Peter Quinn, wounded warrior.
The season premiere of “Homeland” makes it clear that the mental and physical rehabilitation of the cunning CIA operative played by Rupert Friend will be a major focus of the show in its sixth season.
At its core, “Homeland” has sought to examine all sides of the fallout from 9/11 and the war on terror. So a deep dive into the trauma of those wounded in battle — wherever it may take place — was a natural focus for the show, says exec producer-director Lesli Linka Glatter. Quinn ended last season in a coma after suffering near-fatal exposure to chemical weapons inflicted by a terror cell in Berlin.
“To see someone like Quinn, who has been at the top of his game, out in the world trying to fight for the greater good, and then to be in a whole different state where he’s not capable of doing the most normal things on his own — we haven’t really seen that story on TV,” Glatter told Variety.
The season opener — “Fair Game,” written by Alex Gansa and Ted Mann and directed by Keith Gordon — sets the table for a provocative season. Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison is working as a legal advocate for Muslim-Americans and resolutely opposed to the old ideology that guided her past work as the “drone queen” of the CIA.
Mandy Patinkin’s Saul Berenson, on the other hand, is more deeply engaged in CIA operations and agenda-setting than ever before as the right-hand man (if not quite the trusted confidant) of F. Murray Abraham’s CIA chief Dar Adal.
Carrie’s work at a non-profit in Brooklyn is funded by donations from Otto During (Sebastian Koch), the German billionaire who fell hard for her last season. It’s telling that both During and Berenson try to persuade Carrie to rejoin them by questioning why she’s focused on such a small-potatoes operation. During even makes a bizarre, last-ditch “I’m about to get married so it’s now or never” offer to Carrie that she quickly shoots down.
And in her encounter with Saul, Carrie boldly lies straight to his face when he asks whether she’s advising the President-elect, the maverick Elizabeth Keane who is parroting Carrie’s disillusionment with the national security industrial complex. The surprise when we see Carrie being frisked for her visit with Keane is magnified by the realization that she has betrayed the longtime bond she has with Saul.
But for sure, the most provocative element of the season will be Carrie’s involvement in the defense of the civil liberties of an angry young man who makes YouTube videos to hail Islamic terrorists as heroes. J. Mallory McCree plays Sekou, who is caught throwing verbal grenades in a net thrown by an FBI informant. Dominic Fumusa (“Nurse Jackie”) is a nice addition to the ensemble this season, playing a rock-ribbed FBI special agent who is determined to put Sekou behind bars, and thus destined to tangle with Carrie.
It would be pretty much impossible for “Homeland” to shoot in New York and not wind up in Times Square. Glatter noted they tried to be as stealthy and unobtrusive as possible, using a skeleton crew and long lenses to capture Sekou making his video tribute to the first World Trade Center bombers. Shooting Sekou’s stand-up sparked some outrage among passers-by, Glatter said.
“People came by and started asking him ‘Who are you reporting for?,’ Glatter said. “He was saying some incendiary stuff.”
As seen in the opener, there’s a lot of hand-held camera work to add to the frenetic tone. “It always creates that feeling that the world we’re standing in is not terribly secure,” she said.
A highlight of the episode is Carrie’s bus-ride sequence which does so much without any dialogue to set the mood for our heroine. “We get to see her moving through New York City and looking at the world as a place where she feels very comfortable,” Glatter said.
Friend may give Danes a run for her money in delivering the most physically demanding performance this season. Quinn is dragging one leg behind him and has to give the impression of having had a stroke that has paralyzed one side of his body. Glatter praised Friend for immersing himself in research on brain injuries. The 2014 documentary “My Beautiful Broken Brain” was instructive for Friend and for producers, she said.
By the end of “Fair Game,” the Carrie-Quinn relationship is as complicated as ever. Glatter hints that there are more fireworks to come when Quinn realizes that Carrie may have compromised his recovery by waking him from the coma to pump him for information on the subway attack plan in Berlin.
For the directors, shooting season six has been particularly challenging because they have cross-boarded episodes to make the most efficient use of time and locations. Glatter directed episodes three, four, eight and, as always, the finale. At present they are working on episode 10.
“For me as a director, it’s thrilling to work on ‘Homeland,’ ” she said. “It never gets easier because we’re always reinventing the show.”