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Spec Writing Roadmap for Homeland

"Homeland"

SPEC WRITING ROAD MAP

By Guy Jackson and Michael Ferris

(Click here to download a Movie Magic Screenwriter format temlate for Homeland and a link to a sample script)

SERIES OVERVIEW AND CONCEIT:

Homeland is a long, slow-burn of a series that gradually reveals information with great care to mount tension and create layers of doubt, intrigue, and most especially a sort of audience paranoia. Based on an Israeli series "PRISONERS OF WAR" (created by Gideon Raff) it is a spitfire of a show, a highly intelligent thriller of a series that presents uncomfortable analogies in its exploration of the United States' changed attitude to National Security post-9/11. It is damning of the response to 9/11 at home and abroad, critical of the methodology of the War On Terror, particularly in the use of drones, and cynical of the motivations of those who instigated that war.

It also owes a huge debt to "THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE", especially with the oncoming second season, in which the brain-washed potential-assassin character of Nicholas Brody has taken office. Any research into writing for "HOMELAND" should begin with a viewing of that classic movie (the Frank Sinatra version).

"HOMELAND" gleaned a Golden Globe for best drama, almost equaled audience figures for "MAD MEN"'s finale for its own and is widely known to be President Obama's personal favorite show. He requested four copies of the finale on DVD from the show's creators, no doubt making conspiracy theorists on the right sweat a little.

PLOTTING OVERVIEW:

Because "HOMELAND" is a plot-heavy series, we're going to address the Plot Overview prior to the individual characters. And of course this assessment will be SPOILER-heavy, so one had best watch the series before wielding this summary tool, which also discusses themes to use in spec'ing.

Carrie Mathison is a CIA operations analyst who at the start of the series is on shaky ground with her superiors for an unauthorized operation in Iraq. It is quickly made clear that she is driven by a sense of urgent purpose to protect her homeland from a terrorist attack, and that this drive overrides any requirements for professionalism or protocol, though later her cop-on-the-edge motif is revealed as a problem of bi-polar disorder.

Carrie was reassigned to the Counter Terrorism center in Washington DC, but in Iraq she was warned that an American prisoner-of-war had been "turned" by Al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, US Marine Sergeant Nicolas Brody was rescued after being held hostage by Al-Qaeda for eight years. Learning this, Carrie immediately suspected Brody and made it her crusade to expose him as an undercover agent for the terrorist group, specifically the wanted-dead-or-alive leader Abu Nazir

The question that hovers over every characters' actions is thus: What Is Terrorism? Or Who Is A Terrorist? What is the difference between what the American military has done to civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and what the suicide bombers did on 9/11? What constitutes acceptable collateral damage for the protection of a people or an ideology? Note that in writing a spec for "HOMELAND" you are not exactly meant to answer these questions nor take sides. You are simply presenting the issues with a slant of strong empathy to all sides. 

From these central questions (again: What Is Terrorism? Or Who Is A Terrorist?) every move and counter-move made by the show's characters rack up the tension and demand the viewer make guess after guess as to what the next turn or twist might be. The show is deliberately plotted to bring about audience theorizing and even by the end of the first series the audience was still left guessing on many major points, particularly character motivation and intention. In other words, this conspiratorial series turns the conspiracy back on the audience's guesswork, another important theme to remember should you spec for the show. Your spec should inspire total inter-viewer warfare.  

On a minor note, a mole revealing important information that undermined Carrie's work and debilitated her in her mission had not yet been named as of Season One's end. Someone within the CIA passed a razor blade to a captured Al Qaeda member assigned as a bodyguard to Brody during his kidnapping, and we still do not know who that might be, either. Several moles might be a possibility. This being a small example of how everything is open in this series, and so though you'll be plunging your spec into an ongoing plot structure that's impossible to guess at, you'll be okay in that you can play the series' cards anyway you like. 

In fact, the creators of "HOMELAND" have admitted they did not map out the entire plot of the show in advance and it wasn't until episode six that they considered how to conclude the first season.

Again, we also discovered Carrie suffers from a bipolar disorder for which she is not disciplined about taking her correct medications, but which often affords her a certain level of perception, insight, and ability to join the dots that others don't have. Whether this heightened sense is all insane paranoia or all dead reckoning is constantly in question.

We discovered also in the first season that Brody was taken in as a friend by the Arab lead Abu Nazir, underwent Muslim conversion and is driven, if not entirely, by one particular event he witnessed, the death of Nazir's son as a result of an American drone attack.

Brody's family -- his wife Jessica and two children Dana and Christopher -- had never quite given up the hope that he was still alive. However his wife had started, prior to the first season's start, a relationship with his best friend Mike, who had been providing her with practical and emotional support. Brody's son barely knows his father, and his daughter has grown into a cynical and difficult teen and enjoys a fraught relationship with her mother.  Jessica appears unable or unwilling to exert control over Dana's destructive behavior.

Brody and Carrie had occasion to meet in the midst of the first season, and Brody reached out to Carrie in a moment of crisis (after discovering his wife's affair) and Carrie and Brody's bond over their mutual experience of the horrors of war, their mutual sense of purpose, and duty to their country, led them to a torrid affair. Carrie took Brody to her family's cabin in the woods where their affair got pretty deep and meaningful to the pair of them. Yet this relationship flailed almost as soon as it began for Brody when he discovered Carrie believed him a terrorist indoctrinated by Nazir, and when Brody found Carrie had set up a surveillance system in his home.

