The season finale of Homeland focused on several of the things this show does best. It was action-packed, which is something we’ve come to expect from closing chapters of seasons of this show, but it was also foreboding about the future of a paranoid country in which the right hand doesn’t trust what the left hand is doing — something that we can relate to in 2017. The majority of its run time was surprisingly devoted to the themes I expect it will explore in season seven, using this episode as a bridge between a sometimes-inconsistent season, but one that could be essential to where this show is going in the future. And, of course, we lost one of our favorite characters, the heroic Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), a man who easily could have run to safety but knew his sacrifice was more important. Given the frightening final scenes of this episode, one wonders if Quinn would have made the same decision. But that’s one of the recurring themes of Homeland — how doing what’s right in the moment can still lead to great wrong down the road.
Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) is on the streets of New York looking squirrelly. He ducks into Orsay, his old haunt, and we learn that there’s more to this place than just lunch meetings. Turns out they torture people for their best clients, too! Dar has a senator handcuffed to a pipe in the freezer. He wants answers about the “Toxic Soldier” plan, one that Dar knows is designed to turn Quinn into a patsy, and which was set up without Dar’s knowledge. At first, the Senator denies it, but Dar later calls McClendon (Robert Knepper) about the program, telling him “the orchestra’s already played.” McClendon denies it, claiming it was discussed, but not enacted.
Meanwhile, Carrie (Claire Danes) and Quinn have to get from the JSOC house that just exploded back to Manhattan. They know something is about to go down there and the team headed by McClendon is involved. McClendon is busy telling people in NYC that the house may have been an ISIS safe house, and could even be where they made the first truck bomb. He wants to clear the street in front of the hotel to keep the PEOTUS safe.
Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) is still upset over the interview with Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber), telling Saul (Mandy Patinkin) it was a bad idea. Saul tells the soon-to-be leader of the free world, “People like a president with balls,” which is kind of eerie coming out of an episode of Showtime’s The Circus, which ended with President Trump bombing Syria. Keane says she’s not ready for any of it and seems hesitant about even taking the job.
Quinn and Carrie get there in record time, moving through the protest, and Quinn says he’ll go around back looking for the Deltas. Given rumors about Quinn dying, his separation from Carrie felt a little like a secondary character going to investigate something in the basement in the final act of a horror movie. There’s a big military presence, including snipers on nearby roofs. Quinn knows something is weird here.
Carrie finds Saul and Keane’s team just as a “credible bomb threat” is called in and everyone has to evacuate. Carrie says, “It’s happening.” She knows something is wrong, and she’s close, but not quite there in figuring it out. This is what Homeland might be best at — characters who have puzzle pieces but aren’t sure how they fit together.
As they’re rushing the president-elect to safety, one of the most crucial sequences in the history of the show unfolds. First, Carrie gets a call from Dar, who tells her not to let the PEOTUS’s motorcade leave the hotel under any circumstances. Can she trust Dar? She chooses to, jumping in front of the third car, the one holding Keane. The two cars that just exited the garage explode in the street. An agent, Carrie, and Keane rush to safety back in the hotel as the JSOC team comes into the “kill zone” to clean up. Quinn follows the two men, who kill the agent as Keane and Carrie flee to an elevator. When they get to the bottom floor, they see Quinn, who rushes them into a car and tells them to lie down. He drives them out as shots are fired, and then he pauses in the street. To his left are the burned-out husks of the other two cars, and to his right are armed men with weapons drawn. He drives straight at the men, getting hit twice as he plows through the barricade. He just needs to get to somewhere safer — somewhere with NYPD officers and civilians, perhaps. He starts honking his horn for attention as his vision blurs. Carrie and Keane are safe. Quinn is dead. And the future president learns the name of the man who just saved her life.
Cut to “Six Weeks Later” — the back half of this episode ties up a few loose ends while clearly setting plots in motion for season seven. First, we learn that O’Keefe is still a blowhard and that the inauguration was held behind closed doors. More distressingly, we learn that the Patriot Act has been expanded and that 16 government officials are in a military jail, including Senator Freezy Underpants. As much as I hate O’Keefe, there’s something ominously truthful in the way he says, “What we are headed for is Civil War.”
There’s a lot of information about the six weeks we missed here, including the fact that Carrie didn’t speak at Quinn’s memorial, much to Saul’s surprise. Quinn died, and she’s thrown herself back into her work. She doesn’t want Saul to worry about her. And we meet David Wellington, the new right-hand man to Keane, played by the excellent Linus Roache (Batman Begins), an actor we’re sure to see next season.
Saul goes to visit Dar in prison, where Patinkin and Abraham have a wonderfully acted scene together. Patinkin sells Saul’s honest regret that his old friend didn’t come to him for advice. Dar seems remorseful, but also expresses concern that something isn’t right in D.C. He still doesn’t like Keane, calling her “distinctly un-American.” And he quotes Graham Greene as saying that the secret services are “the only real measure of a nation’s political health, the only real expression of its subconscious.” I’m not sure this is a writers’ error or if it’s intentional, but the quote belongs not to Greene but to John Le Carré, from his 1974 novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Dar Adal does strike me as a man who would get quotes slightly wrong, and it fits enough with his ego and false confidence, that I choose to believe it’s his mistake.
After getting an offer from the president to work in the White House, Carrie is about to meet with Franny’s case worker (Marin Hinkle) when a drunk Max (Maury Sterling) shows up. She stuffs him in the basement, telling him to be quiet, in an echo of how she once told Quinn the same thing. After the home inspection goes well, she comes down to find Max passed out and notices how much of Quinn’s stuff remains. She packs it all away in a garbage bag, pausing on a copy of Great Expectations, in which a personal envelope is stuffed. In it, she finds photos of people that Peter Quinn cared about, including the family he once left behind. And, of course, Carrie. She cries, and you probably did, too, if you’re a hardcore fan of Homeland. Max wakes up and tries to comfort her.
Then the walls cave in. Carrie gets a call from Saul, who’s being arrested at gunpoint. A witch hunt is going down, led by Keane’s new man. Carrie first yells at David, trying to defend Saul and realizing that she’s been used to keep the intelligence community unaware of the Modern Red Scare that’s about to come down. As Carrie screams to an imposingly framed Keane, she’s escorted out of the building, and we hear ominous music play as she looks at a White House run wild with power.
• Much love to Rupert Friend, an actor who held this show together in a lot of ways after Damian Lewis left. I hope he gets an even richer character in another show soon.
• We will certainly see Elizabeth Marvel and Linus Roache next season. Think Jake Weber comes back? Have we seen the last of Robert Knepper?
• Who’s your season-six MVP? I’ll go with Marvel, an actress who made me believe that her character would be elected president, but also conveyed both the emotions of a grieving mother and the confusion over what exactly was going on around her much of this season. I’d also give a vote to F. Murray Abraham, getting his biggest arc to date, and the always-great Rupert Friend and Mandy Patinkin.
• Okay, I’ll say it. It’s a spy show. Anyone think Quinn isn’t really dead? I’m not saying I do, but this show has done crazier things.