Why ‘Homeland’ Lost So Much Momentum in Season 3

When Homeland Season 1 premiered in October 2011, the show became a smash hit from the get-go. Within weeks, star Claire Danes (Carrie Mathison) had to start grappling with obsessed fans while Showtime executives celebrated their new ratings sensation.

The roll continued right through that first season. With a steady growth in viewers and nearly unanimous critical acclaim, Homeland seemed poised to put Showtime on the map at the Emmys. But it exceeded all expectations at the awards show.

Not only did Homeland nudge aside Mad Men for Outstanding Drama (Showtime’s first) at the 2012 Emmys; the show walked with a total of six awards, including one each for leads Danes and Damian Lewis (Nicholas Brody). And season 2 ended on a similar high note.

Along with higher ratings and 11 Emmy nominations, Homeland had captured the imagination of a country grappling with a decade of war in the Middle East. But Showtime couldn’t bear to part with Lewis’ Brody when his time came, and that changed the show’s fortunes in season 3.

‘Homeland’ kept Damian Lewis’ Brody character 1 season too long

Brody and Carrie in 'Homeland'
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody in Homeland (Season 3, Episode 12). | Didier Baverel/SHOWTIME

When you have a pair of leads as exceptional as Danes and Lewis, you find a way to keep them together. And the incredible season 1 finale twist left dozens of angles for Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa and co-creator Howard Gordon to explore.

But Gansa and Gordon hadn’t envisioned multiple seasons with Brody in the story. In an oral history of the show published in The Hollywood Reporter prior to the season 8 premiere, Gansa described Showtime executives “begging [him] not to get rid of Damian [Lewis].”

Network executives raved about the chemistry between Lewis and Danes. And they generally loved the Homeland formula. But the show was so great because of the chances Gansa and Gordon had taken earlier. In order to keep Brody alive, they had to compromise on some level.

“There would have been something braver about ending his story sooner,” Gansa acknowledged to THR. But some cast members saw it in clearer terms. As Mandy Patinkin (Saul Berenson) said, “I think they kept the Brody story going a year too long.”

Critics pounced on ‘Homeland’ during season 3

Damian Lewis as Brody in 'Homeland' S3
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody in Homeland (Season 3, Episode 10). | Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

After becoming a critical darling in its first season, Homeland took a beating from reviewers for season 3 (2013). “What the Heck Is Going on With This Show?” asked Huffington Post’s reviewer of episode 4. In The Hollywood Reporter, Tim Goodman explained how the show “further damaged its reputation” with that fourth installment.

In THR’s oral history, Lewis reckoned with the turn of critics all those years ago. “When the critics started saying the show lost its port, I think it’s because the guys had to re-imagine and rewrite it just to keep me going,” he said.

After going in thinking Brody would last for two seasons, Lewis himself was surprised he stuck around, no matter the “damage” critics cited. But Showtime couldn’t imagine parting with the male lead of its hottest show.

Eventually, they gave in and allowed Brody to die. And, slowly but surely, the show found its way again. By the eighth season, the show had become so compelling again that it’s amusing to look back to the time no one could imagine it without Brody. Even the best shows can lose their way at times.

Also see: ‘Homeland’: What Happened to Dar Adal After Season 7?