'Homeland' Showrunner Alex Gansa on Brody, Backlash and the Race to the Finale
The EP speaks with THR about his drama's divisive plot points, the delicate state of his antiheroes and the final four episodes: "This season, probably more than the first and the second, has been carefully plotted out from the beginning."
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Sunday's episode of Homeland, "A Red Wheelbarrow"]
Homeland dropped quite a few big developments during Sunday's episode, the last of what showrunner Alex Gansa describes as the season's second movement.
Carrie (Claire Danes), entering her second trimester, is dealt a major setback -- and a bullet to the shoulder -- in her revived quest to prove Brody's (Damian Lewis) innocence. As for the world's most-wanted man, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) discovers him drug-addled and catatonic in the same Venezuelan cell where viewers last saw him five episodes ago.
Entering the final sweep of episodes before the Dec. 15 finale, Gansa chatted with The Hollywood Reporter about what's next for Homeland (a lot more Brody -- though the word is out on his family), how he's handling the criticism that seems to go hand-in-hand with the Showtime series these days and why this season actually has been the most carefully structured.
You’ve described this season as being broken into three movements. What can you say about the next one?
Well, this would be the end to the second movement, and I think it’s really obvious what the last movement is about. I think it belongs to Nick Brody -- that’s the last sweep of episodes this season.
What did you want to accomplish with this second chapter of the season?
Once we realized that Saul and Carrie had a play to lure Javadi [Shaun Toub] out of Iran, and to turn him, this was really that play. It was how they brought him into the country, how they turned him, how they integrated him, how they sent them back and ultimately the tantalizing piece of information that he left with Carrie about Brody’s innocence.
Brody is in pretty rough shape. How long has he been locked up?
You know, that’s an open question, but I would say a couple of months at least.
Does his return mean there will be more from the Brody family?
Should I touch the third rail? I don’t think so. [laughs] People can wait and see for themselves.
Speaking of the third rail, when did you make the decision to have Carrie be pregnant?
From the very get-go of the season. We all knew that she was pregnant when we sat down at the beginning of the year. We knew that she became pregnant as a result of their time together at the lake -- that last time. And our task became “What’s the least melodramatic way to reveal it? What’s the way that feels honest and true to her character?”
Did you think it would be such a divisive move?
It’s so funny to read people’s responses: “It’s a soap opera… It’s another twist.” For us, it’s neither. A twist is something that happens when a story is going one way and you’re thinking one way but something happens that completely turns it on its head. Carrie’s pregnancy is a plot development. Hopefully, it will be handled in a way that isn’t melodramatic and isn’t a soap opera. I think we started that out by the fact that she opens that drawer, and in true bipolar fashion, has been testing herself every couple of days for the last three months. She just wants to come up negative once, so she doesn’t have to be pregnant.
How far ahead did you plan how the pregnancy will play out?
Here’s the other funny thing. It’s impossible to be objective about the work -- we’re in the middle of it still, and we can’t tell -- but this season, probably more than the first and the second, has been carefully plotted out from the beginning. We all knew where the show was going to begin this year and where the show was going to end this year. From the very minute when we decided the story in early March. Everything that has happened this season so far has been in a very large degree much more meticulously planned than the first and second seasons. To hear that we’re wandering in the woods is just hysterical to us. This is the season we’ve been really conscious and diligent about plotting every little piece carefully. One of those pieces is Carrie’s pregnancy, and it becomes very important in this last sweep of episodes.
Do you ever wish people would kind of chill out and wait to see the full season before criticizing?
That would be so great – but it appears impossible. That said, it’s great that people are so passionate about the show, and it’s great that people are talking about it. It’s great we’re getting the best numbers we’ve ever had. All that accrues to the benefits of Homeland. We’re just working as hard as we can to make it as compelling, entertain and be true to the characters as we can. That’s what we’re doing, and it’s for other people to judge.
How much urgency is there right now, given the expiration date on Saul’s tenure as CIA director?
That’s the clock that we’ve set for ourselves. Senator Lockhart’s [Tracy Letts] confirmation hearings are coming up, and he’s a shoo-in to be confirmed. He will shortly become the director of central intelligence. Saul knows, because of their huge philosophical divide about the future of the agency, that he has to get this operation up and running before Lockhart comes in. Otherwise, he’ll put the brakes on the whole thing for him. The fact that Brody is in such bad shape is a huge setback for him.
Saul has known a lot more than we’ve thought all season. How long has he known Brody was in Caracas?
It’s safe to say that El Nino [Manny Pérez], seeing Brody’s decrepit shape and that he might die any day now, that it might be worth collecting the reward before that happens. Certainly, Saul knew about Brody’s situation down in Venezuela before he talked to Javadi about Brody’s innocence or guilt.
Dar Adal’s [F. Murray Abraham] participation in the con has been something of a surprise. How loyal is he to Saul right now?
My personal theory about it is that Dar Adal was on the fence and then heard what Carrie and Saul had been up to and understood the value of placing Javadi as a CIA asset inside Iran. I think he was so taken by the boldness of that idea, that’s what swayed him to Saul’s side. Whether he’s loyal to Saul, Lockhart, the agency or the idea of intelligence is a question the audience should decide for themselves. In that moment, when he had that opportunity to let Lockhart out of the conference room but sides with Saul, my own interpretation is that he sides with Saul’s operational genius.
How quickly will we know what's really going on with Mira’s (Sarita Choudhury) fling, Alan (William Abadie)?
The question will be answered in the next episode. You’ll know in nine exactly who he is.
Carrie had to know Quinn (Rupert Friend) was going to shoot her -- what was motivating her to press on in that moment?
The character of Carrie Mathison is an impulsive one. And sometimes that impulsiveness takes over. I think she’s sitting in that van, and all of a sudden understanding that this is the person who could exonerate Brody once and for all. The actual bomber, the face of the murderer … you parade that in front of the public, and all of a sudden the people start questioning if Brody had anything to do with it. When it looks like that is going to be taken away from her, I think her emotions come into play. She’s carrying Brody’s child, and it completely consumes her. She has to get out and stop it from happening -- to the exclusion of all else. It’s that impulsive nature that takes over. If she had time to think about it, she’d probably say, “Wait a minute, that’s not a good idea.” But that’s not Carrie Mathison.