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'Homeland' hits ratings record and becomes top series on Showtime

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The shocking season three finale of "Homeland" hit a series record on Dec. 15, 2013, according to a Dec. 16 announcement emailed to media. The season three finale of the thriller stars Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin.

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Update: Homeland starts production for fourth season in South Africa

"Homeland's" season three finale now ranks as the series’ highest-rated episode and night ever, with 2.4 million viewers at 9 p.m. and 2.9 million viewers for the night. The prior highs were season 2 episode 11 at 9 p.m. and the season 2 finale for the night – vs. 2.7 million. The season three finale also outperformed the season three premiere by 27 percent at 9 p.m. (vs. 1.88 million) and by 12 percent for the night (vs. 2.6 million).

"Homeland is now Showtime's number one show, outpacing the hit "Dexter" with over seven million weekly viewers. The thriller is the only network series ever to cross the seven million weekly viewership mark, according to Showtime.

In spite of fan outcries that the drama had "jumped the shark" with implausible plotlines and melodrama, the ratings not only stayed strong, but grew to record levels.

The series finale was hotly debated, with fans devided over whether POW/terrorist Nick Brody (Lewis) should stay or leave. Brody is an intriguing character whose loyalties have been a question mark since season one. Homeland loyalties in question for Nick Brody

A copy of the finale had been leaked in advance, so the debate over the ending began even before the finale had aired.

Homeland season three finale and changes ahead

Spoiler alert!

Recaps are plentiful at this point, so anyone who is looking already knows that Nick Brody is executed in a gruesome manner while heartbroken CIA operative Carrie Matheson (Danes) watches helplessly while standing in the jeering crowd. Brody has already been through so much that he seems resigned to his fate, even though he could rightfully feel betrayed by the CIA.

After the execution, the episode quickly moves ahead four months. Carrie seems to have made peace with new CIA Director Lockhart (Tracy Letts), who promotes her to station manager where she will manage the new asset Javadi. At question is whether or not she will keep Brody's unborn baby, or will she leave her daughter with her sister and father to raise.

Saul (Patinkin) enjoys a Greek vacation with Mira before heading into private security in New York. Will Saul reappear in "Homeland" in his new capacity?

The cast of "Homeland" (season three) includes: Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson, F. Murray Abraham as Dar Adal, Sarita Choudhury as Mira Berenson, Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn, Tracy Letts as Sen. Andrew Lockhart and Morgan Saylor as Dana Brody.

Showtime announced that "Homeland" would be returning for a fourth season back in October. The series will probably return in Sept., 2014, although an exact date has not been announced. "Homeland""renewed for fourth season of suspense on Showtime

"Homeland" is a critically acclaimed hit, which has received Emmy, SAG and Golden Globe Awards.

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