A Different Look At Homeland
Part 1: Two Key Supporting Characters and How The View A Life In Secrets
A lot has been written about Homeland over the past decade — in many ways, it has been a perspective on terrorism in this decade in a far more nuanced way than 24 ever was. However, so much has been written about Carrie Matheson, Saul Berenson and Nick Brody — the central triumvirate that made up the first three seasons of the show — that less attention has been paid to two major characters that were on the series far long than Brody, but never got quite their due when it came to awards. I’m talking of Dar Adal, the company man and close friend of Saul, played memorably by F. Murray Abraham, and Peter Quinn, his loyal and ultimately doomed soldier, played with even more depth by Rupert Friend. (Admittedly, they weren’t completely ignored: both received nominations for Best Guest Actor in a drama, twice and once respectively.)
We met both Quinn and Adal in the middle of the second season of Homeland, in the midst of the operation to try and bring down Abu Nazi, the terrorist at the center of the first two seasons. Peter’s initial role seemed to be that of a red herring — brought on to the task force by the higher-up’s; our natural suspicion was that he was untrustworthy and possibly the mole in the CIA. (One of the biggest gaps in the entire series is that there was clearly an information leak in D.C. for Nazi, and though we found many others in later season, this one was never revealed.) Eventually, Saul would recognize him as reported to Dar Adal, someone Saul, who had very few friends anywhere seemed to trust implicitly for the first half of the series.
Peter Quinn in particular became a real outlier for much of Homeland. He seemed to have a real clear perspective on right and wrong. Ordered by David Estes to kill Brody after Abu Nazi was killed, he refused outright to do it. And while he was willing to follow orders throughout the subsequent two seasons, it became very clear that he had a lot of problems with the agency’s method of doing business, and was constantly threatening to resign. He was the only person would stand up to Carrie, particularly during their stint together in Kabul during Season 4. After a drone strike went horribly wrong, which led to a slaughter of a wedding party, he went back and tried to resign. Carrie basically bullied him into rejoining Kabul to try and bring down a key Taliban agent (a character that would be crucial to the final season), a period of deception which led to her having an affair with that man’s teenage nephew. At one point, Quinn actually said to her: “Is their no f…in line you won’t cross?!” And the end result was in turn disastrous, leading to Saul’s abduction by the Taliban and the eventual attack of the embassy.
That may have led to some kind of internal struggle for Peter, because he abandoned his post to go on a suicide mission to try and kill this leader. “There’s a Taliban flag hanging over my head, and I can not let that stand.” Carrie went on a mission to pull him back, yet nearly followed through with the assassination herself.
Unspoken throughout their relationship in Season 4 was a clear attraction. In the final of Season 4, when both of them seemed about to leave the company, they seemed on the verge of acting on it. Then, due to some misunderstanding, Quinn volunteered to go back to Iraq. The combination of this as Adal’s manipulations (which I will refer to momentarily) led to Carrie resigning from the CIA at the end of the season, and her efforts in subsequent years to try and atone for what she did.
Something fundamental changed in Peter in the gap between Season 4 and 5, because when we meet him again, he’s basically a train killer, and Saul and Adal’s most loyal soldier. When he learns Carrie is on a kill list in Berlin, he risks his life to save her. He then spends much of Season 5 trying to bring down a cell, actions that lead to him being exposed to sarin gas and landing him in a coma. (There’s a scene where Dar and Carrie try to rouse him from consciousness to try and learn about the plot that spells out the true difference between 24 and this show. In that show under similar circumstances, they receive key information, but the character involved dies. In Homeland, they don’t get that, and Peter worsens anyway.)
At the end of Season 5, it seems certain Peter will die. Dar tells Carrie that Peter had named her executor of his estate, something she didn’t know. He gives her a letter that Peter wrote, and leaves. The last moments of the season have a voiceover in which Peter expresses what he never could to her in real life — that she was his great missed opportunity. Carrie is seen closing the windows, and nearing the ventilator keeping Peter breathing. The assumption I’m certain everybody (myself included) made was that she was about to end her friend’s suffering. For whatever reason, Gordon and company chose not to kill him off — and gave Quinn and Friend a truly glorious exit.
Dar Adal was a different type of character — a lifer who seemed to be on the outside. His name would imply that their was a Middle Eastern background, which was never explained, and he was certainly gay. (In Season 6, it was confirmed by both Quinn and Adal that when the latter recruited Peter, there was something sexual involved. Peter referred to him derivatively as ‘a dirty old man.) Adal was loyal to Saul, but that did not stop him from being loyal to the company. When Saul was named interim chief of the CIA after the bombing in Season 2, Dar was by far his most loyal soldier. When Andrew Lockhart, Saul’s replacement was trying to wield influence, Dar negotiated around him to help his friend. After the Taliban kidnapped Saul in Season 4, Dar leveraged a deal with Afghani people to somehow bring Saul back to the company. It was this negotiation that led to Carrie’s initial break with Saul.
But Dar’s loyalty was always more with the company. During Season 5, when it appeared that Saul was a hostile agent, he reluctantly led the investigation into his friend. He didn’t want to believe, but he knew that anything was possible. At the same time, he managed to negotiate his relationship with Peter into something much firmer; it was much stronger by then.
All of these manipulations climaxed in Season 6. Peter had survived his brush with death, but it was clear he was not the same back. His balance was permanently altered, he clearly was brain damaged, and there was some part of him that clearly wished he had died in Berlin. He was under Carrie’s supervision, and it was clear that he didn’t feel grateful for whatever she had done. Friend had always been good in his stint on Homeland, but in his final season he was magnificent, playing a man who was not even a shell of himself, and yet still had the residuals of what had made him so deadly.
By the end of Season 5, Saul and Dar had reconciled and were now dealing with a new President — President-Elect Keane. (I’ll deal with the Presidential politics in my next article) Keane was clearly a dovish force — she believed in pulling out of the Middle East, and wanted to scale back the agencies. Adal and others in the intelligence community didn’t trust her — “She’s a menace, Saul,” Dar said early on. This led to the major ploy of Season 6 — the CIA’s determination to pull off a coup. How deeply involved in this Dar was has never been made clear — he was definitely in the midst of the planning stages and tried to remove a major player in Iran. But when he learned just how far his colleagues were going to go, his reaction was one of loyalty not to the company, but to his country. One of his last major actions as a free man was to warn Carrie about the military strike on the Presidential motorcade.
Peter Quinn spent the second half of Season 6 out of play, removed by Dar out of affection. When the company tried to remove him, he found the traces of his old skills, and moved heaven and earth to be reunited with Carrie and learn just what one of his old teams was up to. In his final episode, he realized just how dangerous what was coming — and sacrificed himself to save the President-Elect. “That man just saved our lives. Who was he?” “Peter Quinn.” Carrie and the President’s last exchange was one of the most haunting in television history.
In the aftermath, when asked by Saul when he had gone along with something so horrific, Dar could only say: “I don’t know…There’s something about her that struck me as dangerous.” In a larger sense, he was right… but that’s for the next article.