Brody protested to Carrie that he wasn't brainwashed, but that he was introduced to Abu Nazir during his kidnapping, and simply liked the man. Brody also revealed he believed he killed Tom Walker, an American kidnapped with him, but later Tom turned up as a fellow indoctrinated terrorist. This information (Brody gave her) could not be imparted to the CIA by Carrie, however, as it was not discovered through legitimate means. When they were in bed together Brody had night terrors and repeated the name "Issa" over and over, to Carrie's confusion. Brody then lied to her and said Issa was a guard who was nice to him during his captivity. Turned out in the first season's finale, however, that Carrie realized Issa was Abu Nazir's drone-killed son, but she figured that out just prior to getting her brain wiped from electro-shock therapy. 

Carrie did not, throughout the first season, come to realize Brody's motivations are more complex and human and not simply political or religious. This is important, because it's going to provide an emotional spine in the second season, as Carrie's heart still is a bit taken with Brody. At the end of the first season Carrie appears to have even fallen in love with Brody, something Saul (Carrie's supervisor) comes to understand but not trust. Despite this Carrie was still convinced Brody was planning a terrible attack on the US.

At one point in the first season Brody insisted on coming to Carrie's apartment, a move she viewed (in a truly, scarily crazed possessive female fashion) as romantic. But Brady was instead cold and calculating and the audience was left unsure if he was entirely using Carrie, or looking for a connection, or too transfixed on his goal to care for her either way. 

When it was discovered that Tom Walker (again, Brody's fellow kidnappee) was alive, Carrie dropped her fixation on Brody as the "turned" Marine and began to doubt her judgment. The CIA tracked Tom Walker and the chase led them to kill two Muslim men in a mosque. The incident was reported as necessary collateral damage in the hunt for a terrorist, and again returned the series to the question of What Is Terrorism? It brought to mind the shooting of an innocent man after the Britain terrorist bombings of 7-7-7.

Brody then went to Saudi diplomat Al Sahrani to let the Al Qaeda group Al Sahrani worked for (under Abu Nazir) know that he (Brody) no longer wanted to be involved in their mission. Brody was feeling betrayed and manipulated. In response Brody was kidnapped from a supermarket parking lot and put on a Skype communication with Abu Nazir, who reminded him of his experience with Issa and his conversion to the Muslim faith. Nazir asked Brody to avenge Issa's death as he had promised, reminded Brody of why he believed this was a morally correct and just tack. Of course, Brody might understand his actions are to protect his own country from corruption, from "domestic enemies", but Abu Nazir sees him as a tool in his own war. However, Abu Nazir was happy to work, in the first season, within Brody's motivations to get what he wants.

Abu Nazir then suggested that the Vice President would ask Brody to run for political office and when he did, and when Brody said "yes", then Al Qaeda would understand Brody was still with them in their mission. Brody did indeed say yes and the ball was set rolling for the series' finale. Brody understood he was to wear a bomb strapped to his body when he attended the Vice President's event for announcing Brody's decision to run for President.  Brody knew nothing other than that, and certainly not that Tom Walker had been asked to act as a sniper from a nearby apartment, to shoot a government official and then scatter shots in order to make the whole group enter the building and a bunker. It was there that Brody had the best chance of killing the Vice President and a number of other connected officials without doing any damage to the general public.

Back in the middle of the series the Saudi diplomat Al Sahrani was connected with the CIA via Aileen (the wife of an Al-Qaeda involvee who was killed in Iraq) and blackmailed to cooperate with the CIA. They used Sahrani as bait for Tom Walker, who in turn created a situation in which a set-up meeting turned into a terrorist attack in a public park. A suitcase blew up, killing and injuring many, and Carrie was left in the hospital. She went off her medication during this time and was sent spiraling to manic heights.

In her manic phase Carrie connected the dots of Abu Nazir's plans when she called Brody to ask if Nazir might have experienced a tragedy during the time when all his planning and communications went quiet. Brody in turn calls David (the head of the CIA) and has him turn up at Carrie's house and tear down her research and put her on administrative leave, meaning she would never be allowed to return to her position at the CIA.

Brody picked up the bomb vest on a family trip to Gettysburg. Then when the plan went off with Tom Walker's distraction of gunfire, in the bunker Brody resolved to flick the switch and blow everyone up. But the vest didn't activate. He tried to fix the problem in the bathroom but just as he was about to flick the switch again, he received a call from Dana. Carrie had turned up at Brody's home and told Dana she believed the sniper (Tom) was a distraction. Carrie tells Dana and Jessica that Brody is a terrorist and he was planning an attack. Jessica called the police and they took Carrie away. But Dana decided to speak with her father anyway and her call stopped him cold.

Carrie saw Brody after this at the police station and he told her he wouldn't press charges if she promised to stay away from him. Carrie then asked Maggie (her sister) to take her to the hospital instead of home. There she elected to have electro-convulsive treatment, which brings on short term memory loss.

Saul arrived at Carrie's bedside and told her that the drone attack was the incident that occurred when Abu Nazir was 'quiet'. Saul tried to make her reconsider the treatments. She insisted she was crazy…she fell in love with Brody and she thought he was a terrorist and clearly he was not. She submits to the treatment and right before the electric shock she realizes Brody called out "Issa" at the cabin and knew Abu Nazir's son, the son who was killed in the drone attack. We were left to wonder what she will recall when she wakes up.

