After Sunday's "Homeland" season finale, it's clear Season 3 will be a very different beast, which executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon confirmed Monday in a conference call with members of the media.
Season 1 ended with only Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) believing in Nicholas Brody's (Damian Lewis) guilt and the Season 2 finale of "Homeland" ended with her as the only one who believes in his innocence. "That was the broad architecture of the year," Gansa said.
How Brody will figure into Season 3 is "very much up in the air," Gansa said. "We had a much clearer picture" of what the first two seasons would be than what the third will be, he said. Will Brody recede into the background now that he's on the run? "I think it's an open question," said Gansa, who added that a change in Brody's level of involvement was "inevitable."
"We've told a significant part of that story," Gansa added. "If there's a chapter 3, it's going to have to be a reinvention of some kind [in which] Carrie and Saul work to keep the world safe."
The chemistry between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis was not far from their minds when they chose to keep Brody alive, and they did acknowledge also considering the awards that the show and the actors have won. But ultimately, they realized that the Brody-Carrie story as presently constituted had to come to a close and that a new dynamic -- possibly one with a reduced role for Lewis -- would have to come into play.
"You just can't let the tail wag the dog and all the awards in the world" won't give rise to a story that will compel viewers to watch, Gordon said.
In fact, the producers toyed with the idea of killing off Brody in Episode 7 or 8 of Season 2, but decided to keep him around for the duration of the second year. "It's a nice idea to have hanging over next season: Where is Brody? What's he doing?" Gansa said.
As "Homeland" moves forward, the tight bond between Carrie and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), who is the acting head of the CIA, will "push the story forward," the producers said. Carrie ultimately chose to go back to the Agency and work with Saul, and that bond will be critical to "Homeland's" future, they said.
What they don't want to do in Season 3 is another story in which Carrie witnesses or works to prevent an attack on American soil. The idea is to "find another thriller trope," Gansa said.
Was it hard to deal with the increased public profile of the show and the rollercoaster of praise and blame in Season 2? "The short answer to that is yes," Gansa said. "There was a lot of pressure on us. We all felt it, this [need] to live up to the promise of the first year ... We kept telling ourselves in the story room to go for it and surprise people and paint ourselves into narrative corners and try to tell our way out of it."
Gordon compared telling "Homeland's" story to a high-wire act and "if we did fall off, I like to think we had the safety net of the audience's" belief in and trust of the show. Ultimately, once the audience understood what terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) had been planning all along, he and the other writers feel the season "really did all make sense."
But Gordon and Gansa also acknowledged that there was both "fair and unfair" criticism of Season 2. After the season's fifth episode, in which Carrie interrogated Brody, there was concern that "we were repeating ourselves slightly," Gansa said. "We don't want to be telling the same story again. If we bring Brody back, something else" would have to occur.
The writers have just begun talking about Season 3, so not much is known, but the producers did drop some clues about who might return for the show's next season.
In the hourlong discussion, the producers also discussed many Season 2 questions and decisions. Here's a list of the highlights:
- Showtime's top executives, David Nevins and Matt Blank, as well as CBS head Les Moonves, discussed whether to show the finale in light of the Newtown tragedy. Showtime (which is part of the CBS corporation) eventually opted to air the finale with a disclaimer at the beginning of the program. "I thought it was a really great idea," Gansa said. He added that "Homeland" wasn't "exploitative" about the deaths on the show and that the only bodies glimpsed after the CIA explosion were under sheets.
- Will Quinn be back? "Absolutely," Gansa said. Depending on how negotiations go, they also hope to have F. Murray Abraham back as Dar Adal. In light of the CIA bombing, old hands and retired intelligence operatives will be pulled back in to help rebuild the agency, Gansa said.
- The "arc" of Season 2 was to get to the point where both Walden and Nazir were dead and to have Brody and Carrie consider whether "a happy ending" could happen for them. Obviously, it wasn't in the cards.
- As for how involved Morena Baccarin (Jess), Morgan Saylor (Dana) and Lewis will be moving forward, the producers said that the cast members have all been signed to multi-year contracts, but nothing has been settled regarding how frequently their characters will appear (if at all).
