Peter Quinn has always been Homeland's unsung hero, both literally and figuratively. More or less functioning as the show's third lead since Brody's departure at the end of the third season, Homeland has often used Quinn to explore the sacrifices that are made in the name of the country and its security, often without any kind of public recognition or show of gratitude. This thematic conceit came to a head in season five, when Quinn was exposed to Sarin gas during a mission. It seemed like the writers had decided he'd be paying the ultimate price until the very next episode, when Carrie — against a doctor's strict orders — woke Quinn from a medically induced coma in the hopes that she could get some sensitive information out of him. Instead of information, Carrie got Quinn a stroke, leaving him both physically and mentally impaired.
Quinn's condition this season has functioned as a chilling reminder that not everyone serves their country in a glamorous way, and not every soldier gets rewarded for his hard work...but the problem with this is how little the show actually did to dramatize this idea. Quinn certainly took a front seat this season — as he has since the third — and it was unquestionably his hard work, performed mostly in the background, that ultimately saved the lives of both Carrie and the President Elect. Quinn has never been anything less than a badass, though, and this season mostly just saw him doing exactly what he would do: save the day from the shadows and be a badass in the process. Killing him off was a bombastic choice, for sure, but it lacked any dramatic heft because it was just Quinn doing what he always does, only this time it got him killed. It seems likely that the show's writing staff was trying to paint Quinn as some sort of tragic figure with this season's storyline, having him push himself into the investigation and ultimately towards his death due to his unwillingness to set back and let others do their job. The problem with this, though, is that Quinn was always the show's most capable character, so it never seemed like he wouldn't or shouldn't be the one to press on with his season-long investigation.
Ultimately, the rest of the season was about as confused and diluted as Quinn's arc, and Homeland continues to show that it really doesn't know what kind of series it wants to be in Brody's absence. This season's conspiracy thriller plotline failed not because of its inherent implausibility (24 has pulled of more incredulity with a more easily-achieved suspension of disbelief in the past, which is surprising given the two series' shared pedigree) but because of its sloppy execution and a serious lack of believable verisimilitude in the finer details.
How are we supposed to latch onto the protests facing the President Elect when we really don't have any idea as to why she's being protested beyond a clearly-doctored video showing her son's wartime actions. Her only depicted policy depictions are her distrust of the intelligence community, but Homeland only tells us how the intelligence community feels about this, keeping the audience from understanding where Keane's public backlash can possibly be coming from. Throw in the entirely superfluous involvement of an Alex Jones carbon copy and a rogue Army official who actually thinks that killing an incoming President is a good idea, and you've got a conspiracy theory that works at providing some thrilling moments on an episode-to-episode basis, but utterly fails to build to anything compelling or have anything close to subtext or commentary sitting just under the surface.
Rather, "America First" just reads as the natural conclusion to which the series had to build, given the machinations of its plot. In a big way, the only possible reaction to the season is, "Well yeah, OK." There's very little to be surprised by, here. Of course the plot against the President Elect is going to come to a head, and of course both Carrie and Quinn are going to wind up directly involved, because they're the main characters of the show. At the end of "R Is for Romeo," it became clear that Dar wasn't actually trying to kill the President Elect (maybe damage her career irreparably and cause her great psychic pain in the process but kill?! no way) and we learned that General McClendon was actually the one plotting to off the incoming POTUS. Still unclear is whether or not Dar and McClendon were working together the whole time, whether Dar was involved in Seykou's murder, and how much Dar's radio host and sock puppet mill were involved in the assassination plot to begin with, because this season was a total mess. Homeland has a pretty open door moving forward, and could go just about anywhere in it's next season, but at this point its one-out-of-six track record doesn't bode well at all.
Oh, and also...
• I'm real shocked at how little Quinn's death impacted me, emotionally. This season fucking sucked.
• The way Keane is treated by the Alex Jones ripoff (whose shitty American accent was by far the most painful thing about a mostly-painful season of TV) makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I can't imagine a world where a President-Elect is regarded with outright contempt on a nationally-broadcasted media appearance.
• They shoulda killed off Max. Also, fuck that stray creak in Carrie's house towards the end of the episode. The last thing this episode needed was a false note of suspense.