In the first season's final scene Brody meets Tom Walker, who's talking to Nazir via a cell phone. Brody asked to speak to Nazir. Tom was sent to kill Brody it seems, but Brody turns the tables and tells Nazir he is planning something far more spectacular in the wake of his bomb vest's technical failure. He wanted to make the best of the situation, infiltrate the government, become close to the VP and "kill an idea" instead of the person. Brody and Nazir were in instant agreement, and Brody shot Tom dead at Nazir's command.

PLOT SKELETON:

In all episodes of Homeland there is the show's spinal plotline involving Carrie's mission to smoke out Brody and reveal him as a terrorist (which includes her affair with him) and another spinal plotline most often involves Brody's relationships with his family members. A common alternative spinal plotline is Carrie's mental state and relationship with her own family.

Because each episode of "HOMELAND" is internally episodic, it's quite an easy matter to pick up on a structure. Just watch an episode and when there's a scene change you're looking at a new beat for one of the plots. Count those beats and the plot with the most beats is plot A, and you know where you want your plot A scenes. It's much more difficult, of course, to fill these scene beats with story. That's your job as a spec writer, of course. But let's look at one of the best episodes of "HOMELAND"s first season, and break it down, and you can use this example to structure your spec, beat for beat.

SAMPLE EPISODE:

In this episode, Episode 6 of the 1st Season, the plots could be summed as such:

A Plot: Brody and Carrie get romantically involved.

B Plot: Tracking down and plying information from terrorist conspirator Aileen.

C Plot: Jessica and Dana Brody cope with the fallout of Jessica's affair and Nicholas' (Brody's) funky behavior, which now includes a disappearing act.

D Plot: Carrie is investigating Brody, and suspects him of being a terrorist.

E Plot: Carrie is heading for a breakdown, a manic episode, a psychotic break.

F Plot: What is going on with Brody anyway?

OPENING TITLES

SCENE 1

1st beat of B plot: Aileen Morgan (see below), a wife of a suspected terrorist is on the run after the gunning down of her suspected terrorist husband. By the way, this minor character really turns out as a sort of foil for the show's theme: Who Is A Terrorist? In later beats of this episode, she also turns out as a foil for revelation of Saul's character.

SCENE 2

1st beat of A plot: Brody and Carrie have hopped in a car together in the previous episode, and they giddily road trip off into the sunset.

SCENE 3

1st beat of E plot/2nd beat of A plot: (E) Carrie is wavering toward a breakdown, and hence she gets a little too feisty with a neo-Nazi in a bar. A scuffle breaks out, and (A) Carrie and Brody find out they make beautiful music together in terms of hand-to-hand combat in close quarters, and have a giggly run to escape the bar.

SCENE 4

1st beat of C plot: Jessica and Dana deal with Brody disappearing for the weekend, and Dana angrily blames Jessica's affair.

SCENE 5

2nd beat of B plot: Aileen Morgan is being tracked by Saul, and he gets the go from David to go after her.

SCENE 6

3rd beat of A plot/2nd beat of E plot/1st beat of D plot: (A) Brody and Carrie arrive at Carrie's family cabin, and they cozy by the lake. (E) Carrie calls her sister for the cabin key, and we find out she missed her meds. (D) Carrie also sneaks into the cabin ahead of Brody and conceals a handy gun, so we see that Carrie is still after 'terrorist' Brody. 

SCENE 7

3RD beat of B plot: Aileen arrested at border of Mexico, picked up by Saul. They begin to drive home, Saul grilling her.

SCENE 8

4th beat of A plot: Brody and Carrie enjoy the morning sun.

SCENE 9

4th beat of B plot: Saul explains why Aileen's husband was killed. Saul appeals to Aileen's misguided charity, a charity that drove her to collaborate with Al Qaeda.

SCENE 10

5th beat of A plot: Brody and Carrie go hiking, talk of international intrigue. Carrie reveals the death of her translator in Iraq. Brody says he can't 'be' with his wife. They bond over their shared War On Terror trauma, their shared Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Again: Who Is  A Terrorist?

SCENE 11

2nd beat of C plot: Dana brings in friends for drugs and alcohol while her mom's at work, then cuts herself when she breaks a window.

SCENE 12

5th beat of B plot: Saul tries to get through to Aileen over diner food, and she opens up about her reasoning behind getting together with a terrorist via an interracial relationship that blew her WASP parents' mind.

SCENE 13

3rd and 4th beat of C plot: Dana comes home with stitches. (beat one) Jessica and Mike cope with the fallout of their affair, and them nearly getting together again is interrupted by Dana. (beat two) Dana tells Mike off: "There's no place for my Dad when you're here."

SCENE 14

6th beat of A plot/2nd beat of D plot: (A)Brody and Carrie make dinner, get awkward and romantic, make sober love. (D)Carrie hears Brody call out the name "Issa" in his sleep, thus returning her to her suspicions.

SCENE 12

6th beat of B plot: Saul stops at his burnt out childhood home, further convinces Aileen toward doing the right thing. Saul talks about his Jewish upbringing and following strict religious practice.

