“Homeland” concluded its third season last night with what turned out to be the show’s highest-rated episode ever. I reviewed the finale last night, and I spoke briefly with the show’s co-creator Alex Gansa about some of the decisions made by both the “Homeland” creative team and the characters that shaped the third season, coming up just as soon as I get out my Sharpie…
When and why was the decision made to kill Brody?
Alex Gansa: It was made very early on this year in the story room. One of the very first things we decided. In our opinion, the character’s shelf life had expired. His limited presence this season, I think, attests to the fact. We had one story left to tell, and we wanted Brody’s presence to be exigent whenever he appeared on stage, and that’s why he appeared in fewer episodes in previous seasons. That’s why the decision was made early on that he would meet his end this season.
I don’t how much, if at all, you’ve been paying attention to the reaction to this season, but one of the trends I’ve noticed is a lot of frustration bordering on anger at a lot of what Carrie has done, and her insubordination with Saul and with Lockhart. What kind of job do you feel you did with Carrie this year?
Alex Gansa: First of all, I am and have been blissfully ignorant. I have not read anything this season in terms of reviews. I really just think it’s best to let the work stand on its own and speak for itself. If I would say one thing about it, I would say that Carrie was extremely effective as an intelligence officer this season. I mean, look at what she and Saul pulled off. Whether she was insubordinate or not, my god, a rapproachment between these two countries that had not spoken for close to 35 years, they pulled it off and they pulled it off together.
They did pull it off together, but one of them is in the CIA and one of them is not. Lockhart, throughout the year, was depicted as being fairly contemptuous of Carrie, even more, it seemed to me, than he felt about Saul. What is it that allows her to stay and get this choice promotion, while Saul is out in the private sector?
Alex Gansa: Very rarely do you find an acting director of the CIA stay on as a depuity after his tenure. It’s simply a matter of you don’t want somebody in a deputy’s position who has sat in a chair himself. That’s a dangerous situation for any new director to be in. Obviously, a new director wants to put his own people in place. That’s what Lockhart has chosen to do. Moreover, some very harsh words were exchanged between Saul and Lockhart all season long. I think if I were Lockhart and I came into that situation, that would be the first person to go in my book. On the other side, I think Lockhart understood Carrie’s value on the ground. It was her actions that actually kept Brody alive long enough to carry out the mission against Akbari, which accrues to Lockhart’s credit. Even though he was pushing in the other direction, he gets the benefit of her decision on the ground, and rewards her for it.
You spent a lot of time early in the season on the Brodys, with Dana and with Jessica. As the season went along, there wasn’t as much of them, and we didn’t see their reaction to Brody’s death in the finale’s epilogue. Why did you choose to parcel out their screen time in that way?
Alex Gansa: In terms of the end, these are some of the challenges of making a television show. Morena Baccarin was 8 months pregnant and could not get on a plane from Los Angeles to get to Charlotte. So we just couldn’t film her, and we took that into account as we planned the finale. Ultimately, I think at the end of the show, we felt that it was Carrie’s response to Brody’s death that was most powerful of all. I think our audience is smart and sophisticated enough to know what his family’s reaction is going to be, whereas Carrie’s response to Brody’s death was, from our point of view, surprising. She kind of got over it. She decided to put her career ahead of her emotions, which we were not expecting.
In the finale, Javadi reassures Carrie that now everyone sees Brody through her eyes, but what exactly does the world know and think about Brody at this point, given the things he has done or been accused of in the public sphere?
Alex Gansa: Obviously, the CIA cannot take public credit for this operation. It has to remain a clandestine operation. So the world thinks that Nicholas Brody is out of his mind. He blew up the CIA, and all of a sudden, he’s found in Iran, and in a rogue way, killed this person for unknowable reasons. That has to be the story. If Carrie, for example, had gone to Dana or Jessica to explain the situation, which I imagine she did or will do, it would be a one on one that was off the record. And if for example, Carrie had been successful in convincing Lockhart to put a star on the wall for Brody, it would have been an anonymous star.
And does anyone besides Carrie know that Brody murdered Vice-President Walden?
Alex Gansa: I think Saul knows.
You end the season with Carrie about to give birth to Brody’s baby, and off to this plum posting in Istanbul, while Saul is off working on his own. How much of that was specifically designed to set things up for season 4 versus just where you felt the story of season 3 led?
Alex Gansa: I think it’s much more the latter. We don’t really have much of a sense of what season 4 is yet, except insofar as watching Carrie actually doing what she was trained to do, which is being a case officer in a foreign capital somewhere, feels like an interesting place to reset and reboot the show. I couldn’t tell you now if that’s where we’re going to be. Are we going to be in Istanbul or are we going to be in New York or are we going to be in Washington next year? Right now, all that’s up for grabs.
Finally, a couple of extant plot questions. Who moved Brody’s car before the Langley bombing?
Alex Gansa: The man killed in the motel earlier this season.
And how did Saul both find Brody in the Tower of David and convince Carrie’s friend to give Brody up to him?
Alex Gansa: Carrie lied to Saul about where she was after the bombing, and Saul knew very well that she must have been the one who got him to the border. So Saul did his research, did his legwork, followed up on all her contacts and wound up knowing where Brody was, and then waited for the opportune moment to use Brody to fulfill this last part of the operation. But he needed to know a few things before he did that. The first thing he needed to know was whether Brody moved the car himself, because if Brody actually participated in the bombing, Saul would have known definitively that Brody was untrustworthy and could not be relied upon to carry out this mission in Iran. So he had to find out from Javadi whether that was indeed the case or not. Once he found that out, he went down with the power of the United States behind him and said, ‘You have two choices: either I bring an army in to bring him out, or I pay you 10 million and you turn him over to me quietly.’ And El Nino, being the smart businessman he is, chose the latter.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org