'Homeland' Showrunner Alex Gansa on the Big Reveal in 'Game On'

Homeland Season 3 Still - H 2013

Homeland Season 3 Still - H 2013

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for last Sunday's episode of Homeland, "Game On"]

After watching the last scene of Sunday's Homeland, the fourth outing in its third season, many viewers may want to revisit the last few episodes. "I'm hoping that's the general consensus," executive producer and showrunner Alex Gansa tells The Hollywood Reporter. "This should answer some questions for people."

Carrie (Claire Danes) finally made her way out of her forced institutionalization -- and though circumstances seemed to be pushing her toward turning her back on the CIA, the last scene of the episode reveals that she and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) have actually been working together all along. Carrie and her mentor choreographed her second turn being thrown under the bus by her employers in an attempt to bring down the terrorist network involved in the bombing.

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Gansa, who chatted with THR about the big twist, explains that the unseen wheels were set in motion as soon as the second season faded to black, where Homeland is shifting its attention now, and how Brody (Damian Lewis) will fit in down the road.

How long have Saul and Carrie been in cahoots?

We started the year by talking about what had happened at the end of season two. Carrie and Saul are together, standing there with all of the bodies around them. Clearly, they are culpable for what happened -- Saul and Carrie together. As intelligence officers, the first thing that they would try to do is to turn this tragedy into something positive. That's what they went to work on the day after the bombing. How were they going to catch the guys responsible for this? A plan was hatched quite quickly in the aftermath of the attack on the CIA.

Does this mean the CIA fallout will play a lesser role now?

We view season three in three movements -- each being four episodes -- with this being the end of the first movement. It was a long con that they played in order to draw out this Iranian intelligence officer, Majid Javadi [Shaun Toub].

The cast and producers were very candid about a lot of early season-three plot points during in the summer. Was that intended to play up the red herring?

We were also playing a bit of a con here from the story room. That said, one of the thing we've learned from our CIA consultants is that the most successful intelligence operations are 95 percent true -- and the 95 percent that's true, in this case, is that Saul and Carrie were culpable and that, largely, the CIA as an organization would look for a scapegoat to lay the blame on. Saul and Carrie were playing on that natural, institutional inclination to find a scapegoat. They used that, but when you go back to the first three episodes, you can see the toll that it's taking on both of them. The con also has its consequences.

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Like that moment between Carrie and Saul in the hospital at the end of the second episode.

It comes down to the line toward the end of this episode when she says, "You really should have gotten me out of the hospital." That was one step too far. That was the part of her role-playing that hit too close. Although they are in this ruse together, it's painful for Carrie to admit that she's to blame for what happened and to think that because she was on her meds, she missed stopping the attack. All of that is true and playing through her head.

What does the next movement focus on?

They are now in the process of luring him out into the open and landing this guy. That's the substance of the second movement.

How will Brody figure in to all of this?

I will say that Brody becomes a principal player in the architecture of the last sweep of episodes. His predicament down in Caracas and his separation from Carrie and Saul is really paramount as we move into the next two movements of the season.

Did you have any reservations about having an episode ("Tower of David") that was almost exclusively from Brody's point of view?

It was really a function of how much story was to be told there. Just anecdotally, some people felt we were with him too much and others felt we were with him too little. It felt right to us to establish his predicament and to parallel his plight with Carrie's. These are two people in some very desperate circumstances. The show has paralleled their stories before and some of the most successful episodes that we have done have drawn comparisons between their predicaments.

Stylistically, the episode was very different from the rest of the series.

I sort of leave it to the audience to tell us if we were successful or not, but it's fun for us to mix up the show a little bit and not tell the same story over and over again -- to take a risk here and there. We also teased the audience by not having Brody in the first two episodes, so we gave them a healthy dose of him in number three.

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The Brody family storyline has really been dominated by Dana (Morgan Saylor) this season. When did you decide you'd focus so much on her?

Because Brody was not onscreen and not part of the story in those first couple of episodes, we really wanted to tell the aftermath of the bombing in a more personal way. The relationship between Dana and her father is very strong. It's stronger than his relationship with Jessica [Morena Baccarin] and certainly stronger than his relationship with Chris [Jackson Pace]. Going back to the first season … the first time that Brody came back from captivity, he gives his wife a hug -- but it's kind of a tentative one. The first time we see him open up, it's in response to his daughter. That led to the end of season one, when she talks him off the ledge when he's about to explode that vest inside the bunker with the vice president. Her role grew through season two, and she just felt like the logical person. For the weight of what her dad did, it just landed on her in a more profound way.

How much does the story stick with Dana moving forward?

You'll see in the next four episodes, and certainly the last four, that she doesn't play as big of a role. She's not physically onscreen a lot, but her presence is there in a profound way for Brody and for Carrie.

How was all the secret-keeping for you personally?

We've taken a degree of pleasure in it. I was an amateur magician when I was a kid, and for me, the best tricks were the ones where the magician convinces the audience that he's made a mistake – only to prove at the end that he's been ahead of them all along. We've been leaning into that idea a little bit, and hopefully it will have paid off in episode four.

E-mail: Michael.OConnell@THR.com