The following story contains massive spoilers from Sunday’s Homeland finale, proceed at your own peril. And we repeat: Stop reading if you have yet to watch the episode.
Peter Quinn used the last of his nine lives in Sunday’s Homeland Season 6 finale, when the ex-sniper took a bullet (or more like 92) for President-Elect Keane and died instantly for his trouble. His impulsive decision to sacrifice his own life for Keane — and Carrie — marks a heroic end to the character’s death-defying five-year journey.
Below, portrayer Rupert Friend talks to TVLine about Quinn’s improbable Season 6 resurrection, subsequent extinction and why he and Carrie were doomed anyway.
TVLINE | I have to ask: Is Quinn really dead?
[Laughs] I would love to hear the zombie pitch [for Season 7]. Unless the show is joining up with The Walking Dead, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.
TVLINE | Did you know going in that this would be your final season?
No. The way that we make this show, none of us — the writers included — really 100 percent know anything beyond the first two or three episodes. It’s written contemporaneously to give them a chance to evolve it as the season progresses. [Planning] a death is very hard because they might change their mind. And they have changed their minds. They changed their minds with Brody at the end of Season 2 and they changed their minds with Quinn at the end of Season 5. They put the story first and I respect that.
TVLINE | Do you prefer the ending Quinn got over the ending he almost had in Season 5?
Had he died at the end of Season 5, then we wouldn’t have gotten to explore this fascinating and relevant moment where we not only took a character we all thought we knew and flipped him on his head, but we also were able to explore the reality of a modern veteran’s life in whatever society he or she returns to. We were also able to [feature] a leading character with severe mental and psychological difficulties and I’m not sure that’s something we’ve seen before.
TVLINE | What was the most challenging part of portraying Quinn’s impairment this season?
Certainly the most important thing for me was that it be truthful, and that there’d be no sentimentality or patronizing quality. That this is an incredibly able man with agency and someone who can get it done, despite his [impairment]. The fact that he was struggling to get out of his own way, that was very palpable to me. The more agency one has the more frustrating it must be to find yourself blocked in any way.
TVLINE | Are you happy Quinn died a hero?
Happy is an interesting word. I think in the moment of his ultimate demise he put America first, hence the title of the episode, [“America First”]. Quinn is a patriot and a soldier and believes in the office of the President, whether or not he believes in his or her policies. And that kind of doctrine is absolutely at the heart of Quinn. Ultimately, he wasn’t an individualist; he’s someone who served. And I do respect anybody who serves.
TVLINE | Did you begin to feel like Quinn was immortal? I thought it again this season when he was getting fired upon in that lake and then emerged alive and fairly well.
[Laughs] It was just a flesh wound! He is a bit like the Knight in Monty Python who gets his arms and legs cut off and he’s still ready for a fight. He’s a very, very hard bastard, as we say in England. Talk to any soldier and there are so many places in the body you can be shot and [survive]. And there are one or two places where you’re not going to make it. The shoulder is not one of them. Getting shot in the shoulder is not a scary thing. Being gassed from sarin [as Quinn was in Season 5]? That’s an incredible and terrifying ordeal that no one should ever have to go through. How do you even imagine that? Especially in light of recent events. It’s a deplorable and unimaginable act. There is a scale between someone being shot in the shoulder and someone being gassed with chemical weapons.
TVLINE | Is it emotional saying goodbye to this character?
It is. And that’s because the relationship with a character you play is always a close one. You attempt not to judge or take any kind of objective opinion, but if I were to do that now in hindsight, I just feel the enormous need for this guy to have someone he could genuinely trust. We all need that. And I don’t feel like he ever got that in his life. Everyone he’s been around has let him down or he left them. And for someone to live their whole life never having let anyone in strikes me as deeply sad.
TVLINE | Carrie and Quinn fans are bereft that the two of them will never get their happy ending. But let’s face it, even if he had survived, there was really no shot of that happening, right?
I totally empathize and understand fans’ disappointment, because I know how beloved these two characters are and how the idea of them together makes so many people happy. But their respective moralities were explored thoroughly in the last two seasons, and Quinn’s dissatisfaction with his own way of life suggested that he was in a position to question his own moral code. And that’s a position of enormous integrity. Whereas there was a very telling moment in the penultimate episode this season where Quinn confronts Carrie with the reality, which is she woke a man up from a coma, risked his life to serve her own end — and doesn’t really see why that’s bad. And, to me, that suggests a lack of accountability and self-examination, which means that Carrie’s moral code is just not compatible with Quinn’s. As I said before, I wanted him to find someone he could ultimately trust, and I don’t think you can trust someone who would do that to you.