Is it possible to overcome a shocking tragedy and not be affected by everything? What would you do to right a brutal wrong? Would you sacrifice yourself for the greater good? That's part of the premise behind the third season of Showtime's "Homeland," which followed the cast as they recovered from the events of last season's unexpected finale twist. Unfortunately, the show's breakneck pace in resolving seemingly long term stories could end up catching up with them when season four rolls around in 2014.
"Homeland" followed the complex relationship between an unstable CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and war hero Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) who was turned into an overnight terrorist due to being framed for a bombing at Langley that killed hundreds of people. He returned to the U.S. after he being held captive for eight years with the intention of being a terrorist on American soil, but he changed his mind before things got too far. Now, he was on the run with a bounty on his head for the Langley bombing. Brody's wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) decided to separate from her husband before the bombing, but nothing was finalized which left her to shoulder the burden of her estranged husband's disappearance. Jessica was unable to find work and her children were crumbling under the pressure of their father being branded a terrorist. Jessica's daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) was recovering from a suicide attempt and her son Chris (Jackson Pace) was forced to play peacekeeper on more than one occasion when things got to be too tought to handle. Carrie had a lot to contend with as she tried to clear Brody's name, especially when her chief ally appeared to be working against her. Carrie's mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) became the interim Director of the CIA after the bombings and he appeared to be turning his friend into a sacrificial lamb as he was called to testify about the bombing. Luckily, Saul had the support of his newly returned wife Mira (Sarita Choudhury) when an old friend named Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and a potential political rival (Tracy Letts) had their motives to contend with. Will Carrie be able to clear Brody's name and still keep her sanity in the process?
In terms of questions, "Homeland" posed quite a few over the course of the third season, but the biggest one hasn't been asked yet for fear that the answer might prove to be an unfavorable one. After the season finale, many viewers have wondered if the show should even go on after the finale appeared to wrap up almost every on-going storyline in one episode. The answer to that question remains to be seen, since the show is returning in the upcoming year. The show's rapid fire storytelling worked when it came to shocking viewers, but it let the writers scrambling when it came to finding plots that could help stretch the series' run for as long as possible. Brody's getting exposed as a terrorist and the death of the show's main terrorist left a huge gap in the show's storytelling, but the biggest risk came in the season two finale when the Langley bombing happened. Sure, the moment was shocking and merited a few jaws dropping to the floor. Unfortunately, that bombshell of an ending left writers scrambling for ways to allow the show to move forward in the third season. Carrie's unraveling proved to be a brutal storyline, but the biggest twist was that it was planned to help expose people who were involved in the Langley bombing. Sadly, some of the storylines suffered greatly after the bombing and certain characters never regained their momentum as the season continued to progress. The biggest casualty of this was Lewis' Brody who was sidelined for multiple episodes as his character was literal limbo while he was on the run. His character's grim fate was obvious from the start of the season, even though it was still sad to watch. Baccarin's Jessica and Saylor's Dana also struggled to keep their storyline about the fractured family interesting, even though too much time was spent on Dana's love life/series of misadventures to make their storyline memorable. It also didn't help that neither actress will be a series regular in the upcoming fourth season. The stories that seemed to work the better involved Carrie and Saul's complicated relationship and their conflict of trusting people over their own instincts. Hopefully, the next season will continue to find a way to explore Saul and Carrie's relationship that might not always involve the CIA. Only time will tell if that's the case.
As for breakout performances, Danes and Patinkin led the pack this season because Lewis' Brody was marginalized for a large part of his final season. Danes' Claire was the embodiment of chaos; whether it was in her control or not. She made Carrie to be the perfect mixture of logic, romance and anger of never getting everything that she ever wanted. Danes will likely win another Emmy for her heartbreaking scenes as Carrie said goodbye to the man she loved as she watched him become a martyr for the sake of a CIA mission. She expressed her sadness as she tried to keep Carrie's tears at bay in a crowd that wouldn't be sympathetic to her grief as she uttered his name for one last time. Okay, some of Carrie's storyline bordered on frustrating as she appeared to be given a lot of leeway for her questionable behavior. As the season came to a close, Carrie's biggest decision was whether to choose a new cushy position with the CIA or raise her love child with the now late Brody. With the show returning for a fourth season, it would be interesting to see if Danes' devoted Carrie could tackle motherhood the same way she does a terrorist. Danes had strong chemistry with Lewis' anti-hero that wasn't fully utilize, until his last few episodes as they worked together to complete a CIA mission. Let's hope that the show will find a new way to keep Carrie going in future seasons, or at least end the show on a positive note before things goes too far. Patinkin, on the other hand, was able to have his own storyline this season as his character was thrusted into a major profession spotlight without any warning. He made Saul the perfect balance of discipline and anger as he pushed to the breaking point by those around him as he knew that his days with the CIA were numbered. He also had a strong rapport with Danes that bordered on fatherly at times, even when they seemed to be at odds with each other. Fingers crossed that Patinkin's Saul will be able to return next season in whatever capacity necessary to make it happen, because the show wouldn't be the same without him.
"Homeland" aired its season finale on December 15th at 9:00 pm on Showtime. New episodes are slated to air sometime in 2014.
Verdict: Danes and Lewis gave top notch performances, but some major changes that happened at the end of the season could negatively impact season four next year if the right story wasn't told.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)