Where's Brody? That's classified information...for now. Homeland's POW-turned-suspected bomber was last seen fleeing to Canada — with the help of agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) — after the catastrophic attack on the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The case against him is solid: Bomb parts were found in his wrecked car, and Al Qaeda leaked a suicide video he had made before a previous, failed mission.
"When I learned I wouldn't be in the first two episodes, I thought, 'God, how are they going to write them without Brody?'" says Emmy-winning actor Damian Lewis on the show's North Carolina set. "But when I read the scripts, I didn't miss him for a second. There's so much great story."
Season 3 picks up two months after the bombing. The Senate Intelligence Committee wants heads to roll at the CIA for its inability to prevent the tragedy, and they've zeroed in on Carrie, who was a member of the task force assigned to capture terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir. "Carrie's in a very vulnerable place," executive producer Howard Gordon says. "She's being taken to task for her intelligence failures, bad judgment, mental illness, the whole nine yards." Says Danes, "Carrie is very isolated throughout this season. I was very stranded as a character and an actor."
And just as Carrie nearly lost her mind in Season 1 trying to convince the CIA that a war hero named Nicholas Brody was actually a terrorist, she's going off the rails (and her meds) as she tries to prove that Brody is innocent in the CIA blast. "Carrie's in a deep hole," Gordon says, "but there are tons of reversals and twists and turns done at a very deep character level."
The bombing also takes a psychological toll on Brody's family. "Bricks are thrown through their windows, their military benefits have been cut off and their daughter, Dana [Morgan Saylor], tries to kill herself," says Morena Baccarin, who plays Brody's estranged wife, Jessica. "Jess is so isolated she even contacts Carrie to try to make sense of things. It's very heavy when the season opens."
If last season had its over-the-top 24 moments, upcoming episodes will feature the more contemplative pace of a John le Carré novel. "Every show that aspires to be good has to reinvent itself each year," says executive producer Alex Gansa. "We covered a lot of ground in the first year and even more in the second season. But you can't just keep doing the same things. It gets boring, not only for the audience but for the people who are making the show."
While there's little danger of boredom on Homeland, Gordon says, "We really take our time to reground all the characters and explore the aftermath of the bombing at both the macro level — in terms of the state of the intelligence community — and at a micro level, with all the people who are in the wake of the destruction."
And the fallout is devastating. "Everything that's been left behind seems broken and dysfunctional," Lewis says. "The season will be about whether these people, these institutions, can be built back, block by block, and effect some kind of recovery."
But can Homeland hold viewers rapt when Brody, whose powerful presence helped fuel the engine of the show, appears in fewer than half of this season's episodes? That remains to be seen. "Our show doesn't play it safe," Gordon says. "It's always about not forcing a story where it doesn't belong."
Without Brody, Carrie feels the pain of loneliness. In the scene filming today, she's studying the "Brody wall" she has assembled in her apartment. It's covered with maps, photos, newspaper clippings and crisscrossed lines that connect sightings of the man she loves. In a rare moment of trust, Carrie shares the intel she's gathered with Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), the black-ops assassin who, against orders, decided not to kill Brody last season. "Carrie is building a professional intimacy with Quinn, which is often more meaningful for her than a conventional romance," says Danes, whose 8-month-old son, Cyrus, is on the set and provides an obvious welcome break from the show's intensity.
The decision to downsize Brody's role and separate the combustible lovers is part of a larger Season 3 reboot. Despite last season's rising ratings (the finale drew 2.3 million viewers in its first airing) and 11 Emmy nominations (including a win for Danes and nods for Lewis, Baccarin and Mandy Patinkin, as well as for best drama, which it won last year) some viewers complained about too much Carrie-Brody romance and too many over-the-top plot twists.
"The first season wowed everyone with its taut, psychological cat-and-mouse games," says Lewis, whose ginger hair has been buzzed for the role. "Then for some people it lost its realism and became a bit more cartoony. The writers recalibrated, and we're back to a darker, more hard-boiled show."
Homeland premieres Sunday, Sept. 29 at 9/8c on Showtime.
For more on Homeland, pick up this week's Fall Cable Preview issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, Sept. 26!
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