Watching 'Homeland' is often a white-knuckle affair. Watching 'Homeland' is often a white-knuckle affair. Watching 'Homeland' is often a white-knuckle affair. (Photo: Kata Vermes / Showtime)

5 moments from 'Homeland' that left us gasping

As we get ready for the final season of the hit Showtime series, we look back at some seminal moments from the show.

"Homeland" has all the elements of a classic spy thriller, with a dizzying pace and plenty of twists and turns. But the Showtime series has always gone a step further.

The show – which revolves around CIA agent Carrie Matthison (Claire Danes) and her mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) – became an overnight sensation when it debuted in 2011. TV Guide called it "The Best Show of the Year." The series may have been new to American audiences, but some people were already familiar with the concept. That's because "Homeland" is based on an Israeli TV show that aired a year earlier and also received near universal praise. It won the Israeli Academy Award for Television for Best Drama Series. The New York Times recently named it one of the best shows of the past decade.

With the final season of the American version just around the corner – it debuts on Showtime on Feb. 9 – we decided to look back at some of our favorite heart-pounding scenes.

An explosive season 2 finale

CIA head David Estes delivers a eulogy at a memorial service. Moments later, a bomb went off in the room. CIA head David Estes delivers a eulogy at a memorial service. Moments later, a bomb went off in the room. (Photo: Kent Smith / Showtime)

Once in a while, an episode of TV comes along that's so shocking, it marinates in our minds for days. (Some of us still have nightmares from the "Red Wedding" on "Game of Thrones.") Well, the Season 2 finale of "Homeland" did just that. The entire CIA was gathered in the lobby for a memorial service when – boom! – a bomb went off killing most of the people inside. Some of the show's main characters perished in the blast, including a young heartthrob played by rising star Timothée Chalamet (who can now be seen in the new adaptation of "Little Women.") "The secret of the finale’s success was that it didn’t borrow from '24,' but rather paid homage to classic movie thrillers," wrote TV critic Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times. "It was surprisingly good."

Finding love in all the wrong places

Claire Danes (left) and Suraj Sharma in a scene from the episode entitled 'About a Boy.' Claire Danes (left) and Suraj Sharma in a scene from the episode entitled 'About a Boy.' (Photo: David Bloomer / Showtime)

Throughout the series, the show's heroine doesn't always make the best decisions. Case in point may be her Season 4 tryst with a young Pakistani asset she's supposed to be protecting. Her seduction of him seemed to only endanger him more. "This behavior signaled that she hasn't changed much at all," wrote Cory Barker on TV.com. "She still gets too close to her targets, she still gets inappropriately intimate too quickly." The relationship didn't last that long as the young Pakistani ended up dead a few episodes later.

Be careful what you breathe in

After inhaling sarin gas, Peter Quinn is taken to the hospital where Carrie and Saul come to visit him. After inhaling sarin gas, Peter Quinn is taken to the hospital where Carrie and Saul come to visit him. (Photo: Stephan Rabold / Showtime)

In a series that constantly deals with life-or-death scenarios, it can be hard to truly excite the viewing public. But the fifth season's ninth episode, titled "The Litvinov Ruse," did just that. In it, one of the show's main characters – Peter Quinn portrayed by British actor Rupert Friend – becomes the test subject for a villain's plan to test a sarin gas composition. The episode ends with perilous poison being pumped into an air-tight chamber where Quinn is being held hostage, and the credits roll as he is frothing at the mouth. The episode received a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus agreeing that "'The Litvinov Ruse' is classic 'Homeland' with a tight espionage plot and first-class acting at its core."

Going to a hospital for the wrong reasons

Actor Costa Ronin's character probably shouldn't be hanging around the ER. Actor Costa Ronin's character probably shouldn't be hanging around the ER. (Photo: Antony Platt / Showtime)

Speaking of hospitals, our palms were more than a little sweaty watching season 7's fourth episode. That's when a Russian agent (played by actor Costa Ronin, who also portrayed a Soviet spy on FX's "The Americans") sneaks into a hospital for a particularly nefarious reason. Finding an extra pair of doctor's scrubs, he slips right by security and heads to an area where a man involved in a crime is being operated on. A typical spy show might see our villain unplugging a medical device or swapping out the IV bag. Instead, Ronin's character snaps a photo with his cell phone, edits out some important details from the picture and then posts it to social media. The cropped image goes viral and leads to a panic in the media. The whole incident was both surreptitious and timely, considering we live in an era when trust on the internet can be hard to find. It had us biting our nails at the edge of our seats.

Carrie spends seven months in a Russian prison

Russian prison wear includes extra layers for winter. Russian prison wear includes extra layers for winter. (Photo: Kata Vermes / Showtime)

Season 7 ended with perhaps one of the biggest cliffhangers in "Homeland" history. While on a mission in the former Soviet Union, things go horribly wrong for Carrie when she is captured by the enemy. To make matters worse, her captors refuse to give Carrie the medication she needs to treat her bipolar disorder. Saul tries to negotiate for her release, but fails. In the season's final moments, it's revealed that Carrie has now spent seven months in a Russian jail without her meds. She's finally released as part of a prisoner exchange, and we see her scared and confused as she's given back to the Americans. She's unable to recognize anyone, even her close friend Saul. IndieWire's Ben Travers wrote that "'Homeland' delivered a cliffhanger ending without sacrificing closure in a finale that sets up an intriguing end-run."

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5 moments from 'Homeland' that left us gasping
As we get ready for the final season of 'Homeland,' the hit Showtime series, we look back at some seminal moments from the show.