The following contains massive spoilers from Sunday’s season finale of Showtime’s Homeland. If you have yet to watch the shocking episode, get ‘er done and then return for the inside story on the why behind what happened, plus some scoop on Season 2.
Showtime’s Homeland wrapped up its thrilling, critically acclaimed freshman run on Sunday night by hitting the detonator on the Marine One terrorist plot – and with results as unexpected as the aftermath shown in the finale’s coda.
In short: While sniper Tom Walker secured a perch within the perimeter of Vice President Walden’s policy summit, Brody strapped on the vest with which he is to take out the VP and his high-ranking entourage. As Walden et al debark from their motorcade, Walker shoots Elizabeth Gaines, strictly to trigger a Secret Service protocol that will whisk Brody through the metal detectors at the State Department entrance. Corralled in a bunker, Brody flicks the switch on his vest to kill en masse Walden and the posse of politicos.
However… a wire had come loose on the vest, forcing Brody to hunker down in a washroom stall for a repair. Meanwhile, Carrie — now persona non grata at the CIA – scoped out the summit site, where she surmised that Walker’s shots were just the first step of a two-pronged attack. After her efforts to have the VP extracted from the bunker came up empty, Carrie raced to the Brody house, where she urged Dana to call her dad and beg him to bail on his terror plot. Yet Dana – despite having just had her existing suspicions compounded by the discovery that her father is now Muslim — ignored the appeal. After Jessica arrived in time to call the cops on the somewhat mad CIA agent, Dana ultimately got on the phone with her dad to elicit a firm promise that he will be home later. After attempting to dodge the solicitation and carry out his mission, Brody eventually says what Dana needs to hear, and aborts.
In the coda, Brody meets up with an agitated Walker, who puts him on the horn with Abu Nazir. Brody argues that he can instead exact change/revenge by affecting U.S. foreign policy at a high level, in political office. As a sign of loyalty to Nazir, Brody shoots dead Walker, a loose end from their original campaign. Carrie, meanwhile, subjects herself to shock treatment to address her bipolar-esque condition, but not before the pre-op meds dredge up the memory of Brody’s night terror screams during their time at the cabin. “Brody knew Nazir’s son,” Carrie half-mumbles before going under. Alas, that and other fragments of her memory will likely be zapped away by the treatment process, if only for the short-term.
Is Brody done with his violent acts of terrorism? Might Carrie rejoin the CIA, or go rogue for Season 2? And will she ever recall her epiphany about Nazir’s son? TVLine ran those questions and others by executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, who revealed how their time on 24 helped shape this emotionally explosive finale.
TVLINE | You made a bit of a bold call, ending the season not with the obvious visceral thriller element – a crescendo for the Marine One plot. Was that a decision you went back and forth on?
ALEX GANSA | It was actually something that I learned working for Howard on 24, that there’s a lot of merit in the denouement of the story. In 24, the big event often happened in the penultimate episode or early on in the last episode, and there’s a lot of wonderful ground to cover after it’s over — and in certain ways, that’s where the character really comes to the fore. That’s where we really see Brody and Carrie and Saul and Estes and everybody dealing with the aftermath of what happened, and you learn a lot about people in those moments. If you look at the way the [finale] is structured, Day 1 is quiet, Day 2 is all frenetic and with the whole set piece in the bunker, and Day 3 is more quiet.
TVLINE | Did you at any point entertain an iteration where Brody does detonate his vest and Season 2 is about a new threat? Or did you worry that might lead you into the 24 mold?
GANSA | Early on, certainly when we were writing the thing, that was one way to take the series, on a more accelerated path. But one of the virtues of having Showtime as our home – and their partnership has been phenomenal – was that we got to slow it down. They’re the ones who said, “Take a deep breath – you’re not on a broadcast network anymore,” and that was a tremendously liberating way to start the process.
TVLINE | I had a suspicion, with all the fidgeting with the vest back at the house, that there might be a snafu. And the second time around, since a point had been made that the bunker restroom was out of paper towels, I thought Brody’s wet hands might short it out.
HOWARD GORDON | It was kind of excruciating being in the editing room watching that over and over again. It would always get my heart beating.
GANSA | [Damian Lewis’] face was so amazing. He did it again and again and again, in take after take after take. He really was just incredible.
TVLINE | Carrie’s realization about Brody and Nazir’s son — is her ability or inability to recall that something you will play with for a stretch of Season 2?
GANSA | Absolutely. She’s kind of back to square one now, and the audience is going to be waiting for the moment where she begins to re-suspect Brody. Her logically going back and putting the pieces together is definitely going to be a part of Season 2.