SCENE 13

7th beat of A plot/1st beat of F plot: (A) Carrie and Brody wake up together, and all is homey until their relationship is disrupted when (F) Brody clues in that she's been spying on him.

SCENE 14

7th beat of B plot: Aileen finally weeps in front of Saul over the idea of her lost husband in a morgue somewheres, and immediately thereafter she's seen confessing all she knows.

SCENE 15

8th beat of A plot: Carrie and Brody's idyll falls apart when a slip-up regarding tea ignites a rancorous argument between the pair. Carrie reveals all about her suspicions regarding him, straight up telling him she thinks he's Al Qaeda. Yet Brody relents, and tells Carrie: "Ask me anything." That's the…

9th beat of A plot/3rd beat of D plot: (D) Brody opens up to Carrie about all his 'terrorist' possibilities, and (A) the pair's relationship deepens, seems headed for true love and understanding as Carrie commences grilling him.

SCENE 16

8th beat of B plot/4th beat of D plot: (B)A rooftop surveillance reveals a sniper position for Marine One, and Aileen identifies Tom Walker as a man involved with her dead husband's operation. (D)When Saul calls Carrie with the news, his phone call crosses into…

SCENE 17

10th beat of A plot/4th beat of D plot part 2: (D2) Carrie finally asks one too many probing questions and pisses Brody off, and (A) their romantic idyll finally broken he leaves her and the cabin just as (D2) she finds out Tom Walker is the man they were looking for, and so her protestations that Brody stay with her, romantically, fall on his already-closed ears.

SCENE 18

2nd beat of F plot: Brody returns home, and breaks down, and our suspicions are confirmed that all may not be right after all with him.

CHARACTER BREAKDOWNS:

MAJOR CHARACTERS:

CARRIE MATHISON (CLAIRE DANES): 

An independent, instinctual, hyper-smart, and often rogue CIA agent entirely dedicated to her work with little in the way of a private life, Carrie is intense and urgent in all her dealings. She takes the safety of her fellow Americans very personally. Her bipolar disorder defines her character. She doesn't follow the rules and due process of the CIA and does not pander to her superiors. She will do what she feels she needs to do to keep one step ahead of the terrorists, often not even noting herself being at risk.

She had an affair with her boss David Estes (the head of the CIA), prior to the series' beginning, which caused the end of his marriage, and for which Carrie feels she is being punished by David on a regular basis. Her mentor and previous boss, Saul Berenson, respects her intelligence and is wary of her unorthodox methods but tries to exert his fatherly presence, being both protective and disciplinary.

Carrie will do anything, whether immoral or unsafe to herself, in order to prevent another 9/11, an incident she sees (manic-ly) as occurring due to her own personal failing.  As David points out to her there is "no bridge you won't burn, no earth you won't scorch" in pursuit of her goal.

To the wife of an Al-Qaeda informant Carrie said, notably: "If there's another terrorist attack this country will turn on itself, it's already primed to. I want a better world, and a better America." Both she and Brody feel they are working to better their country, and what Carrie says here matches Brody's final decision of the season to not kill the Vice President but to kill instead an "idea" within the government. They both see America and Americans as manipulated by those in power to their own ends.

Carrie was seen to pick up guys in bars, wearing a wedding ring to ensure she doesn't attract those looking for a relationship. She eats mostly take-out, if she eats at all. Her apartment is a mess that only she can understand. Carrie says to Saul, during the disintegration of his own marriage, that she believes she will be "alone" her whole life. She cannot see how she can sustain an intimate relationship with her work and her mental issues.

Carrie is often seen as vulnerable and on-the-edge, and she turns on her friends and finds it hard to let go of her obsessions. Her inability to provide hard evidence for her gut feeling that Brody is involved in an Al Qaeda plot makes her doubt her self to the point of the first season's electroshock finale.

By the end of the first season Carrie had begun to believe there is no method to her madness, that her intuition and insights were just products of a chemical imbalance. Carrie sees Brody and David (manic-ly, mostly) as the men who ruined her life. Saul and Virgil are her only friends in the world and although they trust her they cannot give her back her job. Carrie winds up entirely dependent on her sister Maggie at the first season's end, as well as jobless.

NICHOLAS BRODY (DAMIEN LEWIS):

A U.S. Marine Platoon sergeant returned to his family after being a captive of Al-Qaeda for eight years, Nicholas Brody is always eerily calm on the outside but struggling beneath the surface with the conflict between his past self, a loving husband, a swell father to his son and daughter, a dedicated protector of the American way, and his present self: a man driven by a mission to avenge the actions of the American military against the civilians of Afghanistan. Note we said 'Iraq' above, but let's clarify here that Brody was kidnapped in Afghanistan and taken over the border into Iraq.

So this American hero harbors hatred for the men in government who sent him to war, and yet his motives are not apparently political, or even ideological. Brody is a converted Muslim, having taken up the faith as a comfort and source of hope in a hopeless situation, and yet he is not motivated by the religion or the fundamentalism of his kidnappers.

Instead, Brody is a man who once saw the world in black and white and can now only see grey. He is holding on to the one belief he has, that what he saw (a child in his care killed in a drone strike) was wrong and must be avenged. During his time as a hostage he transitions into a brainwashed soul, in the way of Stockholm Syndrome, but also with more complexity, into a friend of the terrorist leader Abu Nazir, and takes on the tutoring of Nazir's son, Issa, the child he sees killed. The drone strike was kept secret by the U.S. government and the news of its resulting civilian deaths, all of them children, kept from the American media. In the aftermath Nazir and Brody watch as Vice President Walden claims the drone struck Abu Nazir's compound and the images of dead children flooding the Internet are fabrications from terrorists.

