'Homeland' finale interview: Behind that tense closer, season 2 plans

[Warning: The following interview contains spoilers about Sunday night's first season finale of Homeland … read only if you have clearance]

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Image Credit: Showtime

Was that the most tense episode of television you’ve seen this year?

On paper, Showtime’s acclaimed Homeland gave us a happy ending for its first season finale. Carrie Mathison successfully prevented Nicholas Brody from unleashing a devastating suicide bomb attack against the vice president and senior White House officials.

Yet there was little about the 90-minute closer that actually felt cathartic. By pleading with Brody’s daughter to call her father, Carrie indirectly prevented the former POW from blowing himself up inside a bunker packed with Washington officials — but Carrie doesn’t realize what she accomplished. In fact, everybody thinks she’s nuts, and Carrie is starting to agree, having checked herself into the hospital for electroshock treatments to calm her frenzied mind. As for Brody, even if he wanted to return to a normal life, we suspect he’ll never be free of Abu Nazir now that the terrorist leader holds that incriminating confessional video.

In other words: Carrie and Brody are in a more desperate situation now than they were when they first met, even if the terror attack was mostly thwarted.

Last Thursday morning, shortly after Homeland received three of Showtime’s eight Golden Globe nominations, executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa took a few questions from EW.com about the riveting first season closer:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know from the start of the season that Brody was going to survive?
ALEX GANSA: We didn’t, actually. We didn’t know how the actual attacked would be carried out. We knew Brody was going to target the people responsible for [Abu Nazir's son] Issa’s death. We were unclear how that was going to happen. We came down to the suicide vest for a couple reasons. One, the vest could malfunction — which would be fantastic. And because it could malfunction, we got to live in the best of both worlds. He got to flip the switch, which was true to his character because that’s what he’s been leading up to all this time. But it didn’t work, so he was able to be brought back from the brink. And that device really helped us, because it not only allowed the character to go where he needed to go, but it also allowed us to bring him back for the second season.

You also made the choice to have Carrie mentally fall apart late in the season. Did that worry you at all to show her that far gone and ineffectual for the last couple episodes?
HOWARD GORDON: The amazing thing about Showtime is allowing us to go this far. Claire Danes is completely unafraid to go to that place. We always knew we wanted her to break down at some point. We put the chess pieces on the board at many places during the season. And she does effect the outcome by spouting this [seemingly] insane theory. She just doesn’t know it.

What was the inclination behind having the days counting up in the finale? The part of me that watched every episode of 24 was like, ‘Ah ha, they added a clock!’
HG: There were three distinct movements in the finale. The first day is really still, the camera didn’t really move, it was all done with a quiet camera. The second day, from the moment he wakes up, everything is hand-held, everything is shot energetic and kinetic — and it builds to that climax in the bunker. And the third day goes back to that quiet style of filming. It helped to transition the audience from one feeling to another and also gave the episode a shape. It was very specific to this 90-minute show. We didn’t play the main title in this one, either, we wanted to jump right in.

So for season 2, are you planning to pick things up right where you left off, or will there be a jump forward?
HG: We don’t know yet. I think there probably will be a jump forward of some kind.

Watching the finale, I expected to learn the format of the show. Is each season going to have a self-contained threat? Or is the Brody storyline going to continue throughout the series?  
HG: We’ll continue to tell this story from the point of view of these characters who have been so richly realized. So any story will continue with those stories and interactions. For example, Brody is planning to play a much quieter and longer-term game — that’s where that story is heading. And the other big plot point is that suicide confession is still out there. And Abu Nazir is still out there. But clearly the thrust of Brody’s story will change, it’s not going to be about him planning another attack.

On 24, each new season started with Jack Bauer in exile, can we expect Homeland to similarly bring back Carrie into the fold at the start of season 2?
HG: Every single 24 began with Jack in a very different place. He was emotionally in exile, he was physically taken, or exiled from his family. It’s all variations of figuring out how to get your marginalized character back into the fold, and that’s the challenge here as well. But Carrie is a very different character than Jack and consequentially we’ll have a very unique way of getting her back in.

Read more:
‘Homeland’ star Damian Lewis: Brody is up to something
Showtime’s ‘Homeland’ builds in the ratings
‘Homeland’ renewed for second season on Showtime

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