Damian Lewis and Claire Danes

Carrie Mathison is finally in the driver's seat. In a scene for an upcoming episode of Showtime's Emmy-winning hit Homeland, the bipolar former C.I.A. agent — played by the mesmerizing Claire Danes — is gripping the wheel with such ferocious intensity, you'd think she's doing 120 even though the car is parked. In the passenger seat is former POW-turned-terrorist Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who is relaying some literally shocking news. The scene is so riveting, it will make viewers wish for a couple of Carrie's mood-calming meds.

Politics, suspense and complex storytelling keep Homeland fans on the edge of their seats, but it's the twisted, charged dynamic between the show's two leads that has made it one of television's most addictive dramas. And this week, their interplay gets even more serious. "It really changes the game between them," says executive producer Howard Gordon. "The rest of the season explores a new relationship."

Don't expect hearts and flowers. Her efforts to link Brody to Al Qaeda leader Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) in Season 1 not only cost Carrie her job, but also her sanity. "It's very profound that she was in fact right all along about Brody," says Danes, taking a break on location in North Carolina. "She can trust herself again. But then she comes in contact with him. So it's managing her passion for her work and for this man, even though her feelings have been compromised by the ways in which he mistreated her."

Carrie's C.I.A. mentor and fierce protector, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), "is very anxious about her sharing proximity with Brody, because he knows how vulnerable she is around him," Danes reveals. "They're a bit at odds for that reason."

If Carrie's life is infused with new purpose, Brody's is a deepening well of lies and duplicity. He professes loyalty to his wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin), and children, yet betrays them politically and personally. He claims to want to correct U.S. behavior toward Islamic countries by moral persuasion, then warns Nazir of a C.I.A. ambush. "Brody really does want to pursue nonviolent means to achieve his political ends," says Lewis, who is as relaxed off camera as he is tightly wound on. "He believes he can be a good congressman and try to stop the killing of civilians overseas, but we will see that Brody is simply not in charge of his own destiny. He's the puppet of too many people."

As the season progresses, the former marine finds himself torn between Carrie and another woman in his life, journalist and Nazir loyalist Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson). "She's very important to the intended attack on America," says Gordon. "That attack and the attempts to prevent it become the ongoing spine of the season."

In the midst of this turmoil, Brody is still dangerously drawn to Carrie. "He's damaged, volatile and temperamental," says Lewis. "Carrie is, too, and they have a magnetic, kinetic connection that he doesn't have with his beautiful wife." That wife "is no dummy," reveals Baccarin. "Brody starts lying again and it makes their relationship impossible. But he's very damaged and she's aware of that, so she knows she has to be somewhat patient with him." It could be a good thing that her ex-lover and Brody's old friend, Marine Capt. Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff), is around with a sturdy shoulder. Faber should watch his back, however, since he's snooping around the murder of the former POW Tom Walker, whom Brody assassinated by order of Nazir.

Homeland's creators, Alex Gansa and Gordon, who previously collaborated on that
propulsive 9/11 revenge fantasy 24, have deliberately kept Homeland as real as possible. "The subject matter is drawing from the well of current events that are redefining our country, whether it's the Arab Spring or our counterterrorism strategy," says Gordon. "Brody plays emblematically the soldier who has come home damaged from the conflict, and Carrie embodies the question: What do we have to be afraid of? We're really dramatizing how complex any answers may be."

For more with the cast of Homeland, pick up this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, October 18!

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