The funniest moment in the Homeland season premiere comes when a hysterical Carrie (Claire Danes) freaks out over the phone, and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) says, "Calm down." Now you tell her, dude? Homeland leapt so far off the rails last season, it's hard to tell if there are any rails left to come back to. Like the homeland-security mania of the 2000s, the Showtime CIA drama had a dizzy rise and instantly looked like a permanent fixture nobody was willing to question. But by the time people started noticing all the silliness, it was too late – now we're stuck with it.
As the third season slooowly begins, "Fortress America" is reeling from a terrorist attack on CIA headquarters. (Damn that lax security! When are we going to get the constant government surveillance our citizens are demanding?) Saul hunts for Brody, the rogue Marine-turned-terrorist whom Carrie chased all the way into bed. Brody's daughter still has her annoying, narrative-killing teen problems. And Carrie testifies before a Senate investigation, with her ever-wobbling lip and quivering chin. Why exactly would anyone let this basket case take the stand? Homeland needs a dramatic adrenaline shot as soon as possible – otherwise, Carrie and Saul are headed for all-out comedy spy-soap territory.
This story is from the October 10th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.