There always have been similarities between "24" and "Homeland." Both began as taut, political thrillers; both share executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon.
And as "Homeland" heads into Season 3, are Gansa and Gordon making the same mistake they made with "24"?
Season 3 of the Showtime series begins Sunday at 10 p.m. on Comcast (Channel 540); Sunday at 7 p.m. on DirecTV (Channel 545); and Sunday at 7 p.m. on Dish Network (Channel 318).
That show, which always required a substantial suspension of disbelief, became increasingly ludicrous in no small part because its main character, Jack Bauer, survived umpteen close calls with death to save the world over and over again. You couldn’t suspend enough disbelief as a viewer.
"Homeland" may be headed in the same direction. The series will continue to feature Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) and his family, even though he’s been outed to America as a sleeper agent brainwashed by Muslim terrorists and thought to be responsible for a horrific attack on the CIA.
"These guys have been trying to kill me since the end of Episode 1," Lewis joked, gesturing to the executive producers. "I’m on a stay of execution. I don’t know for how much longer."
Brody isn’t in the first two episodes of Season 3. He’s in hiding, rescued from arrest by CIA operative Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes).
"The decision to not have Brody in the first two episodes was strictly a function of the story," Gansa said. "And whether there’s a backlash or not is completely out of our control."
Well, not completely. They did make the decision to keep Brody part of the narrative.
Gansa insisted that when he brought new writers onto the "Homeland" staff — writers who are fans of the show — there "was a unanimous consensus that there was interest" in Brody and his family.
Brody, his wife (Morena Baccarin) and teenage daughter (Mogran Saylor) have been great characters for two seasons. But will keeping them on board prevent the show from moving forward? Shorten its lifespan?
Is "Homeland" a finite series? How long can it go on?
"As long as you’ll have us," Gansa said.
"As long as there’s a story to tell," Gordon added.
Given what happened with "24," they’re clearly not great judges of this. Remember the frogmen who swam under the White House and took the president hostage in Season 7? C’mon!
Well, Gordon didn’t say "Homeland" would stick around as long as it had good stories to tell.
Truth is, Season 3 of "Homeland" gets off to a very strong start. It requires that suspension of disbelief; you have to accept that the very existence of the CIA hangs in the balance after the events of Season 1 and Season 2.
"The CIA itself is on trial," Gansa said. "That is an agency that couldn’t even protect itself. How should it be expected to protect the country?"
Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is now the director of the CIA, and his loyalty to the agency is greater than his loyalty to Carrie.
Could the show go on without Saul? Without Carrie? Without Brody?
"I am completely in line with the idea that you must be ruthless with story and ruthless with characters," Lewis said. "We’ve already seen one or two prominent characters disappear and I’m sure there will be more. It’s the world that the story is set in. I think it’s good."
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