Three episodes into its third season seems a bit early for a show to have split its fan base into distinct, warring factions — Breaking Bad, by contrast, waited until the very last hour. But Homeland has never been a particularly patient series, so here we are. On one side of the divide are the Brody Banishers, die-hard fans who feel frustrated by Sergeant Nick's stubborn refusal to die. To their eyes, Homeland is still a worthy show, but one being held back by its slavish devotion to the diminishing returns offered by its original story line. On the other side are the True ’Shippers, those who feel — not unjustly — that Homeland elevates only when its two touched-in-the-head leads are furiously touching each other. (The True ’Shippers, I should add, would have a much stronger case if Carrie and Brody's names lent themselves to a catchy portmanteau like all other important 21st century couples: Bennifer, Kimye, et al. But "Brarie" has unfortunate connotations and "Carrody" sounds gross.)
If last week's recap didn't make it clear, I've been firmly planted in the banishment camp ever since the second-season finale. That was when Carrie, in the post-crater chaos, fled Langley and pushed her ginger gentleman across the Canadian border. (Sorry, Canada! He's your problem now. Consider this payback for Tom Green.) By choosing exile over death, I thought showrunner Alex Gansa had stumbled upon the ideal way to have his Emmy-winning cake and eat it too. With Brody gone for at least half a season — and ideally more — Homeland could get down to the busy, necessary work of securing itself against other threats and prepping for other story lines. One True Pairings like Carrie and Brody can easily sink a show, even if said Pairings aren't explicitly intended to be romantic. Like a blackjack dealer in Vegas, a showrunner is nothing if he can't repeatedly shuffle his own deck.
Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa responds to criticism about the show's second season, including the pacemaker, the BlackBerry with Skype, and how Brody ended up in the Vice-President's quarters without being noticed.
My favorite thing about my visit to the Homeland writers' office this past week wasn't the character headshots high up on the wall or the tantalizing teases for Season 3 written in dry-erase marker. It was the basket of candy sent by actor Hrach Titizian (Galvez) thanking the staff for keeping him alive — for now.
A month or so back I paid a visit to the Homeland set in Charlotte, North Carolina. I'll be writing more about my time there later this week, but I thought it was worth mentioning now since the scenes I watched being filmed all aired last night. Due to the choppy nature of TV shooting schedules, I had no idea just where the puzzle pieces I observed fit — I watched Claire Danes talk on her cell phone and get in her pre-crashed car over and over again for about an hour, leading me to assume the dramatic kidnapping was the episode's cliffhanger, not the inciting incident. I spent time with a mopey Dana and Finn on the roof and a frantic Saul and Virgil on the street, yet had absolutely no sense of what the hour was about or where it was heading.
Last week, New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum made a strong argument against the fact that Homeland’s first season ended with an electroshock jolt instead of a bigger bang. I don’t dispute her premise: that capping the finale with the successful detonation of Sergeant Brody’s suicide bomb would have exploded everything we’ve come to expect about serialized TV. Eliminating a main character (and half of the fictional Cabinet) would have been a brave storytelling play, to be sure, but here’s the thing: It’s no more risky than what actually occurred. Brody may have been temporarily defused, but the dozens of tripwires laid in what turned out to be the most remarkable — and Emmy-winning! — first season in recent memory remain. Unlike movies, TV plays the long game; a lot more than Damian Lewis’s future podium trips would have been sacrificed along with his character had he gone through with Abu Nazir’s dastardly underground plot.
One month before he took to the podium to accept the Emmy for Best Drama Series, Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa took to the Grantland studio to discuss his show’s phenomenal first season and what to expect in season two, premiering this Sunday (9/30) on Showtime. In a fun and far-ranging conversation, Alex spoke to me about meeting his writing partner (and Homeland co-executive producer) Howard Gordon when both were frustrated fiction writers at Princeton, how they broke into Hollywood by tutoring the children of studio bosses, and what years spent toiling on The X-Files and 24 taught him about running his own show. Carrie-philes can relax: We didn’t reveal the identity of the mole and not a detail was spoiled about Season 2. Some things, like a first Emmy win, are worth waiting for.