Season six of espionage drama Homeland drew to a close in somewhat cathartic circumstances after 12 episodes of stuttering television, intermittently propped up by the adaptable performances of Rupert Friend.
Claire Danes’ character Carrie Mathison has long been intended as the protagonist of the programme but has ultimately found herself upstaged by the consistent heroics of Friend’s Peter Quinn. Homeland has relied upon the interventions of the volatile yet personable supporting character, who starts out as a CIA paramilitary officer before going rogue due to his frustrations with the intelligence service.
An intoxicating opening two seasons of the show have been followed by another three that were utterly underwhelming in nature. Bursts of excitement tended to predictably arrive in the final two or three episodes of a series and almost always had Quinn at the centre. A process which would repeat itself season after season. Never have I watched a television show so reliant on an individual character.
If Homeland’s dependance on Quinn was ever in doubt, the writers’ resurrection of the spy for the latest season confirmed his essentiality. At the end of season five in Berlin, he was ruthlessly poisoned by terrorists in a gas chamber in a desperate attempt to spark some life into the story. However, quite miraculously he survived after being slipped a drug that prevented him from suffering the full fatal effect of the chemical weapon.
After weeks of speculation as to whether he had survived the attack, Homeland directors confirmed that Quinn would return but could only do so in a much different form. At the start of season six we find the hitman in a Brooklyn rehab suffering from severe PTSD and bouts of rage. His accent is all over the place and he has a strange limp.
Much like the plot, he contributes nothing for a solid four or five episodes before once again showing the instincts and ability to cheat death that drew fans of the show to him in the first place. With the storyline returning to the States, it seemed that directors might have been trying to get the show back to basics. They even resorted to bringing back old characters such as Majid Javadi and Astrid. A slight problem being, however, that neither were particularly memorable contributors in the first place.
As they quite often do, those behind the show tried to speak into current affairs through the content. Radical extremism, political corruption and right-wing nuts are all prevalent themes in the latest series. That said, this was not necessarily executed well, and it must be said that media personality Brett O’Keefe was a parodic introduction.
Then there was the president-elect, a particularly bland personality to the point that it was difficult to care that she was the target of a complex assassination plot. Dar Adal continued in his deceitful and unlikeable manner, while Saul Berenson grew increasingly irrelevant having been a stalwart of prior seasons. Carrie kicks off the season seemingly living a quiet life and working with a foundation that offers support to Muslims. She inevitably gets dragged back into intelligence related matters.
Other than a bombing and the killing off of secondary characters, you can pretty much fast forward to the final three or four episodes. The assassination attempt just about gets the adrenaline going and Quinn is almost back to his best.
The climax of the show occurs when President Keane narrowly escapes an explosion and finds herself being rushed through a hotel, tracked by two men determined to finish the job. Quinn steps in and looks set to drive the pair to safety until he stops the car with the realisation that he is boxed in by numerous gunmen. He makes a typically Quinn decision to drive full speed into the line of fire. It then becomes clear that the show’s creator Alex Gansa has made what can either be construed as a bold or reckless decision.
As the SUV’s windscreen is peppered with bullets, the glass begins to give way and Quinn is taken out with two or three shots to the torso. He drives on and despite praying that he will somehow survive the onslaught, it soon becomes clear that his fate had been decided.
His death was gut-wrenching but probably the type of decision needed to shock some entertainment into viewers. In a desperate search for some solace after the loss of a great character, I came across Friend’s own comments on the decision. He articulates that Quinn’s troubled personality meant that perhaps there is a silver lining in losing him.
He said: “It’s bittersweet. For me it was a modicum for peace for someone who has been through so much and even though it wasn’t their design, could now finally rest. I felt that for him to continue would be almost a bit sadistic. I’m not really sure in what capacity that would make sense. It would be quite a cruel storyline.
“In a sense, I think his time had come. I had a slight of pre-sentience that his time had come up.”
It’s difficult to argue against the fact that his time might well have come. The season finished almost twenty minutes after he was killed, with nothing of real substance taking place during that time. The closing scenes left the option of further seasons, something that seems an inevitability. But I can’t help to think, without Peter Quinn perhaps Homeland’s time has come.