No More Mr. Nice Guy, ‘Homeland’ Makes a Man Out of Agent Quinn in the Nick of Time

“Homeland” CIA Officer Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) [Photo courtesy of Homeland/Facebook]

It’s fair to say that I spoke too soon. Jumped the gun. A case of premature articulation, if you will.

Several weeks ago, at the halfway mark of the fourth season of Homeland, I derided the writers for suddenly portraying the character Peter Quinn as a sniveling pussy. My issue wasn’t the pussification in and of itself, but the idea that it was inconsistent with the character they had audiences invested with for the entirety of last season.

Peter Quinn, played by British actor Rupert Friend, had been presented to us as a ruthless CIA assassin, formerly a lethal part of the Black Ops team lead by the truly spooky Dar Adal (played by F. Murray Abraham). A sharpshooter with a heart of lead, Quinn seemed impervious to the wishy-washy emotional pitfalls of his compatriots. In striking contrast to the tempestuous love affair of his CIA colleagues, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), which took up most of seasons 2 and 3, Quinn was stoic in his all-business demeanor. And his business, of course, was killing bad guys in the name of national security.

This is not to say that his character was one-dimensional. Quinn was painted with nuances that deepened, especially when an assignment went awry and Quinn was responsible for shooting a young boy while the agent was gunning for someone else. He also displayed terrific moral complexity when he defied his boss, then CIA Director David Estes, who ordered him to kill Nicholas Brody, the captive American soldier turned terrorist. After witnessing the intimacy between Carrie and Brody at their cabin in season two from his hidden perch in the woods, Quinn decided that not only would he refuse to assassinate Brody, but that he would kill Estes should Brody be killed.

Quinn: “Nothing happens to Brody.”

Estes: “Or?”

Quinn: “Or you’ll find me back in this bedroom one night. Right back in that chair…’cause I’m the guy that kills bad guys.”

It could be argued that Quinn was so in love with Carrie Mathison that he protected Brody to preserve her happiness. This is what I believe. So what I found hard to swallow was that this same character, who had been so emotionally tormented by PTSD (mostly from the accidental killing of the young boy) that he was on the cusp of leaving the CIA, would follow his feelings for Carrie all the way back to Pakistan simply because she asked him to.

“You know I can’t say no to you, Carrie,” he sighs.

Really? The licensed killer who once threatened the head of the CIA is a lovelorn puppy dog, powerless to resist this blonde train wreck?

Well, yes. But here’s where I was wrong: he is not just a lovelorn puppy dog. He is also the biggest badass in the CIA. Although his love for Carrie might have been the impetus to get him back into the field, he is not held back by these feelings to sharpen his razor-sharp edges. He’s back, and the stakes are bigger than Carrie.

And that’s how his character is redeemed this season.

With Peter Quinn, as well as with Carrie Mathison, romantic entanglements take a backseat to the big picture, which is always about saving the part of the world they feel literally responsible for. With last night’s episode, “13 Hours of Islamabad,” the United States embassy has been attacked from within, suffering 37 casualties, including the heartbreaking scene where the beautiful Fara (Nazanin Boniadi) is brutally murdered by the Talibani terrorist head Hassan Haqqani. Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) is physically bloodied, bruised, and badly shaken by his turn as prisoner, but the deeper wounds are both psychological and emotional: he believes that all of his years of good work and progress have been reduced to colossal failure.

Carrie, on the other end of the emotional spectrum from where she started the season, is resigned to give up the post in Islamabad that went so terribly wrong, and return to the United States under orders of POTUS. She commands Quinn to pack up. They leave at oh-six-hundred.

But here is where Quinn breaks from his deference to Carrie. Although there’s little doubt that his motivation stems at least in part from his desire to avenge her, Quinn secretly leaves the embassy to track down the terrorists responsible for the attack. His explicit instruction to his comrade: “This doesn’t get back to Carrie.” The last we see of Quinn, he is binding the hands of a Taliban terrorist with a zip tie, those convenient torture devices at his disposal.

In the episode’s last scene, Carrie refuses to leave Pakistan without Quinn. Is it out of a desire to protect him? Is it because she knows their work is unfinished?

Or have the tables turned a bit, and the chas-ee is now the chaser?

We have two more episodes to find out. But I can say now with full confidence, that neither of these characters can be described as pussies.