By now, the critics (including our own) have weighed in on Homeland’s season three finale, and Brody fans have had time to mourn. But as Damian Lewis recently revealed, this death has been a long time coming — and if it weren’t for Showtime’s intervention, it could have happened as soon as season one, when Brody planned to detonate his suicide bomber vest in a bunker holding the vice-president. (He managed to kill the guy a season later.) But the star-crossed love of a marine turned terrorist turned double agent and his CIA handler became the focus of the show, even if that wasn’t the original goal. Showrunner Alex Gansa chatted with Vulture (while on vacation in Hawaii, no less) about cleaning the slate with Brody’s death, critics’ concerns, and Mandy Patinkin’s beard.
How did you finally get to the point that you could kill Brody off?
The circumstances of his death weren’t decided until quite recently, but the fact of his death was decided at the very beginning of the season. It was one of the first decisions made in the story room, that the time had come, and in a way, the entire year was constructed around that event. We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know exactly how it was going to happen. And the reasons behind it, I think, are fairly clear, and one of the hints was how few episodes he actually appeared in this season. We felt we had a bit of a limited runway with him. We wanted to make sure that whenever Damian stepped in front of the camera, that it was compelling and exigent. We didn’t want him to just be somebody who was talking on the phone, or was just living somewhere but didn’t have any real bearing on the story. So we made sure that whenever we brought him into the narrative, it was done in a way that was really strong and compelling to watch. And there wasn’t that much story left to tell. His death was really the next big marker.
It feels like some statements characters have made on the show in this last stretch are really statements to the audience. Javadi’s remarks to Carrie. And the secret about killing a goat, relaxing it before you cut its throat. You relaxed our throat before you went in for the kill.
Right, right. And another one is the insect metaphor: Brody as a cockroach. That was also very profound, I think. We wanted Brody to come around to the realization that that was exactly correct. And once he grokked that, once he really knew that, I think he was even willing at that point to surrender his life. He just didn’t want to fight anymore. And that’s the place emotionally that he got to, at the end of the season.
Brody’s been ready to die, before. He was prepared to be a suicide bomber in season one.
But he was brought back from the brink of that decision, in a life-affirming way.
By Dana, who no longer wants anything to do with him.
And people have asked, “Why didn’t we see Dana in the finale?” And the answer is, there’s nothing Carrie could have said to Dana or explained to Dana that really would have changed her opinion about her father. We thought that would have just been another scene, in which we would retread old ground. What was really important was how Carrie felt about it.
Some critics feel that the show sometimes puts something out there, and then drops it, as if it’s forgotten. Brody killing the vice-president. Quinn killing a child. Were you planning perhaps to pick up these plot points down the road, the way you did with Brody’s video statement?
Very few people know that Brody is responsible for the vice-president’s death. Carrie clearly knows it. Saul probably thinks it. And to the world, the vice-president died of a heart attack and Brody called for help. All of that takes the onus off Brody’s guilt in those circumstances. And only Carrie really knows. She was on her way out of that warehouse with Nazir, and Brody went ahead and gave the code anyway. It’s something Carrie knows and would have had to deal with, with Brody, but it’s kind of a moot point now. Brody’s dead. It’s done.
Right, now. But before, people were wondering why it wasn’t addressed.
You know what? It was actually mentioned in the speech that Carrie gave to Brody when she was trying to convince him to leave and go do the mission, and we traded it out for another line, because it just felt like a can of worms, to open. But I take your point. I do think, for example, Quinn’s killing the child was dealt with in episode seven, when he was called to task to take responsibility for the murder of Javadi’s wife. He pled guilty to the wrong crime, but he nevertheless did plead guilty to it.
It feels like you have a clean slate in some ways and can transform what the show is about. Are you looking to tell a regime-change story line next season?
I think there’s no doubt that the show has to be reinvented, on some level. We don’t have the central relationship that was so important for the first three seasons. But I think we have a lot of fantastic characters up and running, and we will clearly dial them into the show in one way or another. And Saul, even though he’s out of the CIA, he’s a private contractor now, and if there’s one thing we know about the CIA, it’s that they outsource a lot of work to these private contractors. So Carrie and Saul’s paths could easily, easily cross again. Some people found that mentor-mentee relationship was more important than these star-crossed lovers. We tried to cater to both those ideas.
And Saul-Carrie, they had a major success this year. Carrie, for all her impulsiveness, for all her emotionality, was an extremely effective intelligence officer this season. What these people pulled off was an actual peace negotiation between two countries who haven’t spoken to each other in 30, 35 years. That’s a big deal, in the reality of the show. And the fact that it’s crazily mirrored in real world events is also a crazily serendipitous thing. I would say that the way it actually transpired in the real world was actually far easier than in the show! [Laughs.] They didn’t have to kill anybody. They didn’t have to do a rogue operation. They did it the old-fashioned way.
Let’s talk Carrie’s pregnancy. Usually a television show wouldn’t let her get this far in a pregnancy when she has so many doubts — she would have had a miscarriage by now. And it wouldn’t be very practical for her to be a single mother with no family support in Turkey, with that kind of a job.
These are germane questions for the next season, and I don’t have the answer to them. But read Valerie Plame’s book, for example. She was a case officer overseas. She did have a husband, but she got pregnant, and she freaked out. “How am I going to deal with this? How am I going to be a case officer and be a mom at the same time?” So I think it’s a fairly relatable problem for any woman in the working world, and especially for a single woman in the working world. But I don’t know how inconceivable it is. I don’t know whether she’s going to be a great mother or a terrible mother. Who knows? Carrie’s going to have to wait and see when the baby’s born, to know what to do.
Mandy Patinkin just shaved off his beard. Don’t tell me Saul won’t have his beard!
[Laughs.] Mandy just has to start growing it again in March! It’ll be the beautiful, full-blown thing it is by the time we start shooting.