LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- When Homeland returns Sunday for its final season, it will resolve the Season 7 cliffhanger. The series began with an American POW returning, and now main character Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) finds herself in a similar predicament.
Carrie successfully brought Russian spy Simone Martin (Sandrine Holt) back to the United States, but was captured. The season premiere reveals that Carrie makes it out of a Russian prison, but she is in just as precarious a position as Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was when the show began.
"There's that perfect symmetry," Danes said on a Television Critics Association panel Jan. 13. "I think just psychically, it fuses Carrie with Brody in a way that felt right."
Brody returned from an al-Qaeda prison in Season 1, leading to suspicions the terrorists turned him into a sleeper agent. Carrie's return from Russia strips her of the authority she's earned as an American spy for seven seasons.
"She is so clear about her patriotism," Danes said. "That is, she can be challenged in every way, but if her patriotism is questioned, I think that is probably the most profound insult she could imagine."
Homeland co-creator Alex Gansa said Carrie now can't even be sure about herself.
"She's the one whose loyalties are questioned, not only by those in the intelligence community, but by Carrie Mathison herself, because her memory is so just fragmented from her time in captivity," Gansa said.
One person who still trusts her is Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). Saul, the CIA chief whom President Keane made national security adviser in Season 7, is ready to send her on another mission.
"The mission that I found so meaningful and ironic at the end of the day was the mentee/mentor, father/child [relationship]," Patinkin said.
In seven seasons of spy work, Carrie and Saul have at times betrayed each other, and Saul has roped her back into emotionally compromising work.
Season 8 begins with Saul throwing Carrie a lifeline after she sacrificed herself for his mission. Gansa said the conclusion of Homeland will be the conclusion of Carrie and Saul's relationship.
"That's what you will see resolved by the end of the 12 episodes," Gansa said.
Season 8 will be Saul and Carrie's last mission, but Patinkin suspects another show will take Homeland's place. He believes people always will have an appetite for dramas that explore fictional crises in a world full of real ones.
"It's a necessity, not just for the news media, but for storytellers in general to keep that story front and center for the sake of humanity," Patinkin said.
Danes agrees that Homeland is more than just escapist entertainment.
"I do think it stimulates conversation, and I think it is unique," Danes said. "So I think there will be an absence. I will miss it, personally. I think it will be missed."
Homeland has reflected topical issues such as the war in Afghanistan and Russian interference with U.S. politics. Gansa said the final season would be less reflective of topical storylines than past seasons.
"This season we really decided to focus on these two actors and these two characters and to tell the final chapter of that story," Gansa said.
As Saul and Carrie's relationship reaches its resolution, and Carrie finds herself the suspected POW, Gansa also found ways to bring back some Season 4 characters.
"For the people that have stuck with the show all of these years, they are going to get their rewards," Gansa said. "One of them is Max, and one of them is a resolution to the Haqqani story that we left hanging at the end of Season 4."
Homeland returns Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime.