Warning: This story contains a major spoiler from the season finale of Homeland.
Peter Quinn is the new Jon Snow.
The current TV trend of “wait, so are they dead or not?” story lines claimed another victim on Sunday night when Showtime’s Homeland seemed to be on the verge of killing off Quinn (Rupert Friend), the troubled CIA operative whose survival of a Sarin gas exposure put him seemingly into a vegetative-like state, with his friend and sometimes lover Carrie (Claire Danes) readying to pull the plug. Ever since HBO’s Game of Thrones sent viewers into a tailspin over the summer, wondering whether Snow was truly dead, shows ranging from AMC’s The Walking Dead to Fox’s Sleepy Hollow have engaged in similar “are-they-or-aren’t-they” narrative twists.
Showrunner Alex Gansa is not doing interviews about the Homeland finale. Friend isn’t either. The producers don’t reconvene in the writers room until next month (though we suspect they didn’t pull this maneuver without having some idea how they’re resolving it).
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Killing off Quinn would be a huge move — one which rids the series of a fan-favorite character who’s also become the third-largest role on the show after Carrie and Saul (Mandy Patinkin). The usual TV rule is “if you don’t see the dead body a character isn’t dead” (and in the case of Jon Snow, seeing the body might not matter either). So given the size of Quinn’s role, his popularity, and the lack of finality in Sunday’s hour, the logical assumption to make is that his character is coming back.
And yet … the way the season in general — and the finale in particular — was constructed, the writers have given themselves very little wiggle room out of this without pulling a tacky reversal. So until we get more clarity on the situation, here are five reasons the character should be dead (even if he isn’t):
1. Quinn’s current diagnosis
The doctor was pretty clear: Quinn almost certainly has major brain damage. So even if he lived, it’s hard to imagine him playing a role within Homeland’s espionage-driven storytelling.
2. Quinn’s entire character arc
Quinn has represented the worst of the mental effects of working for an intelligence agency. Year after year he’s become more hollowed-out and depressed. He is the cautionary tale that Carrie is herself trying to avoid by trying to get out the game. This season opened with Quinn’s bitter speech about his experience leading special forces in Syria, then showed him killing whatever name was put in a dropbox, and later we saw him trying desperately to commit suicide after sustaining his wounds that required hospitalization. It’s an arc that was made all the more clear by …
3. Quinn’s letter to Carrie
Quinn wants to die: “This death, this end of me is exactly what should’ve happened. I wanted the darkness.” Carrie’s euthanasia fulfills what he’s been seeking. Quinn dying completes a very clear and tragic character arc and also serves a purpose in Carrie’s story line as well. So how can the show go back on that, resurrect a walking-dead character that doesn’t even want to be among the living?
4. That surge of sunlight behind Carrie
As the letter stated: “Just think of me as a light on the heavens. A beacon. Steering you clear of the rocks.” And then sunlight bathes Carrie, making the metaphor to death pretty clear.
5. Quinn’s endurance must have limits
Midway through the season, Quinn became almost Terminator-esque in surviving one injury after another, then was horrifically given Sarin gas. When he was still alive in that sealed chamber saturated with Sarin for hours it was a huge leap despite the atropine. And there was that potentially fatal effort to prematurely wake him so Carrie and Saul could interrogate him, which felt like it should have killed him once again.
Homeland takes liberties with believability all the time, but at a certain point a show needs to pull the trigger, so to speak. If Quinn’s eyes suddenly snapped open it would be an epic eye-rolling fake-out and it would have emotionally invalidated much of what we’ve seen. Alternately, and more likely, Carrie could suddenly change her mind (which is still a bit cheesy) and then the show could pick up six months later and then in, say, the third episode next season, we learn Quinn has come out of his coma and he’s not all that bad after all. Homeland could sell this to fans who desperately want Quinn to return, but would we still respect the show as much — and wouldn’t this finale seem diminished — if it did? This isn’t to advocate for Quinn’s death mind you, but if you take it this far, it’s pretty tough to jump back from the cliff.
Either way, this marked the first season of Homeland that also felt like it could have served as series finale.