Showtime's Homeland has become a genuine worldwide success with it's second season building an even bigger audience than it's debut run, the show's guiding lights Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa have recently been chatting with the readers of the New York Times on just what makes the show tick, check out a couple of the questions below.
Q: I love the way the show builds suspense through secrets — the power of secrets to hurt characters and the nail biting about whether another character will reveal the secret. In the most recent episode, by killing one of the central characters who held an important secret, the anxiety about that secret is punctured and dissipated. How do you make the decision to balance keeping the secret alive vs. the need to eliminate that character? — G, Los Angeles
A:MR. GANSA: We wanted to write a show as suspenseful and sophisticated as a John le Carré novel and the great ’70s thrillers like “Three Days of the Condor,” “The Parallax View” and “The Conversation.” Those stories are tightrope acts, balancing character and plot twists very very precariously. Sometimes we fall off the tightrope. No question. But you hope the next week when you have a chance to do it again, you get it right. Or less wrong. Our motto is, give up the secret before the audience expects it. Because you guys know it’s coming. The only way we can surprise you is to deliver it ahead of schedule. And sometimes letting a secret die with a character is the better twist.
Q:Some of the plot twists and reveals seem so complicated that they must be well planned. Do you start writing for the season knowing where your characters and the plot are going to end up at the end of the season? — Deborah, San Francisco
Would you say Season 2 was more about Brody’s breakdown the way Season 1 was about Carrie’s unraveling? Once Brody turned double agent, did you see all the beats for the rest of the season leading up to the finale, or were you finding it as you went along? — Laura, Texas
A: MR. GANSA: I think you’re absolutely right, Season 2 did focus more on Brody’s breakdown. Carrie was more in command of her illness and her feelings for Brody this year. We try not to revisit emotional territory we’ve covered before — there’s a lot about Carrie we haven’t seen yet and still want explore. This season we didn’t know the specific beats of the finale until several weeks before we wrote the script. While that uncertainty is hell, you do kind of surf on the terror of finding the right ending. That anxiety is propulsive. And probably intentional on a certain level. What we do settle on fairly early is the emotional journey the main characters will take over the season. That’s the great pleasure of serialized TV. You can treat characters like they’re in a novel. They get to change over time, which to me is extremely satisfying.