As good as “Homeland” is, what makes the Showtime series compulsive viewing are its cliffhanger endings: the discovery of a video confession revealing a planned suicide attack by Sergeant Nicholas Brody; a CIA agent on the verge of assassinating the war-hero-turned-terrorist; Carrie Mathison — the bipolar heroine played brilliantly by Claire Danes — walking back into the dark abandoned mill where she was held captive by al-Qaeda leader Abu Nazir. That last scene alone combines Sigourney Weaver in “Alien” with Jody Foster in “Silence of the Lambs.”
But the reason to watch Season 3 is a little different. Although last season’s finale left some loose ends, it also completed the arc of the series, practically wiping the slate clean. Principal villains are dead. Carrie and Brody — described by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd as “Romeo and Juliet crossed with Bonnie and Clyde” — have gone separate ways. The urge to see what happens in the next episode has been replaced by a larger question: Where will the whole thing go from here?
For “Homeland” neophytes, there’s still time to catch up. Season 2 is just out on Blu-ray and DVD, and all back episodes are available at Showtime On Demand. So check out the pilot if you haven’t already seen it. You may find yourself on a viewing binge between now and September 29, when Season 3 premieres. — John Birmingham