Claire Danes won an Emmy for lead actress in a drama with her portrayal of a troubled CIA agent in  Showtime's "Homeland."

Editor’s Note: Spoilers for season one and the season two premiere of Showtime’s “Homeland” may be found in the text below.

Story highlights

Anticipation is sky-high for the return of Emmy-winning Showtime series 'Homeland'

Star Damian Lewis said there will be "more pressure this season"

The first episode sees Claire Danes' Carrie disguise herself for a mission

Danes: Carrie starts to get the validation and vindication she's been looking for

CNN  — 

Carrie Mathison is sorely in need of some vindication on “Homeland,” but the fictional character’s show just got more than it could hope for – taking home four Emmys on Sunday night for outstanding drama series, writing for a drama series, lead actor (for Damian Lewis, who plays Nicholas Brody) and lead actress (for Claire Danes, who plays Carrie).

All the Emmy love for “Homeland’s” spectacular first season – in which Danes’ troubled CIA agent tried to prove that Lewis’ returned prisoner of war had been turned by the enemy – can only help build anticipation for the around-the-corner second season, slated to kick off this coming Sunday on Showtime.

“We’re all wondering what’s next,” said Mandy Patinkin, who plays Carrie’s CIA mentor, Saul. “What’s going to happen to her? To him? To them? To the world? We’re all so curious. It’s wonderful. It really is a piece that second-guesses every answer, five or 10 seconds later. It’s like, ‘Whoa! I didn’t see that coming.’ “

When the show returns, six months have lapsed since Carrie voluntarily started electroshock treatment for her bipolar condition, which caused her to lose a few crucial memories – including one about Brody yelling out the name of a terrorist’s son in his sleep.

Not knowing this, the discredited Carrie has been able to let go of her obsession to prove Brody has been turned by al Qaeda and has spent her time away from the CIA living with her sister and her father, teaching ESL to adult students.

Meanwhile, Brody, after deciding not to detonate a bomb to kill the vice president, has further entrenched himself into politics. Not only has Brody been elected to Congress, but he’s also being vetted as a potential candidate for the next vice president, which ups the stakes in a number of ways.

“Brody’s just everybody’s b**** now,” Lewis says with a laugh.

“Last year, it was all about Carrie getting squeezed by her illness, her condition, and this year, it’s about Brody being caught between the forces, the two sides,” executive producer and writer Howard Gordon said. “He could be more dangerous in a political position. He’s asking, ‘Why kill a person when I can kill an idea?’ And then we wonder, does he mean that? Or is he now playing both sides?”

Although the audience knows now whether Brody had in fact been turned and if Carrie was off-base in her suspicions, season 2 won’t suffer from any loss of ambiguity, Lewis said.

“I was concerned at first, because season 1 presented Brody as the threat, the menace of the show, while at the same time, eliciting sympathy from the audience,” the actor said. “I enjoyed the confusion of that, too. But there is more pressure this season – more anxiety, more paranoia, more sweaty palms!”

Even in Carrie’s absence, the pressure is on the home front because Brody’s wife, Jessica, is “no longer in the dark,” said Morena Baccarin, who plays Jessica.

Brody’s daughter Dana, who made the crucial phone call to stop Brody in the act last season, “knows something’s not right,” said actress Morgan Saylor, who portrays the teen.

“There are things that are going to come out,” Saylor added. “Carrie definitely planted a seed in her.”

Carrie’s eventual return to the CIA – even just informally, not as an employee – also sweats Brody’s palms as he wonders whether she’s back on his trail. (She’s not – at least not initially). In the first episode of the season, “The Smile,” a CIA source refuses to talk to anyone but Carrie, which causes the agency to seek her help.

“There will be things that come out of that meeting,” Gordon promised. “And there will be battles and allegiances within the agency involved in bringing her back. There’s sort of a turf war, and it’s sort of incendiary.”

The operation takes place in Beirut (but was shot in Israel), and to get into the region, Carrie changes her appearance and travels under a false ID.

“I love Carrie as a brunette,” Showtime Chairman and CEO Matthew C. Blank said. “I told Claire, ‘You’re the only one who can look that hot as a blonde and a brunette in a single hour.’ ” Although she’s disguised, her cover at one point gets blown – and she gets out of the jam with an ingenious technique that signals that the Carrie of old is back.

“She’s been put through the wringer, right?” Danes said. “So I think she’s starting to get some validation and the vindication she’s been looking for. And I think people are rooting for her. I’m so honored to be playing her. I love her.”

“The first year, we knew we had something special,” Patinkin said. “But you have to ask why: ‘Why do they like it?’ So in hindsight, I’d say that it hit a nerve about the longing to understand, and the lost ability to listen and understand like Carrie does.”

Although Carrie has spent the past six months of the show not listening, and not understanding, there will come a point when she recognizes that she wasn’t wrong after all, Gordon promised.

“Carrie reconciled herself to the belief that she was wrong,” he said, “and the pieces realign and take off in a way where there’s a huge reckoning. It’s a season-long process,” building, perhaps, to a moment when Carrie and Brody finally meet up again. (Or so it seems from the previews, which also suggest a blood-covered Brody burying a body. But as everyone involved with the show cautions, “It’s not what you think it is.”)

“The season really is about how does the Carrie-Brody story pan out,” Gordon said. “There’s a lot more to come, but those two, whenever Carrie and Brody are on-screen together, it’s amazing. The screen just explodes.”