Does 'Homeland' Need Brody?

The Showtime drama wraps its third season with Damian Lewis' character hanging in the balance after three years of close calls.

Homeland was built on Nicholas Brody. As much as the Showtime drama's central focus has always been Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul's (Mandy Patinkin) CIA efforts to prevent stateside terrorism -- quite often, unsuccessfully -- the first window into their world of homeland security was Damian Lewis' liberated prisoner of war and on-again, off-again agent for Islamic fundamentalists.

Brody opted not to kill a roomful of high-ranking U.S. officials with a suicide-bomber jacket in the first season, and though he ultimately killed the vice president, he was not responsible for the bomb that took out several hundred at Langley in the sophomore-season ender. Somewhat unbelievably, he managed to elude capture, and with the exception of the last few episodes, he spent the third season off the grid -- shooting heroin in a Venezuelan slum prison.

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It's been a rough road. And all the while, though big bads Abu Nazir and Majid Javadi have come and gone, Brody has remained the series' most consistent window into the antagonistic forces in this fictional spin on modern intelligence and counterintelligence.

Executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa have said as much for years, but Brody would most likely have been long gone for some time were it not for the chemistry between he and Carrie -- and the duo's somewhat unexpected romantic turn that most recently resulted in Carrie's pregnancy with a baby whose paternity is unknown but assumed.

But do viewers watch Homeland for the romance? Carrie and Brody have crossed paths just once in the third season, and the series continues to see high ratings. And however invested those viewers are in the Romeo and Juliet dynamic, the ending to such stories is predestined.

The penultimate episode of Homeland's third season seemed to seal the Carrie and Brody's unfortunate fate. Though he did manage to kill Iranian foe Akbari (Houshang Touzie), he first went on television to denounce the U.S. and claim accountability for the Langley attack. If he is toeing the CIA line, it's not in any fashion that could ever give him public redemption. It's off the table.

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Brody's family, an integral part of the series since the pilot, is already on the way out. Barely present in the second half of the season, Friday brought news that Morena Baccarin and Morgan Saylor (who play Brody's wife and daughter, respectively), have been downgraded from regulars. If it's the end of the line for Brody, the trajectory of Homeland's fourth season isn't exactly clear.

The show has always been built around the CIA, but with Saul's tenure as director winding down and Carrie still functioning as a bipolar freelancer, they aren't guaranteed to stay on the inside. Limited resources, however, hasn't stopped the duo yet.

The third season of Homeland, and the first eight episodes in particular, have shown that the writers are content to make the series about just Carrie and Saul. What viewers want is the big question.