"Homeland" launched its third season on Showtime tonight, but where the heck is Brody?

Fifty-eight days after America's "Second 9/11," the POW-turned-suspected-bomber still hasn't been apprehended. The CIA has no idea where he might be and neither do we. Throughout this first episode, "Tin Man Is Down," there's no trace of him. We don't even get a quick teaser shot of Brody lurking in the shadows somewhere. For all we know, he could be throwing down mai-tais in the Bahamas.

Next week it will be the same thing. We've already screened the second episode and there's no Brody in that one either.

Can this show hold our attention without Brody's (Damian Lewis) commanding presence. We'll see.

Initially, I was perplexed by the producers' decision not to include the character in these early episodes. Was it a creative move, or a logistical/contractural one? Why couldn't they at least film some quick scenes of him on the run?

But as the episode unfolded, I grew more supportive of the set-up from a writer's point of view. By leaving Brody off screen, they've lined us up with Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin), which is to say we're completely in the dark just like them. And just like them, our minds are abuzz with questions: Where is he? What is up to? The sense of frustration and futility heightens -- along with the mystery.


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Meanwhile, we're left to deal with the horrendous fallout from the Langley bombing. The death toll is 219, including former agency chief David Estes. Saul is now in charge -- but of what? Post-bombing reconstruction has yet to proceed at Langley and there is even talk that the agency might be shut down. After all, how can the CIA be expected to protect the country when it can't even protect itself?

All the while, a rather hostile Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry is under way and its leader -- Senator Andrew Lockhart -- clearly wants heads to roll. His target for now is Carrie, who is off her meds and whose testimony is doing her no favors. It certainly doesn't help her cause that she professes her belief in Brody's innocence when he's Public Enemy No. 1.

Lockhart is particularly interested in the 14-hour time span immediately following the bombing. Carrie has claimed that she was knocked unconscious in the restroom, but there are witnesses who claim they saw her leaving the scene with Brody (And we know she helped him flee to Canada).

"You have done great harm to your country," the bombastic Lockhart snarls.

But the real bombshell comes when Saul arrives for questioning -- immediately after six terrorists believed connected to the bombing are taken down in a high-risk counter strike that he OK'd. A newspaper story has already leaked the fact that an unnamed female CIA operative had an affair with Brody.

And Saul does nothing to discredit the story. In the public hearing, the man who was Carrie's mentor -- her most loyal backer -- tells Lockhart that this unnamed agent has had a history of "erratic" behavior, that she concealed the fact that she was bipolar for more than 10 years, and that, yes, she was sleeping with Brody.

As she watches all of this go down on her television, Carrie is devastated -- a picture of utter disbelief and heartbreak.

Some random observations:

-- After a season in which "Homeland" was slammed by many fans and critics for some cartoonish plot twists, this episode was a welcome change of pace. More grounded. More contemplative. We'll see how long that lasts.

-- Claire Danes is already well on her way toward another Emmy nomination. No one does gut wrenching anger and betrayal and anguish quite like her.

-- Talk about a whiplash-inducing change of direction. We spent most of Season 1 watching Carrie trying to prove that Brody was a terrorist. Looks like she'll spend much of this season trying to prove that he's not.

-- Love F. Murray Abraham as Dar Adal, Saul's adviser. So creepy. So mysterious. What does this guy have up his sleeve?

-- I appreciate the fact that "Homeland" isn't giving short shrift to the tumult being experienced by Brody's family in the wake of his going on the lam and Dana's suicide attempt. Nice work by Morgan Saylor and all the actors. You feel their pain and sense of abandonment.

-- Dana has a boyfriend. Uh oh. The last time that happened, it didn't go so well.

-- So, Saul's wife is back, but things are still awkward. Apparently, he's not in the mood for sex.

What did you think of the episode, "Homeland" fans? Did you miss Brody? Or do you feel the show is off to a good start without him? And what do you think Saul's end game is with his damaging testimony?

Contact Chuck Barney at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney, or Twitter.com/chuckbarney