answering questions

Homeland Showrunner Alex Gansa Knows That You Have Plausibility Issues

Damian Lewis as Nicholas
Photo: Kent Smith/Showtime

As we all know, last night was the finale of Homeland’s much-discussed second season. In his recap praising the episode, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote: “None of which should be construed as endorsement of how we got here. I prefer Homeland’s first season to this one because, compared to 24, the Bourne trilogy, and other military-espionage tales, it was intimate and grounded. There were hard-to-swallow plot twists, but they weren’t as flamboyant as a lot of the action in season two, parts of which depended on Saturday morning serial-style ‘because we said so’ plotting.” This morning, Grantland published a podcast interview between TV critic Andy Greenwald and Alex Gansa, one of Homeland’s showrunners, that addressed some of those plot twists. Here are choice quotes from the interview, which you can listen to in full here:

On the overall goal of the season:

“We were fulfilling the promise of the season, which I’ve been saying from the very beginning is the story of this doomed love affair between Carrie and Brody. And that’s what we were really positing in the finale: Is a happy ending really possible for these two characters? And I think the answer was clearly no.”

On being true to the characters, even during ridiculous plot moments:

“I don’t think we were ever untrue to our characters this season. As preposterous or outrageous our plot devices were, they were always in service of real moment between our characters. We were willing and able to put our characters in those situations by, what some people might say, outlandish plot moves.”

On the plausibility argument:

“Our first year on the air, honestly, go back and look at some of those episodes. The necklace. The couple buying the house under the airport. It was just as pushed and just as absurd, if you really look at it objectively. This is my theory: It’s the natural urge. We were put on a pedestal this year and all of sudden there is much more intense scrutiny and that natural tendency is like: can we knock someone off the pedestal?” 

On the pacemaker storyline:

“Let’s put it this way: Walden had to die because that’s where we were going with the Nazir plot at the end. And obviously it would be great for Brody to have a very functional role in that murder. However, Brody’s hands had to be completely clean. He couldn’t have strangled the guy or taken him into the woods and put a bullet in Walden’s head because there would always be a question that it was murder and there would always be a question that Brody was in Walden’s company or Brody would be the target of an investigation. We couldn’t have that. He had to be clean of the murder, so the possibility of a happy ending was possible. So we had to devise a story that would facilitate that need in the narrative.”

 On why Brody was able to walk around freely at the Naval Observatory:

“For everyone on the ground there, everyone at the Naval Observatory: this is Bill Walden’s presumptive vice presidential nominee. There were a bunch of secret service people on the ground. You know, he was there on an official visit and sneaks upstairs for 15 seconds. That never occurred to us while we were plotting the story…I can see that you might think that was implausible, but what it lead to seem much more profound than getting hung up on all the little details of it all.”

On the Brody being able to use a phone to talk to Nazir:

“Those [criticisms] are legitimate. We needed Nazir to communicate with Brody. And a lot of people think you can’t Skype on Blackberry. There are actually Blackberries that you can Skype on. It’s interesting that people would get hung up on those things. Although, I have to say, if I were an audience member watching it and I’m stopped cold in the middle of watching an episode, saying that’s completely ridiculous, I’d be bummed too. That would take me out of the narrative and I’d be throwing stuff at the television.”

On Nazir being able to get into the country:

“There were people at the end of episode eight … and Nazir is brought up and says, ‘Nicholas.’ A lot of people said, ‘Who the fuck is that? And what did he just say?’ And other people were going, ‘There’s no way on Earth that Nazir could’ve gotten in the country.’ But half the people were saying they didn’t recognize the guy. The idea was to make him unrecognizable and there’s the Mexican border and the Canadian border, he could’ve slipped through.”

On Dana’s hit-and-run:

“I think we all understood the problems of that idea. First it was very melodramatic. But the whole point of that was we had to drive a wedge between Brody and his daughter. And it felt like an interesting thing to do on two levels: One, it expressed and showed Dana how the world really works. And also it gave her the experience of killing somebody, which is what her father’s been through in one way or another. On those two fronts it seemed to function dramatically nicely.”

On next season:

“We’re going to tell a different story next season and I don’t think it’s going to be a story about another attack on America.”

Homeland Showrunner Addresses Complaints