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Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland (episode 4) - Photo: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: homeland_103_1036 Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland (episode 4) - Photo: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: homeland_103_1036

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Five Possible Endings for Homeland

Homeland's freshman season wraps up with a 90-minute episode on Sunday, and expectations are high — maybe impossibly so. Showtime says fans will be "howling" after the season finale, which only adds to the anxiety. But Homeland has juggled familiar political-thriller tropes into a richly original and consistently surprising season, all leading up to an episode where it seems like almost anything could happen. Here are five possible scenarios and how those could lead to a fruitful second season. (These are 100 percent pure speculation.)

Brody goes through with it. Brody straps on the vest and blows up himself and the vice-president and whoever is near them. It's a gutsy move, killing off one of the stars of your show, but Homeland has been pretty gutsy this season. This would make the manhunt for Abu Nazir an even higher priority, and we'd spend the second season watching Carrie try to work her way back into the intelligence world — or maybe roping in Saul and deciding to track down Abu Nazir themselves.

Brody balks. He straps on the vest and is all set to do it but just ... can't — so he convinces his terrorist bosses that he's working a longer con, and that the further he gets inside, the more damage he can do. The second season follows Brody's parallel ascents, as he becomes more important as an Al Qaeda operative and as an American politician. Carrie continues to secretly watch him at various intervals, now fulling working outside the formal intelligence system, but still giving intel tips to Saul.

Saul is the mole. Ugh, that would suck, but it's between him, Galvez, and David. If Saul's the mole, that puts him and Brody on the same side, which could make for some interesting scheming in Season 2 — and could push Carrie completely off the deep end. If Brody and Saul conspire to take down the American government, is Carrie capable of persuading anyone to help her stop them?

Dana blows the whistle. Brody's surly teenage daughter has been awfully curious about the bomb vest package, and she's shown herself to be sharp and contrary all season long. She unwraps the vest (or maybe records a conversation she wasn't supposed to, with her little camera), flips out, calls someone, and suddenly years of terrorist plotting are for naught. Brody goes on the run, and Season 2 is like The Fugitive, except with terrorism instead of Chicago.

The Isa story goes deeper. Carrie's "fallow yellow" period coincides with Isa's death, and so far we've been led to believe that Brody's "turn" happened because of his grief. Maybe that was enough while he was still imprisoned, but now that he's back with his actual children? And wife? And ... life? Avenging Isa's death doesn't seem like enough reason for him to ruin his family's life — unless there's way more to the story. The finale would be pure flashback, and Season 2 could slam on the brakes, keeping  the present-day drama as-is and instead fleshing out even more backstory for each of our players. The glimpses that we saw in flashbacks become the focus of the season (maybe we get more of Carrie and David, too?) and the Brody could-be suicide bombing serves only as a framing mechanism.

Photo: Kent Smith/Copyright: Showtime 2011