the romantic elements, but more because it seemed as though no matter how outlandish it became for Brody to still be alive, the character just kept on miraculously surviving by the skin of his teeth. It started to get to a point where it seemed as though the show, as a whole, might have benefitted from Brody having died at the end of season 1, as was the showrunners' original plan.
Interestingly, Gansa and fellow Homeland co-creator Howard Gordon also originally had plans to kill off Brody in season 2 (as the latter revealed during a TV Academy panel at 20th Century Fox's Zanuck theater):
“We had sketched out this plan in the early parts of season two which called for Brody’s demise, which may have been premature, and [Showtime] asked us to reconsider. [Call it] the happy accident of having very good partners.”
The full Homeland season 3 trailer reveals that Brody will be getting up to trouble elsewhere in the world, while his family - who believe him to be both dead and guilty of executing the deceased Abu Nazir's (Navid Negahban) final strike - attempt to move forward with their lives. As more food for thought, with respect to what might've been: there were plans for Carrie to join Brody as a believed-dead fugitive on the lam, which ended up being scrapped:
According to [former co-showrunner Meredith Steihm], who has since left Homeland to run FX drama The Bridge, the writers all wanted Carrie (Claire Danes) to go with Brody across the border in the season two finale instead of returning to the CIA. In fact, in the first draft, she did. After much debate, they ultimately decided it was more in character for Carrie to stay and carry out her mission with the Agency after helping Brody escape safely to an underground network.
Viewers will have to wait at least one episode to find out what's next for Brody, as Gansa said that "his presence wasn’t required" in the season three premiere. While it might've been interesting to see Carrie use her covert operations knowledge and connections to keep Brody and she globe-trotting under the radar in season 3, right now it feels as though the showrunners have gotten all the mileage they can (as far as progressing the overarching story while the two characters are together).
Shortly after season 2 concluded, the Homeland showrunners teased that season 3 wouldn't have the 24-style narrative of the previous seasons - where Carrie must race against time in order to prevent an impending terrorist attack - and that the writers were considering a more slow-burn approach (a la a John LeCarré story like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), focused on the daily going-ons in the CIA and the missions they undertake in the name of national security.
Here is the latest, with regard to what viewers can expect from Homeland season 3:
When asked if season three will feel different from the first two, [co-showrunner Alexander] Cary explained that “in the first two seasons you see Carrie and the CIA on the defensive, and now you see them on the offensive,” which he hopes will be especially interesting paired with the unfinished love story. Gansa added that a big theme of the new season is the toll that being an intelligent officer takes on Carrie and Saul, especially now that the stakes are so exponentially high.
During season 2, the Homeland showrunners and writing staff relied on a number of storytelling contrivances and cheap short-cuts, which ultimately did get them where they wanted to go - but, occasionally at the expense of the characters' development and those political themes/ideas that are fundamental to the show. Having said all that, season 3 will pick up in an interesting place - and could pave the way for more well-conceived and fascinating developments in the future.
For more on what might've been in season 2, check out this breakdown of the Fox theater Homeland panel.
Homeland season 3 premieres Sunday, September 29th @9pm on Showtime.