- When asked how Brody, who is now even more well known, could survive even in hiding without being turned in, producers said that Carrie's contacts could be trusted, and he also has the advantage of the world thinking he was dead.
- David Harewood, who played David Estes, was also on the call, and the actor, Gansa and Gordon all said they enjoyed the "Homeland" parody "Saturday Night Live" aired a few weeks ago. Anne Hathaway let Claire Danes know in advance that she'd be playing Carrie Mathison in the sketch, Gansa noted. "I think some of the actors were charmed and disturbed by it, but [found it] mostly very, very funny," Gordon said.
- They were asked if investigators will wonder about who moved Brody's car at the CIA. Investigators will probably assume, for at least a little while, that he was the one to move it, Gordon said. Or "our ever-present mole could have moved it ... those possibilities are running through our head," he added.
- As for how Carrie and Brody got out of the CIA after the blast, first responders "were not trying to secure the perimeter" and the idea was that they slipped out in the post-explosion chaos.
- In case people were in doubt, Saul is now the acting head of the CIA and given that many senior intelligence types died in the explosion, that may be the case for some time.
- Why weren't Brody's calls to and from Nazir in the second half of the season being monitored by the CIA? The producers said that was because all Brody's information had panned out and that Nazir's network had been rolled up. "Brody's role in capturing the network was over" and the assumption was that Nazir was on the run and trying to get out of the country and that the two men were not in contact, Gansa said, so monitoring of Brody's communication ended.
- Why was Brody tasked with transporting the tailor from Gettysburg? Roya didn't have any operatives she could give that job to -- she was still assembling her network -- and if the tailor saw a stranger, he might have freaked out even more than he did, Gansa said.
- Why wasn't Brody interrogated after Walden's death? There were no marks on Walden's body and the vice president was known to have a bad heart. The death "was assumed to be of natural causes" and there was no need to investigate or debrief Brody, Gansa said.
- At one point in the call, Gordon said that the producers "left the door open" for viewers to be ambivalent about Brody and his intentions during the final episode. I pressed them about this, saying that a Brody who had any knowledge of the CIA attack would not make sense to me or feel true to what else had occurred in "The Choice." He appeared to have no appetite for further violence and seemed to want a fresh start. "I completely agree," Gansa said. "It doesn't mean there aren't people out there [who have a different interpretation and we] don't want to dissuade them. These are damaged people and their allegiances may not be as transparent as someone less damaged."
- Could part of Season 3 be set abroad, as some early parts of Season 2 were? "It's definitely something we're considering," said Gansa, who added that the CIA attack is viewed as "the next 9/11. It's about how the country responds and how the intelligence agency picks itself up off the ground and tries to function again. That's front and center as we begin the next season, and where Carrie is is up in the air."
- When it comes to Carrie's illness, she was managing her bipolar disease with lithium this season, but she also made a number of mistakes (and she obviously didn't see Nazir's final attack coming). "There is the idea that possibly her genius was dulled a little bit by maintaining this emotional equilibrium," Gansa said.
- Saul grinned broadly when he saw Carrie at the end of the finale, but they confirmed that there are still "issues" between them. "I don't think Saul is ignorant" of Carrie's divided loyalties and "she has some explaining to do" to him, Gansa said.
- There was a somewhat different plan for how the Finn-Dana car crash would work out, but the producers couldn't quite recall what it was.
- Will a character we have seen on screen be revealed as the mole? "I plead the fifth on that," Gansa said.
- Any plans to let Patinkin sing on the show? Nothing concrete is in the works, but they hope that the Season 2 gag reel will contain some of the actor's improvised on-set songs. "They're hysterical," Gansa said.
- Fore more on "Homeland," check out my take on the finale here; read my colleague Mike Hogan's recap here; check out another recent interview with Gordon and executive producer Henry Bromell here; there are recent "Homeland" Talking TV podcasts here (look for a finale podcast on that site soon); and there's an hourlong interview with Gansa here.