By Tim Stack
Updated September 30, 2012 at 01:00 PM EDT

Ronen Akerman/Showtime[/caption]

Expectations are crazy high for season 2 of Showtime’s Homeland, this year’s Emmy winner for Best Drama, Best Actress (Claire Danes) and Best Actor (Damian Lewis) in a Drama Series. Thankfully, EW has seen the first two episodes and can confirm they are as nerve-jangling and tense as season 1. Tonight’s premiere, airing at 10 p.m., picks up six months after the finale with Carrie (Danes) living at home with her sister and father. “She’s created this very controlled cocoon-like existence,” explains Danes. “She’s teaching English to Arabic students. Her health is pretty tenuous.”

A call from Saul (Mandy Patinkin) brings her back into the CIA fold but only off the books. Says executive producer Alex Gansa, “If she’s not officially back in the CIA, she could be unofficially doing their bidding.”

The first two episodes find Carrie in Beirut (the show actually shot in Tel Aviv for 10 days this past spring). The big question though is whether Carrie will regain her memory of Brody screaming out Issa’s name. “It may, but it doesn’t come back in the way we had thought,” says executive producer Howard Gordon.

Meanwhile, Brody is asked to be the Vice President’s running mate in the next presidential election. “There’s a massive acceleration in his political career,” says Lewis. “Which is exciting for Brody because it potentially gets him closer to the targets he needs to be closer to or the sensitive information that he needs access to… while at the same time being hair-raising and challenging because it’s all happening very quickly and he has no real experience in any of it.”

Gansa and Gordon, who both previously worked on 24, know they can’t string along audiences too long and Brody must be revealed at some point. To that end, Brody’s video-taped confession will reappear and be a major plot point of season 2. “What I learned from 24 is to exit a character when their story has been told,” admits Gordon. “Everybody was fair game and that gave it a sense of stakes. Characters who you invested in could go.”

So does that mean Homeland’s season 2 could end with Brody’s death? Says Gordon, “It could.” And the producers are already plotting season 3, which potentially could look like a very different series. “We’re thinking in parallel to the end of season 2 and the beginning of season 3 and really trying to understand how much fruit there’s left on the vine,” says Gordon. “And if the show does have to have a paradigm shift — which all shows do, at some point — we want to do it as gracefully as possible.”

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