There is an old saying among television writers that you do not save anything for the second season because you do not know if you will get one. The Homeland writers definitely used this philosophy writing a big plot twist with the emotional weight of a season finale every two to three episodes (even though they did not really need to do so because everything on Showtime gets renewed, and basically gets five to seven seasons). They burned through enough plots in one season many shows take three to five seasons to get through.
This was a double edge sword because as awesome and epic as the first season was, the second was a bit of a let down and lost more and more speed as the season progressed. Seriously, Brody killed the Vice President by hacking his heart monitor and no one noticed Brody enter or the leave the office in one of the heavily guarded residence in the nation.
But the second season was still watchable, the show completely came off the rails in season three when the writers gave us the love no one wanted to see. I had to rack my brains to think of a show that had fallen that far that fast, but the demise of most television shows are slow to the point you do not really realize until two or three seasons too late when you wonder why exactly are you still watching. The closest I could come up with was the Belfast season of Sons of Anarchy (also its third season), but that was not bad; it was just mostly boring and cumbersome to sit through.
Sons of Anarchy did rebound when the cast returned to Charming for the most part (it would have been better had FX kept Kurt Sutter’s hubris in check not allowing him to do ninety minute or even two hour episodes just so he could squeeze in a extra ten minute musical montage or three). So there was hope for Homeland, the show finally killed off Brody in the season finale even if it was two seasons too late and teased a move to the Middle East with Carrie getting a position in Kabul. Only Lane Kiffen fails upwards more often than Carrie Mathison.
Season four started off with a hard reboot, Carrie was now the drone queen in the Kabul station, Saul was in the private sector, Quinn was doing Quinn things in Pakistan, and not a Brody to be found, except Baby Brody on Skype. The only thing to stay the same was Lockhart still in charge of the CIA and as curmudgeony as ever. The season starts of with the Drone Queen doing what she does best, sending drones to kill terrorists even if they are at a wedding. Being this is Carrie, probably especially if they are at weddings.
The season really pick up with the death of the Pakistan station chief (after seeing him all summer with an Anime type wig, it was weird seeing Cory Stoll with the thin halo of hair and a dark beard). Then the show had to go back to America and baby Brody with Lockhart threatening to keep the Done Queen stateside. Thankfully Carrie wanted to spend as much time with Baby Brody as the viewers did and blackmailed Lockhart to give yet another promotion, this time as Pakistani station chief.
Where as the fist season burned off finale type plot twists every couple episodes, season four of Homeland seemed more tradition with a slow build to one big moment in the anti-penultimate episode when Haqqani’s plan was finally set in motion. Sure the first half of the season was rough in spots (Carrie sleeping with yet another asset, Quinn’s out of nowhere puppy love of Carrie, Saul’s private sector job being utter inconsequential, the mustache twirling evil female ISI agent, and basically every scene the ambassador’s husband was in) the show finally found it feet right around the time Saul got abducted (granted if former CIA directors are really allowed to walk around unintended in Arab country airports, they should really change that policy).
After the raid on the embassy, we got to finally see Quinn shake out of his season long funk and go full black ops rouge. Sure if this was season one, he would have been allowed to kill Haqqani even with Dar Adal in the back seat). And done it in the first five episodes of the season. But know it look like the writers are saving plot for future seasons. The season was so slow moving, Carrie did not bother to even confront Adal until the end of the finale, after driving cross country to confront her long absent mother and night lasagna with Lockhart, Saul and Quinn (one of the season’s best scenes.)
So at the start of season five it looks like Saul will be back as director of the CIA despite being forced out after the CIA building bombing and just being held capture by a terrorist. It is s sad to see Lockhart get forced out because him going HAM on everyone has been the most entertaining part of the last seasons (though I do not know why he wussed out at the threat of killing Farrah), but this is Homeland where everyone seems to fail upward, so he may be president by the start of season five. It will be interesting to see if Quinn and/or Carrie go rouge next season trying to finally get Haqqani. Or the writer will bring back Dana Brody and have her join ISIS with plenty of hallucinations of her father.