The ability to surprise is an important weapon for any showrunner. Whether its a strangely timed romance, a shocking death, or a startling character revelation, twists and surprises keep viewers in the age of 21st century-onset ADD coming back. Showrunners absolutely recognize this fact, so they take great strides in surprising their viewership. The problem is that fans have started to figure these things out. Television tropes have become known and fans routinely discuss them in a variety of means. If you have a standard television show, it’s pretty hard to sneak an earned twist by your fans. By the time a show’s writing staff even conceives of an idea for a twist, it’s possible existence has already been discussed on message boards, Facebook, and Twitter. If you are a showrunner in 2012, what is there to do? Well, you could always try and be Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon.
Before the second season premiere of Homeland, showrunner Alex Gansa sat down with Andy Greenwald of Grantland for an interview. Within that interview, he discussed how plot decisions are made in today’s current era of TV. Gansa noted that the television audience is so sophisticated nowadays (thanks for buttering us up, Alex), that it has become very difficult to surprise people with a plot twist. However, he also noted that you can still surprise people with plot timing. After watching his show for the past few weeks, it’s difficult to argue with Mr. Gansa’s assertion that he can surprise us with timing.
It was no secret the Brody suicide video would make its grand return at some point in the series. That being said, a classical television trope would see that video revealed to the CIA in a season finale or penultimate episode. Instead, Homeland trotted it out in the second episode of the season. At that point, many people probably wondered how they were going to play this new revelation to keep Brody around for the entire season. This episode’s set up involving the CIA plan to have Brody lead them to Nazir turned out to be a cleverly disguised diversion. Brody should have learned by now that you don’t have drinks with Carrie Mathison. Only craziness can ensue. Now, he’s once again a prisoner except this time, it’s Carrie who’s taking the years off his life.
What happens next is almost irrelevant. With these four episodes, Homeland has shown that it is willing to do anything at any time. Most likely, viewers can look forward to more scenes featuring our two dynamic leads as the CIA uses Brody to get closer to Abu Nazir. There is plenty more intelligence work to be done this season, but these new developments seem to indicate a possible shift. With Brody arrested, the sketchy details behind terror attacks and espionage can be put aside. Perhaps now, Homeland can focus on the character work that they do so well.
With eight episodes remaining in the season, it’s safe to say that we have a few more twists to work through before we are done here. Nazir is still at large, and the mole in the CIA remains uncovered. Given those details, Brody’s imprisonment may not stick for the duration of the season. Then again, Gansa and Gordon could stick a paralytic in his veins next week. We just don’t know, and that’s a good thing.