If you are a human being, then there's a good chance you enjoy good television. And if you enjoy good television there's a good chance you've fallen head over heels in love with Homeland. It's that good. Homeland's mostly perfect first season not only put Showtime back on the map of prestige television, it positively hoarded Emmy nominations this year. The obvious touchpoints of quality would be the stunning lead performances by Claire Danes and Damian Lewis as a deeply troubled CIA agent and a deeply troubled former P.O.W., respectively. But much of the credit is owed to Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, the gifted writers who adapted Homeland from the Israeli miniseries on which it's based.
The main question heading into Season 2 is exactly what state of mind (if any!) Carrie will be in following her electroshock therapy in the season finale. Well, here's your answer: Season 2 picks up roughly six months later. Brody is a congressman and, if you can believe it, Carrie's better off. As Danes explains, "She is changed—in that she's pretty stable. Obviously there was that crescendo of mania toward the very end, but throughout the season it was sort of simmering. But now she really has taken responsibility for her condition. And I think she's been exposed as a person with that [bipolar] condition and that has altered her in a pretty fundamental way." It's sort of akin to coming out of the closet, in other words. "She's not hiding to the same extent and she doesn't have that kind of panic or defensiveness. And when we find her at the beginning of the second season she's been very humbled and she's really suffering from a crisis of confidence." But Danes was quick to add: "She gets her mojo back, but she takes her time."
When asked how long Gansa and Gordon labored over how to get Carrie involved in the show's main plotline again, they admitted they had to throw out at least one option before settling on the solution: "We threw around a lot of options," Gansa says. "Carrie and Virgil working as private investigators. There was a lot of discussion of Virgil and Carrie in a van together around Washington D.C."
"We knew we had to wind Carrie up and get her back in the saddle," Gordon muses. As for what that would take exactly, they knew this much: "Six months of psychiatric care. A real reluctance to get back into the field, yet a pull to do real work." Danes hints that it doesn't take too long. "The first three episodes she's actively grappling with [her mental state] but she gets a boost of confidence, much needed, much-deserved boost. Thank God." In fact, there's at least one moment in the Season premiere in which it's clear Carrie's still got it. Without giving anything away, Gordon promises "the whole episode was constructed around that particular moment [of triumph]."
As for how Brody will differ this season, Lewis put it succinctly: "He's more knowingly juggling balls this season. But essentially he's everybody's bitch. He's pretty fucked." As for the rest of the season, Lewis hints that we should expect a pivotal moment or episode on par with Season 1's "Weekend" episode. "Alex and Howard have created a similar sort of pivotal moment in Season 2 but of a much different nature. "
But Homeland is more than a terrific character study: It's a bit of a nightmare scenario that deftly taps into our nation's collective fears. Gansa describes Homeland's larger relevance thusly: "It does explore how justified our fears are. Are they justified? The lengths we go to to assuage our fears? The amount of surveillance going on in the U.S. and London right now during the Olympics? It is so pervasive. Are our civil liberties being abrogated? We think these questions are warranted."
Two major production difficulties raised eyebrows this season. The first is the amount of on-location filming in Israel (as a stand-in for Beirut), and the second involves Danes' real-life pregnancy. Though she doesn't expect it to be a factor for the remainder of filming this season, Danes admits "We were a little concerned," about stunts and whatnot. "We've raised those questions for sure. It's proven to be non-issue. All is well. And Carrie remains fervently non-pregnant." The influence runs both ways: Danes does her best to not be too influenced by Carrie's life either. "If I took these characters with me, half of my life would be a misery. I tend to compartmentalize work from life. I'm not terribly method," she admits with relief.
Homeland returns Sunday, September 30 at 10pm on Showtime