‘Homeland’ returns with Brody or not

As has been much noted, Claire Danes’ extraordinary knack for crying begins with her chin. When in a good mood, the chin is shapely and unobtrusive. But distraught, it puckers, juts out, begins to tremble.

As “Homeland’s” bipolar protagonist Carrie Mathison, Danes’ chin has worked hard for two seasons, but it has never carried a burden quite like it does in the early episodes of Season 3, which begins on Showtime on Sunday night.

“Homeland” left off with a massive explosion, one that followed the implosion of the series’ plot and priorities. The chin — and the acute, growing psychological distress that sets it to wobbling — are the focus again, not outlandish storylines and implausible histrionics.

“Homeland,” a show I love even though continuing to do so may be a sign I need to cadge some of Carrie’s pills, ended last season a shambles.

It transformed itself from a psychological thriller with a romantic element, into a romance with a ludicrous action element.

Unbalanced, genius CIA agent Carrie Mathison’s relationship to unbalanced Marine-turned-terrorist-but-maybe-still-patriot Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was always central to the show, but it was not, previously, the center.

The writers turned the story over to the pair’s grandiose, operatic, star-crossed love affair at the expense of logic, character, story and the show’s own future.

Like Carrie, “Homeland” has sacrificed itself over and over again to keep Brody alive.

The new season begins when a car bomb is detonated at Langley killing 219 people. Brody is at large, the prime suspect and the most wanted man in the world.

Everyone he left behind is struggling, including his family, the CIA, now being run by Saul (Mandy Patinkin), and Carrie, who has gone off her meds.

Carrie is attempting to self-regulate with exercise, booze and casual sex, an ineffective a strategy for maintaining mental health.

She remains convinced of Brody’s innocence putting her in conflict with Saul, the CIA and Congress.

The first few new episodes are grounded in a way the show has not been since the early half of last season. The episodes are evidence that “Homeland” would be just fine if Nicholas Brody were never, ever to return from the wilds of Canada.

But as new trailers show, Brody will be back. The writers are more sentimental about him and his importance to the show than the most soft-hearted fan, and they have compromised and contorted storylines again and again just to keep him alive.

Watch It

The third season of “Homeland” premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.

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