So Brody is also just plain a pawn of those more powerful, a cipher employed to make a point, and for the most part, he's great at playing the blank. He plays the role of American Hero impeccably, so well it would seem he believes himself a hero to the American people, and a terrorist to the government. Perhaps in Brody's worldview it's only the government that needs change. In Brody's plans he is targeting those in power, and not the public, and it is in this that he is able to uphold his dual nature. Once again, the question that hovers over Brody's every action is What Is Terrorism? What is the difference between what the American military has done to civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and what the suicide bombers did on 9/11?

At the party at which Brody was groomed for becoming a Congressman, Brody was seen sharing war stories easily with the partygoers. He was charming, entertaining, and can recount moments of combat and victory with ease. He seems to be able to slip into his social role with aplomb. Again, we see he has no problem with the American people or the American way of life, only those in the government he understands to be corrupt. Put another way, Brody's behavior looks strange and reads as almost sociopathic, but essentially he means no harm to the general public of his country and acts as he would have before his kidnapping.

Let's look at this another way. We can only assume Brody's attitudes and feelings towards U.S. politics and the decision to start wars in the Middle East in the wake of 9/11, but in the show's present we can see his apparently once-strong patriotism and sense of duty has mutated. He will protect his country no matter what, even if it means his death, but he now believes he must protect his country from its own government. It was Vice-President Walden who directed the drone attack and as of Season 2 he's running for President, and he provides a focal point for Brody's quiet plotting. Brody's rationalization of his decision to avenge the death of Nazir's son via an act of Al-Qaeda-supported terrorism hinges on how government leaders backing the wars and hiding the drone attacks are "domestic enemies" and "war criminals."

When alone Brody can become unhinged, reverting to his captive self and, for example, crouching in room corners. He confides very little about his emotional state, his experiences, or his feelings to his wife. When it comes to personal issues, such as his wife's affair, he reacted through actions and not words, beating up his friend Mike (his wife's paramour) at a BBQ.  For the first half of the first season Brody agonized over the belief he was forced to murder fellow captive American (and close friend) Tom Walker, by beating him to death and digging his grave. But by season's end when he had discovered Walker was alive and on a mission of his own, and Brody murdered him for real, and appeared unmoved.

Representative Dialogue: "Bullshit war. The days I take orders from the US military or the government are over. I need the last 8 years back when I was left out there to rot."

Or in video testimony made before his planned attack: "I love my country. I'm a Marine. As a Marine I swore on oath to defend the United States from enemies foreign and domestic. The Vice President is a domestic enemy, he is a liar and a war criminal. This is about justice for the 82 children whose murder is a stain on the soul of this country."

"Why kill a man when you can kill an idea?"

JESSICA BRODY (MORENA BACCARIN): 

A woman trying with all her might to hold an impossible situation together, Jessica Brody welcomes back her husband with real joy and yet harbors great guilt for moving on, in her affair with his best friend Mike Faber. She's immediately in a terrible bind, aware of the brutality of her husband's experience but unable to concede to him entirely because of it, and she dismisses any and all upsetting and harmful behavior.

She supports Brody in his bid for Congress in the first series and plays the doting wife excellently. She desperately wants to hold her family together and believes Brody needs this purpose to return to his former self.

Jessica was made aware of Brody's affair with Carrie and believes Carrie to be a madwoman bent on revenge against her husband and their family.

SAUL BERENSON (MANDY PATINKIN):

Mentor, confidante and friend to Carrie, Saul displays a pragmatic, diplomatic, and balanced nature, and he tries to influence Carrie with these attributes whilst allowing her to provide him with the fruits of her unorthodox and dangerous methods. A workaholic who's marriage falls apart during the first season, due on his inattention and preoccupation with not only his own duties, but with managing Carrie, Saul appears to find satisfaction and purpose in his work and feels, as Carrie does, the weight of that responsibility heavy on his shoulders.

There is implication throughout the first season that Saul is the mole within the CIA who is reporting to superiors on Carrie, and this in order to prevent her continuing investigation that would reveal the details of the drone attack. Or perhaps Saul is working to aid the domestic terrorist plot, or both. Yet this would seem unlikely considering his standing within the series as a source of compassion, morality and reason.

Carrie and Saul present two different approaches to international relations, to the security threat in the wake of 9/11 and to the war on terror. She views Saul's attitude as "detached" and calls him a "pussy" whereas he sees her as a hothead who frequently offends his sense of professionalism and has no respect for his personal life, because she herself has none. However, he knows Carrie is frequently right, but also knows she needs to provide evidence to back up her conclusions and not present foggy intuitions to her superiors.

In the final episodes of the first season Saul showed he was capable of standing up to the Vice President and to David (the director of the CIA) and suggested he (Saul) would reveal the drone attack. Yet he was torn as such information would provide a "recruitment tool" for Al Qaeda (although in a seeming, slight hole the show does not acknowledge that outside of the U.S., in the Middle East, the incident is already general knowledge).

Saul eventually resigns to leaving the drone attack buried, and uses the information to instead try and understand Nazir's next move. Saul finally, obviously, feels powerless in the face of the government's corruption.

