Homeland Bosses on the Season Finale: Showtime Really Wanted Damian Lewis for Another Year
Damian Lewis, Claire Danes
[SPOILER WARNING: This story reveals key plot elements from Sunday's season finale. Read at your own risk.]
Homeland's first season finale posed the question: Would traitorous Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) actually carry out a suicide bombing directed at the vice president of the United States?
See where Homeland ranked in our countdown of the Best TV Shows of 2011
The only-on-TV answer: Yes and no. Although Brody attempted to blow himself and the veep to smithereens, nothing happened when he flipped the switch on his snazzy new suicide vest, thanks to a pesky loose wire. Carrie (Claire Danes), whose instincts are apparently infallible, made a last-ditch effort to stop Brody by telling his wife (Morena Baccarin) and daughter (Morgan Saylor) of her suspicions about his terrorist ties. We know Carrie is right, of course, but from the inside, she looks a little nuts — and she knows it. In the episode's final scene, Carrie decides to undergo electroshock therapy to make sure that those good instincts (aka manic episodes) won't get her into any more trouble. But just before the anesthesia takes effect, she remembers that Brody said "Issa," the name of Abu Nazir's son, in his sleep, piecing together Brody's revenge-based motive for betraying his country.
We asked Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, co-creators of Homeland and former 24 producers, to explain why they chose to keep Brody alive, what Carrie will remember after her treatment and how gullible and/or suspicious Brody's family will actually become in Season 2. (Plus: What was all that about a mole?)
Were you nervous at all about how much story you resolved versus the amount you left hanging?
Alex Gansa: It's a little bit like testing the soup. It has to be just right. We thought at the very least that the attack that was promised in the pilot would either succeed or fail at the end of the season. We sort of felt, at that very basic level, that had to be satisfied. And certainly, there's an attack, and the attack is stopped through a confluence of events and the direct actions of our heroes.
How much of the ending did you know before the season began?
Gansa: We knew that Brody was going to instigate an attack against the people that were responsible for Issa's death — that there was going to be a personal reason for his actions. We did not know, for example, that he was going to be wearing a suicide vest. We thought there may be another way that he would take out the group responsible. Once we decided on the suicide vest, it opened up a lot of great possibilities for us, the most important one being that we could put him in a room with the vice president and have the vest malfunction.
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Which also keeps Brody alive for another season...
Gansa: That was the great thing about the vest. We got to have our cake and eat it too. [Brody] flipped the switch. That means he was going to go through with what he had planned to do, but it didn't work. So that seemed to give us two great things: One, it resolved his story. ... And two, it opened up the possibility of redemption.
Did you ever consider a scenario where Brody was successful and died?
Gansa: Absolutely. Whether Brody was going to survive the finale was pretty much an open question up until we realized that the vest could malfunction. We could very well have ended it and introduced something else next season, much in the same way that The Wire would introduce whole new narratives each year. That was really on the table for a long time this season. Ultimately, we felt that there's just more to tell between Brody and Carrie. So we decided to keep him alive. Also, Showtime really wanted Damian Lewis around for another year.
Who could blame them? So what does the next chapter of Carrie and Brody's story look like?
Howard Gordon: The trick is going to be to get Carrie back into the intelligence community somehow, because she's been ostracized and excommunicated from that line of work. So that's one of our narrative hurdles. The second thing is how to chart Brody's new course of action. He's now committed to Abu Nazir that he's going to move forward in this political way, really playing the long game. So we're going to have to figure out how those two different strands of the story will intersect.
I imagine you can't just flip a switch and get Carrie back in the CIA.
Gordon: We have a very specific solution for that.
Gansa: Jack Bauer was exiled pretty much every year [on 24] and had to be brought back in one way or another. [Laughs]
Showtime orders Season 2 of Homeland
Let's talk about Carrie's decision to undergo electroconvulsive therapy. Is she really trying to get a handle on her disease or is she in some way trying to erase her emotional connection to Brody?
Gordon: It's really both things. I think she's at a point in her life where her illness is getting worse and worse — where it's cost her career. It's also cost her the relationship with the one other human being, that is, Brody, that she's connected to. I think she's just at the end of her rope. She's decided to do this because she really, really wants to get her life back and wants to find a way to control her emotions and to control her trajectory in the world. She can't continue to exist at these extremes.
Saul (Many Patinkin) very pointedly mentioned the possibility of memory loss. Is that definitely the route you're choosing to follow next season, with Carrie forgetting her last-second realization about Brody's connection to Issa?
Gordon: Absolutely. One of the side effects of ECT therapy is short-term memory loss. Obviously, it leaves Carrie in the second season with the audience waiting for the moment where she remembers this stuff — where she relearns it or starts to begin to suspect Brody again of actually being the guy she thinks he was.
I think it's great that Brody's family "knows" his secret, even if they don't believe Carrie. What kind of tension will that bring about next season?
Gordon: The family is going to be asked to come together around Brody's campaign. They're going to artificially be made to act as if it's all for one and one for all. But I think Dana especially has a fairly clear sense that her father isn't telling her everything. That's [the point] of the sort of ambiguous scene on the rooftop at the end. So, what is the uneasy alliance among the different members of the family? That's going to be a big, big part of the second season.
Gansa: One of the fun parts from season to season is finding where characters have traveled during however much time has passed. Things are very much at play in these characters' lives, and I think we can rediscover them in very interesting moments, which we'll deliver on hopefully throughout the season.
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Do you have a sense about how much time will have passed between seasons at this point?
Gordon: We just don't know yet.
We heard mention of a mole in the Agency this season. Is that plot still alive? Is it somehow connected to the vice president's cover-up of the drone attack?
Gordon: Those are both very good questions. I think the mole is definitely alive. Chances are we will see who that person is next season. And [we'll also see] the dynamics inside the CIA, regarding the cover-up that's happened. The vice president's implicated in this drone attack. The power struggle that goes on between Estes [David Harewood] and Saul is going to be all grist for the mill for the second season.
The question hanging over this season was: "Is Brody a terrorist?" Do you have a similar story engine at the center of Season 2?
Gordon: "How will Carrie learn to suspect Brody again?" That's really going to be the central question of the second season, however we decide to tell the story. Carrie's going to somehow have to figure out that she was right after all and that Brody is in some sense a threat to the country, albeit in a different way. She's going to have to stop him, the man that she loves.
Earlier you said that Brody has a chance for redemption. Even though he's killed Tom Walker (Chris Chalk), might he still abandon the cause?
Gordon: Of course. But Brody's mission is not going to be another terrorist attack. His mission is going to be much more insidious than that. It's going to have a different dynamic than this season clearly. But the possibility of redemption is on the table.
What did you think of Homeland's finale?
If you missed, check out our video Q&A with star Damian Lewis