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'Homeland' Preview -- Is this Brody?s endgame or will he make it out of season 3 alive?

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Bob Leverone/Showtime

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Nicholas Brody is on borrowed time. The ever-conflicted ex?POW Marine played by Damian Lewis came thisclose to blowing himself up in Homeland‘s first-season climax. In season 2, producers plotted to kill him off, until chats with Showtime’s network brass changed their minds (we imagine executives forcing the writers to watch clips of Lewis winning his Homeland Emmy). ”Showtime was very vocal about their desire to keep Brody alive, but they were completely open to the idea that Brody could die” eventually, explains showrunner Alex Gansa. ”It’s really about when the time is right.”

This season, the number of credible ways to incorporate a falsely accused terrorist who’s fled the country into the Virginia-based CIA drama dwindled, so Brody has ended up rotting in a half-finished skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, where he got hooked on heroin, and appeared in only two of the show’s first eight episodes.

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Nicholas Brody is on borrowed time. The ever-conflicted ex-POW Marine played by Damian Lewis came this close to blowing himself up in Homeland’s first-season climax. In season 2, producers plotted to kill him off, until chats with Showtime’s network brass changed their minds (we imagine executives forcing the writers to watch clips of Lewis winning his Homeland Emmy). ”Showtime was very vocal about their desire to keep Brody alive, but they were completely open to the idea that Brody could die” eventually, explains showrunner Alex Gansa. ”It’s really about when the time is right.”

This season, the number of credible ways to incorporate a falsely accused terrorist who’s fled the country into the Virginia-based CIA drama dwindled, so Brody has ended up rotting in a half-finished skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, where he got hooked on heroin, and appeared in only two of the show’s first eight episodes. ”Brody is such a conundrum for the writers. They’ve been slightly hijacked by the brilliance of their own creation,” says Lewis. ”He’s a complex and unpredictable character, and he survives because of that.” Now Brody’s luck may be running out. The Nov. 24 episode brought him back to the foreground and reunited him with his bipolar CIA-agent ex-love, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), who’s offering him a chance to atone by undertaking a dangerous mission that will be the focus of the season’s final three episodes. (The finale airs on Dec. 15.) The first step was enduring the Nov. 24 episode’s forced cold-turkey heroin withdrawal. (Note: Never go to CIA rehab.) ”They were horrific to shoot,” Gansa says of the intense scenes, which Lewis researched by interviewing addicts. ”It was an extreme physical journey for Damian to go through.” Next Brody will pretend-defect to Iran in hopes of assassinating a high-ranking government leader. That ought to go smoothly, right? ”It will be far from straightforward,” Lewis says of the operation, which was shot in Morocco. ”It will be fraught with problems and doubt and hurdles, both personal and physical, that Brody will have to overcome.”

And even if Brody’s Mission: Improbable succeeds, there’s the not-so-small matter of whether the CIA will actually keep its promise to rescue him afterward. Carrie is secretly carrying Brody’s espionage love child (which will play a factor in the last couple of episodes) and has a big interest in getting her baby daddy home safe. Twists like Carrie’s pregnancy this season have rankled some fans, who’ve complained that the show is indulging in melodrama. Yet Homeland‘s viewership is at an all-time high, with a cumulative audience of 6.7 million viewers weekly — which should reassure Showtime that the series can soldier on without Brody if he doesn’t make it. But the Homeland writers had better be careful: More episodes like the Nov. 24 hour could put Lewis at serious risk — of winning another Emmy.

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