[This story contains spoilers from the complete sixth season of Homeland, including Sunday's finale.]
"You've gotta let me go!" Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) wailed in last week's penultimate episode of Showtime's Homeland.
Textually, he was speaking to Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), eternally determined to protect Quinn and use her support for Quinn to atone for what she did to him last season and what she's done to so many people she's loved over the years.
Subtextually, I like to believe Quinn was speaking to Alex Gansa and the executive producers of Homeland, who made a cottage industry out of torturing Quinn, putting him in near-death positions and then stringing the character and the audience along, refusing to just take him off narrative life support and let everybody (including Friend) move on.
I'm afraid that a lot of one's appreciation, or lack thereof, for the sixth season of Homeland boils down to whether or not you think the show and Friend earned Quinn's post-stroke largesse. If you think it was subtly played drama from a co-star set to submit in the lead actor category at this year's Emmys, I'm sure Quinn absolutely tore you to shreds when he began jumping around Carrie impersonating a monkey in that penultimate episode.
If, however, you think that the show took the very real issue of how veterans with PTSD are being cast aside or given insufficient treatment and pawned it off with an excuse about that stroke Carrie caused and left Friend playing an assortment of ticks and slurred platitudes, then you probably aren't as enthusiastic. To me, the monkey thing was a nadir of a performance that could never feel grounded because the writing never let it feel grounded. The whole season's arc became analogous, as far as I was concerned, to the show's general failures with Quinn. He was a great character and Friend was giving a great performance when Quinn was a cold-hearted, badass killer, when he was the kind of operative who might even give Jack Bauer nightmares. When they tried to force romance and pathos and near-death after near-death after near-death on him, Quinn worked less and less. Although he was somewhat correct to blame Carrie for his weakened condition, he was also right when he tried reverting to the ruthless figure he was before, when he tried claiming he was too far gone to be changed. If only the writers had respected that a few years ago.
For now, Quinn seems to finally be dead. He sacrificed himself to help Carrie and President-elect Keane escape from the coup attempt orchestrated by Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and perhaps a good proportion of the intelligence community.
He died doing what he loved: nearly getting killed.
Of course, I thought Quinn died in last season's finale, the third or fourth episode of last season that ended with us thinking Quinn might be dead. This season was a little more restrained in nearly killing Quinn. He almost got shot several times and almost got blown up in the penultimate episode. In the finale, he drove an SUV carrying Keane and Carrie through a barricade and through a Delta team wielding many, many weapons. The SUV's reinforced windows stopped most of the bullets, but not all. I don't know what Quinn's plan was, but I think it was all based around the feeling that even if the SUV couldn't withstand automatic rifle fire, he could. Who can blame him?
Yes, Carrie pronounced Quinn dead. Yes, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) judged her for not speaking at his memorial. Yes, Max objected to how Quinn was being treated as an action hero in the media and appeared to be mourning him at the bottom of a bottle.
Why would I not be slightly surprised, then, if Quinn is off in the same more metaphorical Venezuela that housed Brody back in the third season? There's always room for Quinn in Brody's Caracas of the Soul.
I hope Homeland lets Quinn rest in peace. He's earned it.
For all of his monkey talk and drug trips and all that stuff in the country with Astrid, Quinn survived this season only so he could be the mechanics through which Keane survived and it looks like that could form an interesting hook for next season.
It's been a strange roller-coaster we've been on with Keane this season, thanks to real-world events. At first, we saw Homeland would have a female president and we said, "It's Hillary!" But then Hillary lost and Keane's character was introduced as an inexperienced commander in chief alienating the intelligence community by ignoring its briefings and all intelligence reports and we said, "It's Trump!" And then it turned out that the intelligence community, or at least some of it, actually was threatening Keane and she was right not to trust the entrenched establishment and then it was like, "Wait, so is the Trump proxy right?" And then after Quinn's death and the passage of six weeks, suddenly Keane's paranoia had run amok and she was expanding provisions of the Patriot Act and the conspirators were in prison, but then she was also arresting Saul at gunpoint and nobody should be arresting Saul unless it's for the crime of not breaking into song when he met Dar Adal at a black site prison and Dar Adal told him to go see a "friend" of his and "accentuate the positive."
Let Mandy Patinkin sing!
I mostly didn't care for the subpar Seven Days in May knockoff coup attempt. Giving Abraham and Dar Adal their biggest exposure to date must have felt like a good idea, but for every interesting Dar Adal factoid that got half-explored (the stuff about his sexuality, mostly), there were two or three scenes in which a character of shrouded, enigmatic motives became an all-too-familiar, "I'm a patriot, dammit!" villain. Robert Knepper was woefully underused. Jake Weber was on a different TV show.
Playing an Alex Jones-esque peddler of conspiracies and fake news, Weber turned in a performance that was oversized in a way that was more than the show could contain and also smaller than the real figure he was basing the character on. I know it's not fair to judge fiction for being poorly acted when reality is even worse acted, so just as Alex Jones has his fans, I'll assume Weber has advocates as well. For me, the fake news angle this season was one of those things Homeland does best and worst, correctly identifying exactly enough of the zeitgeist to make me wish the show actually would take the time to understand it better.
Plus, now Weber's Brett O'Keefe and Dar Adal appear effectively to be correct about Keane, just as she was correct about them and I can't say where the cycle begins or ends. Did they distrust her because she was paranoid and there was something un-American about her or did something paranoid and un-American about her come out of their attempts to assassinate her?
And where does that leave Carrie next season?
I guess we'll have to wait to find out.
A few other quick thoughts on the finale and the season in general …
• Linus Roache almost always makes things better, though I have to admit that I needed to check to see if he'd previously been on Homeland, because he's exactly the sort of actor who would have already been on Homeland playing a character like this.
• Using Frannie as a way to emotionally manipulate both Carrie and the audience is a dangerous thing for Homeland. The show has already spent much too much time putting her in harm's way and then trying to force us to think Carrie is a mother who doesn't constantly put her daughter in harm's way. Are we supposed to be rooting for Carrie to get custody again? I need Homeland to have a big time jump before the eighth season so that Frannie is old enough to be indoctrinated into a terrorist organization and the show's closing episodes can be Carrie versus Frannie for all the marbles.
• Oh! Maybe Frannie meets John Jr., Quinn's son, and he helps weaponize her, helps convince her that everything Carrie touches turns to dung and then they meet Dana Brody, still cleaning hotel rooms, and bring her into this anti-Carrie Suicide Squad? Like you wouldn't watch. (That's a joke. Devoted Homeland fans would watch anything and they reliably excuse somewhere between six and eight slow or clumsy episodes per season for the two or three good or very good episodes. It's why people are constantly telling you that Homeland is good "again." The eagerness to take any glimmer of hope as a comeback is as integral to the show as Carrie's crying, which she definitely got to do in the finale, as if they could have had a finale without it.)
• Lesli Linka Glatter directed the finale and I thought a lot of the navigating in the bowels of the New York City hotel with Carrie and Quinn and Keane and the Delta team was really well done. I also loved that there's a Manhattan restaurant that's both a high-end eatery and an enhanced interrogation freezer for torturing U.S. senators named, I'm assuming, after Gansa's former 24 colleague Manny Coto.
On to next season. RIP, Peter Quinn, or rest in peace until the Homeland producers exhume your corpse and put you back into the field.