Spoiler alert: Do not read unless you’ve watched the Oct. 11 episode of “Homeland,” titled “The Tradition of Hospitality.”
The second episode of “Homeland” season five found Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), who’s now working for the private During Foundation, trying to protect her boss during a visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon — and narrowly escaping an assassination attempt. But was he the target — or was she? The episode ends with a shocking reveal: Quinn (Rupert Friend) — who has been commissioned by Saul (Mandy Patinkin) as a rogue assassin — finds out that his next target is Carrie herself.
Executive producer Alex Gansa talks to Variety about what these latest twists mean for our favorite CIA-agent-turned-private-citizen.
Once again, this season is ripped from the headlines with a storyline about the refugee crisis. Do you have the White House bugged?
A friend of mine asked me the other day who my astrologer was (laughs). No, we are not that prescient. We spent four or five days in Washington D.C. in January. We get the straight dope from the horse’s mouth. We heard this refugee crisis was happening, and we knew it was going to get worse. Frankly, it’s a lot worse in reality than we depict on the show. Can you imagine having to uproot your life and leave everything behind to get into a country that doesn’t want you? It’s unimaginable, certainly to Americans.
You also talked to Edward Snowden back then.
It was super top secret at the time. Ed Snowden has made several Skype appearances to several audiences over the last six months, and we were among the first. Obviously his story inspired the incidents in this season as well and all the questions that it engenders. Is he a hero? Is he a traitor? The conversation about surveillance needs to be had, and the refuge that people take in Berlin because of its privacy laws.
Now you’ve planted Carrie in the midst of all of that, but as a private citizen.
If this season has a topic sentence, she’s trying to run away from her past, and it’s right there over her shoulder. Episode two is the time when it really catches up to her.
No one trusts that she’s really quit the CIA.
That was one of the very first thoughts we had about the season. Here is Carrie Mathison, out of the Central Intelligence Agency. Wouldn’t it be interesting if all of her colleagues at the place she was currently working suspected her of still being a CIA agent, and all her former colleagues at the CIA believed she was a traitor to that organization? That puts her in a very tenuous, betwixt and between position that we found very interesting for that character.
You’ve double-crossed us before (last season, she turned out to be working for Saul all along), so you’ve taught us not to trust her.
That anxiety and tension is interesting. Honestly, one of the interesting things when you move deeper into a series, especially a series that you reboot and geographically relocate in different places in different seasons, you have an entirely different set of characters who get to know your main character who you as an audience already know. So you’re watching everyone else respond and react to a character that you know more about than the people that she’s meeting on the street.
We know she’s fragile, given her mental health issues. Can she handle that pressure of living that dual existence?
You might want to tune into the third episode for that answer. It’s going to be another controversial episode. We are never one to pull our punches on this show, for better or for worse. That episode is out there.
How much do you seek to purposely stoke controversy?
I think that about this all the time. At the bottom line, we are trying to be entertaining. The audience has to suspend its disbelief, but we’re also in the business of making episodes that get people to sit up and start talking about it. And I think in the past four seasons we’ve done that on a number of occasions. And we’re hoping that episode three does the same thing.
How will Carrie handle learning she was the actual target of the assassination attempt?
It’s her worst nightmare. Carrie is smart enough not to believe anything that anybody tells her. She hears it. She takes it in. She believes it or doesn’t believe it. We’ll learn more about that. Certainly the exigence of the moment and the fact that this guy was tortured, and under torture revealed this very interesting fact that she was the target, it does mitigate in favor of the fact that he was telling the truth. So she does have to take it seriously. Indeed, he was telling the truth.
It’s hard to watch Carrie and Saul hate each other. Can they ever reconcile?
That right now is the central relationship in “Homeland.” The Quinn/Carrie relationship is also significant, but the Carrie/Saul relationship is the primary relationship. If you actually think about it, it’s been the primary relationship from the beginning. It pre-dated her relationship with Brody (Damian Lewis). It will post-date her relationship with everybody on the series. It really is the thing we are exploring, this mentor/mentee relationship. Here we are in a period of their lives where they are estranged from each other. Everybody’s rooting for them to get back together and be on the same team again.
Quinn didn’t even seem to flinch when he got Carrie’s name as his next target. Will he be able to go through with it?
Quinn has been living on the tip of the spear all his life, all his professional life — certainly the last two years in Syria. This guy has seen it all. To get Carrie’s name in the kill box is an interesting development in his life. He’s not shocked. He’s learned to expect the unexpected. And obviously this is something that is going to cause some conflict in him going forward and carrying out the mission.
Saul has a new sparring partner to contend with in Allison Carr (Miranda Otto). Does she really think she can outwit him?
I have to refer you to episode three again. We find that character this season is a fascinating replacement part for Carrie in Saul’s life. It is not without its own twists and tensions.
This is the first time we’re seeing Carrie with a healthy romance. Can it last?
I think we’re going to have a very interesting conversation next week.