Where to even begin?
I cried. I cried even though I “knew” that Quentin Coldwater’s death would not be permanent. Alice came back from the dead. Penny died and he’s still on the show. Quentin would be back.
The signs were there, too. There were bits and pieces throughout the finale that suggested Quentin would return.
Then I went online.
I went online and saw interview after interview with the producers of the show and Jason Ralph himself in which they claimed that Quentin was really dead and that Jason was leaving the show. This had been in the works all year, they said, but they’d kept it a secret even from the other actors.
I was left with two possibilities, then: Quentin was really gone, which carried its own issues, or the creators of the show were going to extreme measures to make us all think he’s gone.
Why It Didn’t Work
I’ll start with the former since the latter could be entirely off the mark.
So was Quentin’s death a problem? Why were people so upset beyond seeing a character they loved (and related to) die?
The White Guy
Show creators Sera Gamble and John McNamara have said that Quentin’s death flips the traditional idea of fantasy stories having white male protagonists. They are right that white men are usually the stars of these stories, although honestly they’ve historically been the stars of most stories that get distributed to the masses. But they’re not right that Quentin’s death is a response to that.
Even if you ignore the fact that Quentin has done very little all season, there’s the simple fact that they’re leaving off a descriptor with regards to the traditional protagonist: straight. The lead is almost always a straight white male.
That wasn’t Quentin.
All they’ve done is kill of another gay character, which is also a horrible trope in sci-fi/fantasy stories.
Gamble and McNamara also indicated that Quentin’s death was a good end for his arc as a character. But, again, that doesn’t really hold up.
There have been two defining stories for Quentin throughout the series: his battle with depression and his love of the Fillory books.
Let’s look at the latter one first.
Quentin doesn’t die saving Fillory or rescuing Elliot or bringing back magic. He dies stopping a librarian from getting the power to become a god. Thematically, it absolutely does not connect to Quentin in any way. He had no connection to Everett. He had no experience with the mirror world. Even his specialty of repairing minor objects doesn’t resonate. Would anyone have questioned his ability to mend the mirror if he hadn’t been told his specialty?
Hell, did anyone even remember that he never found one?
Then there’s the bigger issue: Quentin’s depression and his history of attempted suicide.
This is particularly awful.
After Q dies and ends up in the underworld, he asks Penny “Did I do something brave to save my friends? Or did I finally find a way to kill myself?"
On its own, this is a hell of a thing. But it gets worse.
To answer Q’s question, Penny takes him to see his friends, who are in mourning. He gets his answer from seeing how much his friends loved him. Clearly, he did something brave to save his friends…
Flip that. If seeing that his friends loved and missed him meant he hadn’t committed suicide, then the way he could tell that he had committed suicide would be….if they didn’t love or miss him.
That is unbelievable. It’s so awful that I can’t believe it made it on the screen.
You can see the machinations that got them to that point. They really wanted Quentin to see his friends grieving his death and seemed to think they need a reason for Penny to take him there. That reason was answering his question.
But this is Penny. Why would he need a reason? Why couldn’t he have just taken Quentin to see his friends for closure?
Hell, the fact that Quentin is even asking Penny that question would suggest that his arc isn’t anywhere close to being done.
Reasons It Won’t Stick
The Metro Pass
This was the most glaring to me. Per Sylvia in s3e10, the card "takes you wherever you need to go next." Wherever you NEED to go next, not wherever you're sent. It’s not like people need to go to hell, they’re sent there.
You also only get a metro pass after revealing a secret that was taken to the grave, which Quentin doesn’t do. Instead he just gets a card from Penny. And remember that when Penny was first sent to the underworld he tried to get a pass so he could escape.
The Seam plays a major role in the finale, yet this episode is also the first time we’ve ever heard about it. You would think that we would have come across it given how much we’ve seen of the Mirror World in the past two years. The fact that Quentin and Josh figured out what it was in such an unnatural way doesn’t help make its inclusion seem any more organic.
What is The Seam? It’s the space between this universe and the anti-verse "where everything's all dead." The Mirror World was created from a leak between the living world and the dead one.
In other words, Quentin died in the space between the land of the living and the land of the dead.
Reunion with Alice
From a storytelling standpoint, Quentin reconciling with Alice before he died doesn’t work particularly well.
The fact that they got back together at all was a point of contention for many fans given that Quentin had asked Elliot to be with him. What many forgot, however, is that while we knew that Elliot regretted saying no, Quentin did not. He still believed that Elliot was unwilling to be in a relationship with him. And Q obviously still had feelings for Alice, so…
The question, though, is what did their reconciliation add to the story?
What it added was the potential drama of Elliot’s return, when he was ready to finally give it a go with Quentin only to find Q back with Alice, to find that he might have missed his window. So does he tell Quentin that he realized he made a mistake even though he knows that will put Q in a horrible position? Or does he keep it to himself? Knowing Elliot, probably the latter. Regardless, it would have made for great, heart wrenching drama.
But now that will never come to pass, not if Q’s death sticks.
Did Quentin and Alice need to be back together for her to be that upset when he died? Not at all. We already knew how she felt about him.
Would Quentin not have sacrificed himself if they weren’t back together? Yes, he would have, because he didn’t sacrifice himself to save her, specifically.
Then what was the point? To mess with the audience?
Even worse, what if it was to complete Quentin’s arc, as they said — that being with Alice somehow “cured” his depression. Because that is a horrible idea.
No, if we’re looking at story reasons for their reunion, then Quentin has to return.
Where and When
At this point, I honestly think we won’t see Quentin until the end of next season. I think he really will be gone, or so it will seem. I also think that the place he needs to go will end up being Fillory. Part of me thinks this will be tied in to the new ruler of Fillory and a part of that part of me thinks that maybe the Dark King is actually Quentin.
Regardless, it would make for one hell of a season finale, I just don’t know how many people will still be watching after this one.