A year after the cast and executive producers of Homeland teased the Television Critics Association about the Emmy-winning drama's sophomore run, the group returned to Monday's press tour decidedly more candid.
Perhaps in response to criticism of the second season or just out of coincidence, co-creators Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon laid most of their cards on the table -- many of the reporters in attendance had already screened the first two episodes of upcoming third season -- and addressed a notable absence from the Sept. 29 return right out of the gate. (Spoilers follow.)
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"I don't think it would be a betrayal to say that he's not in the first two episodes, but it would be a betrayal to tell you when he does appear," said Gansa, referring to star Damian Lewis. Nicholas Brody doesn't make so much as a cameo in the return. "His flight from America just made it impossible to incorporate in the first two episodes."
Lewis, sporting a buzz cut onstage and in his brief appearance in the season three reel, was a little more cryptic about his character's absence.
"He's on the lam. He's disappeared into a network Carrie has effected, and he's the most-wanted criminal in the world, so he has to lay low," Lewis said."I do hope that when you do see Brody for the first time, it will be real, real interesting."
When asked if they ever seriously considered keeping Brody out of the third season storyline completely, nobody offered a definitive answer -- though Gordon did chime in.
"It's all about timing and touch," said the co-creator. "The questions [were] 'Where is the surface tension of the universe?' 'What is restraint and what is reckless disregard for a wonderful character?'"
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Claire Danes does not get the same break as Lewis. Carrie Mathison figures prominently in the series' return, though the bipolar character appears to be somewhat worse for the wear -- and is apparently off of her lithium prescription.
"It's pretty bleak in the beginning. She's gone off her meds for all sorts of reasons, which she believes strongly in," said Danes. "Carrie is always sitting on her own personal ticking bomb, and it's just an impossible dilemma. She's not great on the meds and she's even worse off them, but there's a really great sweet spot in the middle of those two spots that she's always trying to land on."
Carrie's current spot finds her "isolated" from most of the other characters -- including Saul (Mandy Patinkin).
"As a result of the attack last year, the CIA itself is on trial," said Gansa. "Saul finds himself in a unique position that he's never been in before. He's in the director's chair. He has to make some very uncharacteristic choices that he's not comfortable making."
One of those decisions drives a wedge between Saul and his protege in the wake of the sophomore finale's CIA bombing, and for anyone saddened to see their good rapport missing from the coming season, Gordon said it was "strictly a function of the story."
"Both Carrie and Saul feel a devastating amount of guilt from this loss," he added. "Even though they're estranged, they experienced that trauma in a way that no one else has."
Toward the end of the Q&A, bold questions saw the team answer a little more cautiously. When asked about the possibility of a Game of Thrones-esque shocker, Gansa said "no comment," while an inquiry about whether he'd kill a lead character drew a "sure." And when criticism about the second season was briefly brought up, it was dismissed just as quickly.
"I obviously wish the backlash never happened, but it didn't influence season two or season three," said Gansa. "Our 11 Emmy nominations are a nice comeback."