By Barbara Chai
Warning: This story refers to events in season two of “Homeland,” so if you haven’t caught up on the show up to now, please don’t read any further.
All right, “Homeland” fans. Tonight’s the big finale. The show has taken a lot of twists and turns this season, and in last week’s episode, the “Homeland” version of Geronimo, Abu Nazir, was killed.
It’s anybody’s guess how the season will end tonight — Will Brody “turn” Carrie? Will someone else be killed before the season’s out, perhaps at Walden’s funeral? Is Estes about to fire Saul, or is Estes himself about to be outed for his participation in the drone strike that killed Issa?
Mandy Patinkin called tonight’s finale “the denouement of two years of this journey,” and, conveniently, the show picked up Golden Globe nominations this past week for Best Television Series (which it won last year), and acting nods for Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, and Patinkin.
Speakeasy caught up with executive producer Alex Gansa recently to discuss the past season, tonight’s finale, and what’s next for “Homeland” in season three. Here is an edited transcript.
“Homeland” received another Golden Globe nomination for Best Television Series. Is it as gratifying as the first season’s win?
At the beginning of this year, we all felt this tremendous pressure to live up to the promise of the first season. So, in a lot of ways, this nomination is more rewarding than the first one. At some level we must have succeeded, so that makes us really happy.
Why did you blow up Brody’s secret early in the season, and have Carrie confront him then?
At the beginning of a season you have a lot more time for these decisions. So those decisions were all very carefully crafted and discussed and debated. Ultimately we came down on that it was more interesting to change the dynamic between Carrie and Brody rather than to do, for example, Carrie surveilling Brody again for a couple of episodes. We thought that we really wanted to not repeat season one but try to find new territory and new emotion to explore between these two people. That’s why the decision was made to have it earlier than later.
Did you also decide early on to kill off a couple key characters this season?
I don’t want to give anything away for the finale but it was very important that those two characters cleared off the decks for Carrie and Brody in the final episode. We knew we had to get rid of those characters at some point in the course of the season. Not only that, but we had to get rid of Walden in a way so that it could never be put back on Brody’s head. Brody had to be clear of that murder, which is why we did the whole pacemaker thing. His fingerprints are nowhere on that desk. Walden simply had a heart attack and that’s the official story.
Why include the Dana-Finn hit-and-run storyline? There’s enough going on as it is.
This is a controversial story point and a lot of people compare it to the ‘Friday Night Lights’ story. I was a huge ‘Friday Night Lights’ fan too and I hated that storyline as well. We had a couple of things to accomplish but the most important one was to drive a wedge between Brody and his daughter. We wanted to put Dana in an extreme situation where it was made clear to her how the world works, and how corrupt it could be, and how unfair it is, and how unjust it is. So that was the primary intention of that storyline.
Will you reveal who the mole is?
I’m going to plead the Fifth on that right now. I’m just going to encourage everybody to watch the finale.
What can we expect in the season finale?
I will just say that this season is really about this love affair between Carrie and Brody, ultimately. That will be explored in the finale, that’s really what the finale is about. It’s about whether or not these two people can actually have a happy ending.
Where does the show go from here for season three?
That’s a very good question [laughs]. We just sat down in the writers room just yesterday to start talking about season three in the most broad terms. We’ve got a bunch of different ideas and options but we really haven’t settled on anything particular yet. We have a broad architecture but we don’t really know for sure. We want to keep our minds open and put season two behind us and clear the decks so we can think about what season three holds.
Are Brody’s feelings for Carrie genuine, or is he manipulating her? There’s a lot of debate about his intentions.
I find this to be one of the most fascinating aspects about the show. That is, how many people really analyze and read into these characters. I find that amazing that the people picking up on the subtle hints that we dropped that possibly Brody’s intentions are still not pure. I think it’s very much up for debate and I think that’s really the genius of Damian Lewis’s performance. Both these characters have been through so much and are so weighed down by the baggage of their pasts and their mutual experiences overseas and their various damaged hearts, that it’s hard to get a read on them as normal people. I think that’s why everybody is involved in this debate about how true Brody’s feelings are for Carrie, or how true Carrie’s feelings are for Brody. What was she doing in episode 8 sleeping with him? Was that an expression of her love or connection to him, or was she running her asset? These are open questions that we deliberately leave open to interpretation.
What is your reaction to criticism by some that the show has “jumped the shark” this season?
I would say three things. One is I would say please withhold judgment until the finale because the finale I think goes back and explains certain bigger plot points that people have presumed to have some trouble with. The second thing is, it’s not really my position to defend the show or the choices we made. It’s for the audiences to respond one way or another to how the story plays out. But if I were to defend the show I would say, look at the character moments that these events offered us. In other words, we really did get to play a scene between Carrie and her white whale, Abu Nazir. We did allow Brody to have that final moment where he is responsible for Walden’s death. These were the things we were working for. The plot was always in service of putting our characters together in interesting ways. The last thing I would say is, I think it’s in the nature of America that once you put somebody on a pedestal, you want to knock them off. We definitely got put on a pedestal last year. I think some of it was deserved and some of it wasn’t. We’re a television show and we have our strengths and our weaknesses, and I think it’s inevitable. We knew the knives were going to come out at some point. I’m a little surprised it came out on episodes 10 and 11 because I thought episodes 10 and 11 were fantastic. That said, I’m too close to this show. I have no objectivity and I have to rely on people who are fans of the show, for them to render their judgment. We’re just working hard and doing the best we can.
Speakeasy will recap the season two finale tonight. Follow @barbarachai on Twitter for more arts and entertainment news.