By Jeff Jensen
Updated October 23, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT
HOMELAND Claire Danes
Credit: Joe Alblas/Showtime

Purged of the storytelling albatross that was Nicholas Brody (the poorly served Damian Lewis), Homeland reboots in season 4 with a rebooted Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). She’s new and improved with less bipolar crazy and more power, which she wields well. Now the CIA station chief in Kabul, she’s notched so many successful attacks against terrorist targets that she’s earned the nickname ”The Drone Queen.” But then she greenlights an air strike that (oops!) wipes out a wedding party, catalyzing drama that reveals an alarming degree of ruthlessness and the motivation driving her wont for war-zone assignments: a desire to escape motherhood. She’s convinced she’d be a terrible parent to her child with Brody, a metaphor for the old self she wants to stifle. Yet Danes and showrunner Alex Gansa struggle to make us believe in this complex psychology, whether it’s hollow soliloquies, trite scenarios (Changing diapers?! Getmeouttahere!), or a shocker that is worth more discussion than spoilers or this space will allow but fails to earn the provocation all the same.

Still, by episode 3, Homeland starts connecting. A murder mystery becomes intriguing, key franchise assets (including Mandy Patinkin’s Saul) are plugged directly into the main narrative, and a new agent (Michael O’Keefe) provides a welcome spark. There’s a terrific scene in which Carrie recruits a potential informant, a survivor of that drone fiasco, whose fight to retain his moral compass becomes increasingly poignant. Carrie’s ”I still got it!” exultation after seducing him chills but also thrills, for it gives hope that Homeland still has it too. B

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