VICE PRESIDENT WILLIAM WALDEN (JAMIE SHERIDAN):

A cynical, embittered political climber with no moral compass, Vice President Walden is the person who instigated the drone attack that killed 82 children including Issa, Abu Nazir's son, and ordered that the attack be covered up and hidden from the media, instead spinning the images of dead children released on the internet as terrorist propaganda and as such fueling Americans hatred of the Iraqis, Muslims, and The Other as a whole. He used to incident to gain further support for the War On Terror. He is also using Brody to gain support for his run for Presidency. Walden sees Brody's American Hero status and his loving family and realizes he needs Brody's support to win the election. Brody has captured the nation's imagination in a way Vice President Walden has no hope of doing alone.

Representative Dialogue: "If Abu Nazir decides to hide himself amongst children then their deaths will be on his hands, not ours. Stop clouding the issue."

ABU NAZIR (NAVID NEGAHBAN):

A cold father to his son Issa, but a kind albeit manipulating friend to Brody during his captivity, Nazir knew how to get Brody's trust and took advantage of his relationship with Issa and his son's sudden death. As they watched the news report of the incident in the aftermath of the attack Nazir turned to Brody and said, "And they call us terrorists."

Abu Nazir ultimately ordered Brody to shoot Tom Walker in the end of the first season, once Tom had completed his end of the mission, and there is a sense Nazir would do the same to Brody if it becomes necessary. Or, well, after all, Nazir did order Brody to blow himself up. But it is this that makes us question whether Brody decided to run for Congress because of his cause or because of self-preservation. Does Brody need to keep himself safe from Abu Nazir's revenge? We don't know what motivates Nazir, he's a shadowy, background puppeteer; it might be religion, power, hatred of America, whatever, but we ultimately only know what Nazir tells Brody is his motivation. He was planning terrorist attacks, including 9/11, long before his son was killed. Yet Brody trusts and admires Nazir for his determination and seems to believe he comes from a place of morality and compassion. We are led to think there is a certain level of Stockholm Syndrome involved in Brody and Nazir's personal relationship.

MIKE FABER (DIEGO KLATTENHOFF):

In love with Brody's wife, and more of a father figure to Chris (Brody's son) than Brody, and still loyal to the military and his company.  He was used by the military, the CIA, and the government in attempts to manipulate Brody, usually in turn using Jessica as an influence. Once Brody forgives Mike for the affair, Mike supports Brody in his bid to become a Congressman and is clearly motivated by overweening guilt.

CHRIS BRODY (JACKSON PACE):

An angel of a child, Chris is respectful of his parents and kind to his rebellious sister. He asks difficult questions of those around him, but purely out of naivete. He practices karate and plays violent video games. He appears at first wary and almost scared of his father, and has a far friendlier relationship with Mike, and he is very close to his mother. But by the first season's end Chris' relationship to Brody began to ever-so-slightly thaw.

DANA BRODY (MORGAN SAYLOR):

A rebellious AKA normal teen, into experimenting with boys and soft drugs, and yet she carries a seriousness and perception that sets her apart, makes her unique for her age. Unlike her brother, Dana remembers her father from before he left for war. She feels distant from her mother, is judgmental of her affair with Mike and disappointed in her ability to maintain her marriage. Dana feels closer to her father when he returns, was almost protective of him. She is the one person close to Brody that spots his strange behavior and suspects it is not only the result of post-traumatic stress. Dana got drunk during the course of the first season, smoked pot, but also seems somehow wiser than her mother or father. She is pivotal to the concluding episodes of the season, as she realized on a trip to Gettysburg with the family that her father's strange behavior was escalating. She caught Brody praying to Allah and was shocked and confused but promised not to tell her mother or brother. Dana was the one who prevented Brody from blowing up himself and many government officials holed in the bunker in the final episode, simply by insisting that she "needed" him. But Dana didn't know what Brody was up to, that he had a bomb strapped to him. She only intuited something wrong, daughter-to-father.

Misunderstood by her mother, there is a sense that Dana is baffled by her mother's beauty, and feels as though only she (Dana) is truly attentive to her father's changed personality. Dana and Brody are last seen together, in the end of the first season, sitting on the roof of the house in silence. Although Brody blocks out his wife and his son and presents to them only a part of himself, it is Dana who penetrates through his walls and whom Brody allows to see his conflicted self. Dana's conversation with her father when he is in the bunker was not brought up again, and yet it is obvious she knows he was not behaving properly.

DAVID ESTES (DAVID HAREWOOD):

As Saul and Carrie's boss, David is a man who appears to have given up on principles and integrity long ago. His marriage dissolved as a result of his affair with Carrie, his children don't speak to him, he is cynical, power-hungry, and disinterested in seeing the War On Terror in anything other than black and white, Us And Them terms. In the final episodes it's revealed he put up no resistance when the Vice President required approval on the drone attack that killed the Iraqi school children, including Issa. David wants to be Vice President himself someday and he will tow the line until then. He uses his affair with Carrie against her, painting himself as victim to her manipulations and just stops short of taking glee in stripping her of her title when he finds out she slept with Brody, in what David thought was an inappropriate bid to secure information from Brody. The disclosure from Brody drew David and Brody closer, and it's likely their relationship will grow…

VIRGIL (DAVID MARCIANO):

A freelance surveillance fella who used to work for the CIA and is now loyal to Carrie, although oft-suspicious of the impact of her mental disorder, Virgil gets haplessly dragged into all of Carrie's rogue initiatives and tries his best to keep her, and himself, safe. He is trusting of Carrie's motivations and obviously feels her heart is in the right place. He constantly complains of being overworked and seeing little of his wife, although now a freelancer.

