Homeland's Peter Quinn Will Emotionally Destroy You

Photo: Jim Fiscus/SHOWTIME.
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison on "Homeland."
After watching the season 6 premiere of Homeland, which debuted December 30 on Showtime.com and will air on the network this Sunday January 15, I couldn't stop thinking about Peter Quinn, played by Rupert Friend.

The strong, powerhouse CIA paramilitary officer is no longer the man we have come to know over the course of the last five seasons. In season 6, his spirit and body are broken; he's a discharged soldier recovering from both psychological and physical trauma.

He's damaged, and it's incredibly heartbreaking.

In the season opener, we first meet Quinn at a veterans hospital somewhere in New York. He's skipped his physical therapy appointment. Again. We learn that Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is still very much involved in Quinn's life, much to his chagrin. Despite his lack of mobility on the left side of his body and his constant hallucinations, he is still the same stubborn, do-it-yourself kind of guy. He doesn't want any help, and he definitely doesn't want any pity. He is a wounded soldier, and he wants to lick his wounds in private — away from Mathison, and without the reminder of what his life could have been if the two of them had ended up happy, healthy, and together following their assignment in Berlin.

The sexual tension (which had been building up for seasons) is now squashed between the two. Mathison looks at him like a hurt bird trying to fly. Meanwhile, Quinn can barely even look at his former partner, as if ignoring her will make her go away. The staff at the hospital even tell Mathison that she should not visit him so often because they have all noticed how much her presence upsets him. Reluctantly, she agrees.

In the middle of the episode, Quinn convinces a male staff member to help him break out for the afternoon (he's been living in a drab hospital room, reminiscent of Mathison's own time in a mental health facility). Outside the hospital, he hops in a car with a woman we've never seen before, Justine (Kaitlin Mesh). She calls him "baby," but it doesn't sit right. Together, the three drive to a bank where Quinn cashes some sort of compensation check. He returns to the car with a wad of cash in his jacket pocket, and his two new friends look elated — it's clear that something sketchy is about to happen. They drop off the hospital staff member, who gets a slice of Quinn's cash, and Justine and Quinn drive off to a decrepit house to smoke crack. This is the life of Quinn, and it hurts to watch.

Quinn pays $100 for entrance to the drug den, and I can't help but to hope that he's just pretending to be as weak and wounded as he appears. Surely he knows this is a set-up. He is a handicapped man with cold hard cash in his possession. As soon as the idea pops into my head, a gun-wielding druggie walks in and performs a staged robbery (he's dating Justine).

Quinn can barely reach for the money in his jacket himself, and awkwardly tries shifting his Miller Lite can from one arm. The guy gets impatient and whacks Quinn on the side of the head with his gun, grabs the money, and leaves with Justine. Quinn is eventually found in the same room by Mathison a day later, half-naked and bloodied.

Both scenes are heartbreaking, and confirm Friend's warning about his character. The actor told Entertainment Weekly that Quinn is "basically unrecognizable from the previous seasons. Some will say, ‘But where’s my old friend?’ But that’s not the way the world works."

Quinn's troubles adjusting to his new circumstances make him a different kind of casualty of war. PTSD other psychological issues resulting from the trauma of war have become an epidemic in our country. Quinn's story line highlights the mental health struggles faced by so many soldiers and veterans.

Gone is the man we, Mathison, and he himself, used to know. Even though he is physically in one piece, he left a large part of his mind, body, and identity back in that gas chamber in Berlin. Internally, he is broken into a thousand pieces and, at this point, he lacks the will to put them back together. Hopefully, Mathison will be able to help him cope — she's never been one to give up on a loved one in need.
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