Tuesday, 11 April 2017

peter quinn (rupert friend) in 'homeland' on channel 4/uk showtime/us (1)

Peter Quinn

She frowned a lot
Homeland was always Claire Danes’s show. Yes, Damian Lewis hung around for a bit and Mandy Patinkin won't give it up but it was Carrie Mathison who effectively led the thing, had the ideas, took the initiative. However flaky or off the wall she acted (when she forgot or decided not to take her meds or sometimes even when she did), we trusted her. She took risks, often utterly uncalculated ones. And like that other heroine of our TV times, Buffy, ‘She Saved the World. A Lot.

So did he
What amazes me is that when Peter Quinn arrived, I really resented it though I wasn’t sure why. I think I must have seen Rupert Friend in something else and not liked him. I was worried that the plot would now follow some hackneyed romcom trope, where he would start as the antagonist to Carrie, then there’d be an interminable ‘will they, won't they?’ stage before they realised they were in love. (There has been a whisper of this attachment on Quinn’s side; Carrie as we know makes a series of bad decisions about who she sleeps with, frequently putting her life and the lives of others in danger. In fact, talking about The Lives of Others, I considered Sebastian Koch a better match). I thought it implausible that someone like Carrie would fall for the by-the-book, straight-arrow, in-league-with-management guy. I saw him as just another obstacle Carrie would have to surmount. Despite great lines like 'Is there no line, Carrie? Is there no fucking line?' I still didn't like him. And I didn’t trust him. At all.

But now he’s the reason I watch.

I have to give credit to Rupert Friend and the writers for this incredible but somehow, because of their consummate skill, entirely believable character arc and story trajectory.

Particularly since the gas attack and the resulting catastrophic brain injury, but in truth a little before this, Peter Quinn has had me mesmerised. He’s like another person. In a total tailspin, on a downward spiral (funny how you never get an upward spiral) that seems to last forever, barely pausing for breath on the descent. And just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, things get worse.

This paranoid, damaged, broken creature (played with such aplomb by Friend) is who I root for now. Carrie who?

Angela in My So-called Life
For several seasons, I was bored with Homeland, only loyal because Carrie’s stops and starts remained intriguing. How would she get rid of that annoying Peter Quinn? I didn’t have much patience for Saul. Danes has hardly put a foot wrong since the wonderful, could-never-be-overrated My So-called Life (a semi-gratuitous clip here, so emotional, my heart breaks for Brian, thrills for Angela), which I recently watched all over again on YouTube (and it didn’t disappoint), through Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (with Leonardo DiCaprio) to Homeland (with the tiresome and pointless Stardust the exception to the rule, and even that at least produced the glorious 'Rule the World' by Take That) but now, astonishingly, it’s Peter Quinn who has me hooked. Each time the credits roll, I can't conceive an hour has gone by. I’m like ‘Already?!’

Increasingly unkempt
Similar to the halting progress Quinn makes dragging his bad leg, I gradually became attached to him. The fatalism, the heroism, the tragic mistakes (poor Astrid), the self-pity, the despair. Every time he survives, I cheer inside. There’s a certain romanticism about his decline and the more unkempt, ragged, desperate he becomes, the more I like him. As his stubble grows, as his eyes glaze over from some unwise high, as he does something crazy, foolish or both, as he realises the consequences of the crazy, foolish thing, as everything falls apart for him as a man, it’s all coming together for him as a character.

With Carrie effectively sidelined by motherhood, Peter Quinn has become the heart of the show. Bloody and let’s face it, not unbowed, down and somewhat out, he’s the one out on a limb now. Shaky but steadfastly loyal to Carrie even when he imagines she’s betrayed him, he keeps vigil. It seems to be their fate to continually save each other’s lives without the other noticing or acknowledging it. Friend’s performance is so startlingly true, so affecting, his hauntedness so haunting, I’ve changed my mind completely. I believe in him as Peter Quinn. And Carrie has changed her mind too: 'Quinn, the last two years, everywhere I went, I looked for you. I tried to find you. I never stopped thinking about you.'

So it’s taken a few seasons, a few cataclysmic errors, a heap of occasionally justified paranoia. Each setback, each stumble, each misunderstanding, each minor triumph, I experience with him. Shot at, underwater, we all hold our breath till he resurfaces Rasputin-like. I feel his pain, his frustration, each new degradation. As he grasps for a word somewhere now out of reach, I yearn to supply it. The doubt, the battles, the defeats, I live with him … and it’s Peter Quinn I trust to save the world now.

Rupert Friend

[Quinn makes me feel like this song lyric:
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks/I will follow you into the dark.]

[Please note that I didn't always pay proper attention to Homeland so may have got some facts wrong.]

[Poem on Quinn here: https://poeminawhiteribbedvest.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/vanquished/.]

[For more on acting, see secretsquirrelsays on Law & Order, Cold Case and Versailles.]