Tonight, the politically strangling Homeland returned to Showtime as a newly revitalized drama, with a near-complete overhaul for both the central characters and the series’ focus. Many TV series have ordered up major changes in the past, but Homeland revamps almost everything, except of course for Saul’s beard. There are a million ways this might have gone sour, but Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa are talented storytellers, and Season 4 quickly reminds us why we fell in nailbiting love with this show in the first place.

While most of what we remember about these characters is still intact, they’re each under different strains and nothing is quite as it was. After two episodes, it is foolishly too soon to say that we’re in for a spectacular season, but here are three ways this quasi-reboot brings Homeland back to the dramatic forefront. And the biggest change between Seasons 3 and 4 is the top of the heap.

”homeland”
No More Brody!
In Season 1, when Damien Lewis was first introduced to audiences as Nicholas Brody, the central concept was “Is he a terrorist or isn’t he?” And two seasons later, the writers were still playing on that trust/distrust to draw out Brody’s story, although he technically should have bitten the dust long before. Luckily, that case of arrested development is in the past, as Season 3 concluded with Brody’s public execution, as Carrie (Claire Danes) was in the viewing audience. Rare is a hanging the silver lining in a situation.

With the Brody clan finally out of the picture, the episodic plots can mature beyond torrid love affairs and uncomfortable side-family drama. (Seriously, Chris Brody was the worst TV offspring ever.) I’ll definitely miss Lewis’ presence in and of itself, as he’s a fantastic actor, but his continued presence lost this show some acclaim by its third year. And odd as it may seem, I’d much rather all of that camera time go to other characters like Quinn, even if it’s just to watch him impulsively defend his lady’s honor in a restaurant. Will popular opinion for Homeland revert back to reverence in the future? That all depends on the story, which has so far avoided even using his name.

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