In the final episode of the season Virgil is left to take care of Carrie as she comes down from her mania and he's therefore recruited by her to drive them to the ceremony being held for Vice President Walden's announcement to run for President. In the heat of the moment, Virgil tells Carrie he thinks she is clearly sick but that he "trusts" her intuition that Brody is about to set about his attack and he provides the distraction that allows her the time to convince Dana she needs to call Brody and ask him to come home. So Virgil reveals his utter loyalty, though because Carrie still came out looking bad, where Virgil's loyalty will go in the second season is up in the air.

DEPARTED CHARACTERS:

TOM WALKER (CHRIS CHALK):

The other American Marine taken hostage, along with Brody. Brody was led to believe he beat Tom Walker to death at the behest of his Al Qaeda kidnappers. But when Brody found out he was lied to, he turned on Walker and almost gave up on his 'mission'. Walker had been set up to take out the President or Vice President as a sniper, and we got to see only very little of Walker outside of the confines of his brainwashed terrorist persona, as in when he killed a man who witnessed him practicing with the sniper gun in the forest without a second thought…yet he also visited his son's school to watch him through the gates. And Walker remarkably did not kill the woman who owns the apartment from which he instigated the final sniper attack. When he left her he even ruffled her hair. We never saw in flashback form what happened to Walker after Brody beat him to near-death, but anyway it's all grist for the mill now, as by the end of the first season Brody gunned Walker down, having perhaps already mentally dealt with his murder.

As in series like "BOARDWALK EMPIRE" and "HELL ON WHEELS" however, there's little doubt that Tom Walker will haunt the second season, and come out at least in inference and reference, if not as a full-blown apparition in Brody's torrid flashbacks.

MINOR CHARACTERS:

MAX (MAURY STERLING):

The quiet brother of Virgil, Maury aided Virgil in the surveillance of Brody's home to keeps costs down, as the exercise was being implemented outside of CIA involvement, under Carrie's independent jurisdiction.

FRANK MATHISON (JAMES REBHORN):

Frank, Carrie's father, suffers from the same mental disorder as Carrie, and he lives with her sister Maggie. Frank has his disorder under control with drugs, and when Carrie was in full swing of a manic episode he calmed and consoled her, and was able to use his own experience to try and help her take control of her actions. (Note there was no mention throughout the first season of Carrie and Maggie's mom.) Frank is an amenable man who loves to cook for people and is loving and respectful of both of his daughters.

MAGGIE MATHISON (AMY HARGREAVES):

Mother to two young girls, Maggie is constantly concerned about her sister, always watching out for her health and her safety. The older of the two sisters and a trainee psychotherapist who acts, off the record, as a doctor to Carrie to help her avoid her CIA employers finding out her mental issues. Maggie's two daughters adore Carrie. In the first season we never see Maggie's husband or ex-husband or whomever it is that has fathered the children. Maggie takes care of her father and there's a suggestion Frank plays golf with Maggie's partner.

MIRA BERENSON (SARITA CHOUDHOURY)

Saul's wife, an intelligent, perceptive woman who is or perhaps was in love with a man more dedicated to his work than her. She is from India and when she first appears in the first season she's returned from a month's visit with her family. She took on a Mumbai slums project started by her parents and left Saul, leaving it open to see how their separation works out. In the final episodes of the first season Saul was desolate over her leaving. They had been married for 25 years.

HELEN WALKER (AFTON WILLIAMSON):

During her husband's disappearance Helen remarried, and her new husband acted as a steadfast father to Tom's son. Jessica Brody severed their friendship as a result of seeing Helen move on with her life, and yet when Helen was told Tom was still alive she was torn between the husband she loved and the man she was told he had become, a cold-blooded terrorist looking to kill the Vice President (at the least) in the name of Al Queda. In the manner of using a minor character to chart a theme of a series, like Mickey Dolan in "BOARDWALK EMPIRE" or Mr. O'Toole in "HELL ON WHEELS", there are parallels drawn between Carrie's feelings for Brody and Helen's ties to Tom despite hearing he has been turned, as she knows it, into a "monster." At the end of season Tom was killed by Brody and the audience has not yet seen Helen's reaction. But when she was warned of Tom's being tracked by the CIA, she said: "He's not the target, he's my husband," bringing up as well the theme of Who Is A Terrorist?

