Where Homeland can go from here: 4 theories

The second season of Showtime's critically-acclaimed CIA drama has drawn to a close with a finale that hints at a new direction

"Homeland" season 2
(Image credit: Showtime 2012)

Last night, the second season of Showtime's critically-acclaimed Homeland drew to a close with an episode that saw a major terrorist attack take place on U.S. soil. Believing that her lover Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) has been framed as the mastermind behind the explosion — which killed over 200 Americans, including the family of the recently-deceased vice president and the director of the CIA's counterterrorism unit — CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) helps Brody escape the country. (Watch a trailer for Homeland below.) Now that the second season has ended, where can Homeland go from here? In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, executive producer Alex Gansa revealed that the show's creative team has not yet "found that narrative engine that's going to take us through the third season […] We're looking for something smaller, that is sort of a little more John le Carré." What could that "narrative engine" be? Here, 4 guesses:

1. Carrie will recommit to her job at the CIA

Homeland has teased the possibility that Carrie's future with the CIA is far from assured — she was even fired at the end of season one — but her job with the agency is too central to the series to be abandoned. "If there is one thing we... will know about Homeland for as long as it is on the air, it’s that Carrie Mathison will be working for the CIA," says Willa Paskin at Salon, a factor that sapped some of the finale's suspense. The episode grappled with Carrie's "Brody-or-her-job conundrum," but she will "never be allowed to permanently choose Brody, because then there would be no television show."

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2. Brody will return — but it's not clear how large a role he'll play

"The writers could have killed Brody, but they didn't, presumably because they want to let this story play out some more, with Carrie working to clear her man's name and waiting for the day when they really can walk into the sunset together," says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. But it's time for Homeland to background the Carrie-Brody relationship. If Carrie tries to clear Brody's name as a subplot "while she and Saul [Mandy Patinkin] move onto other business next season — with Lewis either not appearing at all or very sporadically — then it can work. But if the plan is to dive straight into Carrie's mission to save her man, and into what Brody is up to while he tries to stay hidden," that's just a show that's unwilling to let go of a character, "even if the story has moved beyond him."

3. Saul will step up as Homeland's male lead

"With the Carrie/Brody storyline unraveling so haphazardly, Saul began to take center stage with a series of terrific scenes that offered the promise of a much more Saul-centric season 3," says Adam B. Vary at Entertainment Weekly. "In Season 3, it looks like Saul will be in command," agrees Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter. "Against all logic, Carrie will be retained. As a team, they will try to track down Brody (but for different reasons)."

4. Homeland is a clean slate again and could go anywhere

The season finale left things so open-ended that it's impossible to predict where we'll go from here, says June Thomas at Slate. But we do know a little more. "We know that the Waldens won't be a plot device anymore. We know that Estes wasn't the mole. We know that there really is a mole at the CIA — otherwise, how did the car get moved to such a sure-kill spot? We know that Carrie will get to return to the CIA for real. And we know that when one major terrorist is killed, there are always more in the wings ready to step up." Homeland's second season has been uneven, but season three is a chance to hit the reset button — and "like Carrie and Brody, I'm excited and a bit apprehensive having a clean slate."

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