Coming off multiple Emmy wins last weekend, Showtime's "Homeland" has a tough mission as the thriller begins its highly anticipated second season (9 p.m. Sept. 30, Showtime; 4 stars out of 4). Will the outstanding quality of the writing and performances remain? Can the series maintain the crackling tension for another season?

The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. Sunday's Season 2 premiere strides confidently back into the world of the CIA, international espionage and the psyches of its main characters. The story remains completely realistic and believable while paving new roads for future developments.

The new season picks up about six months after brilliant but bipolar Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes), who was fired from the CIA, underwent electroshock therapy. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), the former POW she believed had been turned by Middle East terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban), has parlayed his popularity into a new job as a U.S. Congressman.

I don't want to give too much away, but I can say that Carrie is teaching English, living with her father and sister and staying mellow. Her lithium-boosted break doesn't last long, however, when her old mentor CIA mentor, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), seeks her help for a delicate case in Beirut.

OK, seriously, that's all I'm going to tell you.

What made the first season so compelling--other than the great writing and amazing performances--was the cat-and-mouse game between Carrie and Brody, whom she obsessed over because she suspected he was a terrorist and because she fell in love with him. She literally went nuts over him. And the irony is--spoiler alert if you haven't caught up!--she was right about him. It's just that no one believed her.

Even though Brody still struggles with where his allegiances lie, the CIA, the vice president and everyone else remains clueless about him. But viewers know the truth this season, and that ramps up the tension and frustration for us.

I was concerned when I noticed producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon resorted to using a few rather convenient plot points in the second episode. But they ended it with such a jaw-dropping surprise, my doubts disappeared quickly.

I'm still addicted.

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