Sep. 27, 2013 at 3:39 PM ET
Let’s get the big non-spoiler out of the way: Marine sergeant-turned-terrorist-turned-not-terrorist Nicholas Brody makes no appearance in the season three premiere of “Homeland.” In fact, he’s not in the second episode either, and it needs to be said: That’s OK.
Why? Because even without Brody's physical form, he’s all over every scene anyway.
The third season picks up 58 days after a car bomb detonated at CIA headquarters, killing 219 people. Brody is still on the lam (which is why it makes some sense we don’t see him right away this season) and everyone else is dealing with a new reality, one that may or may not be Brody’s fault.
Every person he left behind is in some stage of crisis, and how they deal with it is a critical launching point. Here’s a quick rundown — spoiler free — of what to expect from the remaining majors players in the season premiere.
“I will not throw Carrie under the bus” is among Saul’s first lines in the first scene of the premiere. For the new head of the CIA — the guy who has to deal with a freshly unstable Carrie Mathison, the fallout from the attack on Langley as well as his crumbling personal life (can we all say it together? POOR SAUL.) — this is a fairly loaded statement. Especially since ...
Reference the earlier “freshly unstable” statement. Carrie is off her meds and telling some Very Important People she thinks Brody is innocent of the attacks on the CIA. (Carrie, know your audience.) Because she thinks her meds made her “miss” the attack, she’s instead “following a program” that’s keeping her on the straight and narrow, or so she thinks. What you need to know is that our Carrie of Season One is back. She has just enough clarity to be sympathetic, inspire loyalty and sometimes see things through the proper prism. But the rest of the time, she’s her own worst enemy.
It was hard to know what to do with Quinn in the second season. Brought in under dubious circumstances, seemingly at odds with Carrie, Saul, and, well, basically everyone, he seemed like the baddest guy fighting for good. By the end of the first episode of season three, there is at least some clarity here. Without Brody around, Quinn especially gets to shine.
In her father’s absence, young Dana becomes the most important Brody. She starts season three transitioning out of the inpatient psychiatric facility where she's been since a post-CIA bombing suicide attempt. At home, with mother, brother and grandmother trying to pretend everything’s OK, it’s Dana’s observations that function as the mouthpiece for the familial detritus her father left behind. Also, Dana’s bond with Nicholas Brody was the closest of anyone’s. After all, he abandoned the plot to kill the vice president because of Dana. So it makes sense she becomes of more pivotal character this season.
What these first episodes are not are a jumping-in point for new fans. If you’re still talking your loved ones into becoming fans of “Homeland,” encourage them to catch up thoroughly first. Otherwise, settle in to Showtime at 9 p.m. Sunday and enjoy what is a slow roll-out to a season that's going to be tough to predict.