TVLINE | You’ve left things kind of similar to where we started — Carrie suspects Brody is a terrorist, many of her peers think she is nuts. How will you spin that fresh in Season 2?
GANSA | That’s clearly going to be the challenge, although certain things have changed. Clearly there is now an established relationship between Carrie and Brody that is going to have to be resolved one way or another. There is still a reservoir of emotion that exists, but they have some big differences as well. Also, Brody, I think, is done committing a big attack on the United States. He’s got another trajectory that is much more insidious, a long-game political one. That’s going to change the tenor of the show, but hopefully we can keep the charge between our two main characters as hot as possible.
TVLINE | Is there a possibility, based in reality or not, that Saul might leverage Estes into giving Carrie her job back? Or is she going rogue from here on?
GANSA | These are all really good questions, but it’s too soon to say.
TVLINE | Which Season 1 episode, scene or twist are you most proud of? You often zagged when other shows would safely zigged, if only so that they could keep certain eggs in a basket.
GORDON | We always knew that the spine of the first season was the Carrie-Brody relationship. The second time they meet, outside the support group meeting, when you saw the chemistry between them, Alex and I looked at each other and said, “We really have a show.” Not that it was so surprising, but [it answered the question of] how are we going to cross these two characters in a credible way and ignite his relationship that we knew was at the center of the show.
TVLINE | The moment that showed me you guys were operating on a different level was that cabin “interrogation” scene, where you played so many cards.
GORDON | This show is such an amazing collaboration, and the writers leave us breathless. That was written by Meredith Stiehm, and when we all walked in the next day and looked at each other, Chip Johannessen, another writer, said, “Should we just burn our Writers Guild cards?” That’s that kind of respect that everybody has for everybody else.
TVLINE | You pinned a lot there on Morgan Saylor, who plays Dana, in these last few episodes. Did she exceed your expectations?
GANSA | From the minute Morgan walked into the casting room, she was head-and-shoulders above everybody we saw. She has the unique and uncanny ability to make scenes and dialogue her own, and in such unexpected ways. It’s actually one of the things we’re most proud of this season, because from the minute Brody walked into that waiting room in the pilot, she was the one with whom he had a connection. She was the one who elicited a smile from him. We built that relationship all through the season and gave Morgan more and more to do, because we knew that she was going to have to carry the finale. We just think she did a spectacular job.
GORDON | Alex, didn’t you have to call her about something once? You’ve got to tell that story.
GANSA | I was calling her because she did a fantastic job in that scene where Dana told Mike, “Stay away from us. There’s no place for my father when you’re here.” It was a Friday night, and I got her mom. I was like, “I’ve got to talk to Morgan, where is she?” Her mom said, “Well, it’s Friday night – she’s at the high school football game with her boyfriend.” [Laughs] Well of course she is, she’s 16 years old! It was so sweet.
TVLINE | Is it possible that Dana, despite that rooftop coda, has not been entirely relieved of her concern?
GANSA | Oh, I think her concern is still alive, I absolutely do. I hope that the rooftop scene left the audience with a little ambiguity, because [she and her father] are not really having a conversation about that. Something big happened, but they’re not really talking about it.
TVLINE | Do you have any early thoughts on time passage between seasons? Will Walden have won the presidency, will it pick up immediately after…?
GANSA | I think there will be some time passage. It will not be immediately after, but how long after is still an open question.
TVLINE | At any point in the season did real world events trigger the slightest script tweak?
GORDON | [The death of] Osama bin Laden was certainly a line that we added, but it was a big one, because it really sort of stood for why this show was a post-Osama bin Laden show.
GANSA | And remember the recent [real-world] plot [to assassinate] the Saudi ambassador? It didn’t influence what we were telling but what we wish we had told, because that was such a great story, the idea that Al-Quaeda would target the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C. I wish that had broken a couple of days earlier.
TVLINE | I’ve seen more than one of our readers note that Brody would never be allowed to pursue political office while in uniform. Is that a liberty you took?
GANSA | Yeah, apparently he would have to be out of the service — but I think we’re going to shed his uniform fairly quickly [in Season 2]. We also had some issues with the stripes on his sleeves. Military families wrote to say, “Is he a sergeant? Or a gunnery sergeant?” because the sleeves kept changing, so I think we screwed up a bit on that front, too.
TVLINE | Have you received any notes from the intelligence community? I could see the CIA having an issue with someone unstable being their poster girl.
GANSA | Honestly, we’ve gotten none of that. People that we know in the intelligence community love the show and have embraced it for its virtues and its flaws.
GORDON | And the President [of the United Sates] likes [Homeland]! Isn’t that wild?