AILEEN MORGAN (MARIN IRELAND):

The wife of a man, Raquim Faizel, who was attached to Al Qaeda and who was killed by Al Qaeda associates when on the run from the CIA (once they discovered Faizel was involved in Abu Nazir's plans). As Saul says at one point, Aileen "went from Connecticut schoolgirl to terrorist girlfriend." After being arrested in Mexico, she took a road trip with Saul back to Washington DC, and en route he made her realize she was better off cooperating and avoiding the death penalty (as you would be if you weren't into death penalties). Raquim and Aileen bought a house by an airport on the orders of Al Qaeda that, it turned out, would allow Tom Walker to shoot the President or Vice President as they boarded Marine One. It was suggested Aileen was motivated by a hatred of her parents, rich, white residents of Saudi Arabia who cut her off when she married Raquim. Aileen hasn't been seen since the episode that was broken down above, and she probably won't be back, but she's a vastly important character in that she's not really a character, we never see her entire journey, but she provides a foil (as said above) for the series' theme of Who Is A Terrorist? And as well she was used to reveal the character of Saul, his childhood and such, his total kindness in getting her to talk without any torture etc.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Brody, having not detonated the bomb strapped to his body and killed himself along with the Vice President and a bunker-load of the government officials was left at the end of the first season to initiate his campaign for Congress. And follow Abu Nazir's phrase "kill an idea".

Carrie had submitted in the end of the first season (in the wake of her mental breakdown, and despite its genius quality in perception) to electro-shock therapy. Carries seems to be in love with Brody, or perhaps that's just symptomatic of her obsession? She will be in the care of her sister. Before the shocks started she realized Brody knew Nazir's son Issa, the missing link that proved he was also "turned" by Al Queda, along with Tom Walker.

At the end of the first season Saul let Carrie know about the drone attack and was unsupportive of the shock treatment she insisted on undergoing. Saul knew her manic phase provided a great level of insight.

UPDATE! SECOND SEASON SUMMARY:

With the first episode of the second season Carrie was secluded with her family, recovering well and working as a English teacher to immigrants. She received a request from Saul due on a former contact of Carrie's who had come forth with information about a planned attack on America but could not provide details to anyone but Carrie. Carrie agreed to travel to Lebanon to reach out to this woman and hopefully aid in preventing the attack. Meanwhile Congressman Brody had been suggested as a running mate for Walden's bid for presidency. When Brody was visited by a friend of Abu Nazir he discovered the Al Qaeda leader was unsatisfied with Brody's non-violent attempts at changing American foreign policy. Brody was asked to get information of potential targets for terrorist attacks from David's safe (the director of the CIA) during a debriefing, and hand the target list over to Nazir. Brody protested, stating he was not interested in killing innocent civilians for their cause. The friend of Nazir made it clear that if Brady didn't do as he was told he and his family would be in danger. In Lebanon Carrie went to meet Saul but was intercepted by a member of Al Qaeda looking to block her mission, then escaped him. Meanwhile, Dana let slip during a debate at her new school that her father is a Muslim. No one believed her, but word gets back to her mother Jessica and she confronts Brody. Brody admitted his new religion and Jessica went ballistic, found his Quran, and threw it on the floor. Brody was mortified, which shocked her. Later that night he got up to find the book and give it a respectful burial. Dana was woken up as well, and met her father in the garden, where she offered to help him with the ritual.

WORLD & SETTING:

"HOMELAND" takes place in and around Washington DC and Langley, Virginia, the location of the CIA. We occasionally see the landmarks of DC, the White House at a couple of points, the Washington Monument, and so on and these are good things to 'cut' to in your spec. Most action is interior within the character's homes or within the CIA headquarters.

One remarkable detail of the series' world worth noting: everything is very normal. When Carrie and Brody talk of their darkest hours while walking by the lake in the above broken-down episode the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Everyone is very domestic, very homespun, very much looking for love and comfort and peace and understanding. Mike, Brody's friend, even says: "We all need a little peace, love, and understanding around here." There's a thread of absolute normalcy throughout the cinematography of "HOMELAND", even while the camera is jouncing along all handheld. By far the best example of this façade of normalcy is when Carrie and Dana face off in the final episode of the first season, Carrie who's just stumbled out of a swath of mental illness and is in the middle of a psychotic break yelling at a teenage girl, Dana, who's just coming of age and is confused about plenty in life, yelling at her to call her brainwashed terrorist father and stop him from suicide bombing the Vice President of the United States. And yet! The entire scene happens on the front lawn of a pleasant suburban neighborhood on a gorgeous sunny day. Such is the marvelous juxtaposition of Let's All Lead Normal Lives while a terrorist world gets ready to blow everything to kingdom come just beneath the surface. Didn't we mention paranoia as a theme, earlier? Didn't we ask Who Is A Terrorist? With "HOMELAND", you want to keep the characters heading for normalcy while fighting all their own extremisms just below the surface.


Movie Magic® Screenwriter Template for Homeland

To download a Movie Magic Screenwriter template file for Homeland, right click here: httphttp://support.screenplay.com/filestore/templates/mmsw6/New/TV/Homeland.def

For a list of available Movie Magic Screenwriter format templates for download, go to http://support.screenplay.com/downloads/MMScreenwriter/Templates/index.php

SCRIPT SAMPLE: Here is a link to a Homeland script online: http://www.zen134237.zen.co.uk/Homeland_1x01_-_Pilot.pdf

 


A former Hollywood Lit Manager, Michael started ScriptAWish.com as a way to help other writers get their foot in the door and has helped several writers sell their scripts (like Travis Beacham of PACIFIC RIM) and set up projects with producers like Academy Award Winner Arnold Kopelson. The mission of ScriptAWish.com is to help aspiring writers get their scripts into shape and then get their foot in the door. His new venture is a collaboration with several professional screenwriters called StudioGhostwriters.com and is intended to help producers get their movie ideas on paper or their drafts polished for production.