Updated following the Arrow Season 6 finale, so avoid if you aren’t caught up.
Let’s get a couple of things straight right off the bat when it comes to The CW’s Arrow: I am a big fan of Paul Blackthorne, I think his character Quentin Lance is a necessary everyman on the series, and I think the amount of psychological trauma dealt to the Lance Family patriarch has finally reached a point where Quentin needs to retire and go into exile, or be killed off and get some existential peace. Viewers who have been along for Arrow‘s wild ride since Day 1 have watched Quentin climb the ranks of the Star(ling) City Police Department to the heights of its political hierarchy, all while being, at times, an antagonist, ally, informant, friend, father figure, confidant, right-hand man and more when it comes to the Green Arrow. And yet Quentin has suffered more emotional torture for his role than perhaps any other character; it’s time to let him go or leave him be.
While Oliver Queen and the Queen Family members have all suffered their own share of slings and arrows (and puns) both literally and figuratively, many of them were by their own making. And most of those traumatic turns have either been natural events–friends and loved ones are going to die, that’s the way of the world, superhero or not–or ameliorated by the fact that they have crossed paths with doppelgangers that bring the lost back into their lives. Quentin Lance, as an everyman, is stuck on the outside of this zany, comic book lifestyle, and his very mortal psyche has absorbed a lot of damage from the events of Arrow‘s six seasons. I don’t think he can successfully recover from that level of PTSD without some sort of major change to the narrative.
Let’s take a moment to look back over the many heartaches of Quentin Lance:
Even before the show began, he had to deal with the presumed death-at-sea of his daughter Sara, who was found to be involved in an illicit affair with Oliver Queen, who was already in a relationship with his other daughter, Laurel. That’s a tough (and exceedingly rare) situation for any father to deal with, but it’s the absolute least of Quentin’s worries.
- (Oh and before this all happened, a time-traveling assassin named The Pilgrim killed most of Lance’s fellow officers in an attempt to murder Sara, eventually kidnaps Quentin, who is then saved by Future Sara, a.k.a. White Canary. But no worries, he takes a pill that helps him forget all of this, and I’m sure it’s all totally fine.)
- Once Oliver Queen returns home, Quentin is confronted with the playboy’s betrayal and seemingly unfair survival once more, occasionally asking Oliver if he even bothered to try to save Sara. Oliver’s existence and Sara’s absence is a daily, painful reminder for Quentin. Not coincidentally, the masked, arrow-shooting vigilante known as The Hood also arrives, drastically complicating Quentin’s career.
- That wound is made fresh when Quentin’s ex-wife Dinah reveals to have known about Sara’s affair and her plans to go with Oliver on his boat. Oh, and the fact that Sara might have somehow survived starts percolating around this time.
- Quentin is demoted after the Glades incident; he’s also dealing with Laurel’s sobriety issues at this point. Oh and then Sara comes back and they fight against the League of Assassins, but she has to leave the city again for “reasons.”
- Quentin gets shot during a S.W.A.T. mission, but survives. He’s later arrested for helping the vigilante known as the Arrow. He’s imprisoned and beaten up by an inmate.
- Yay! He’s released from prison, the charges are dropped, and he’s reinstated to Detective, only to be bodily thrown by a Mirakuru soldier and winds up in a medically induced coma for a few weeks.
- Surprise! Quentin wakes up to see both of his daughters alive and well. He’s a Captain now, but also has a chronic heart condition thanks to his injuries.
Sara dies, and Quentin goes into a spiral, lashing out at friends and family, and once again putting his energy into bringing down the vigilante, even as colleagues drop dead all around him.
- Quentin is soon blackmailed into working for Damien Darhk as an informant, also rising to the level of the city council, which was fun. He’s later shot (again) in a staged assassination attempt on his life.
- Quentin discovers that Laurel is the Black Canary and that Sara is alive again, but feral and chained up in a basement … until she escapes and starts murdering people.
- He has a relationship with, and is later jilted by, Donna Smoak; insult to injury.
- Quentin learns that Oliver had also cheated on his daughter Laurel with a woman named Samantha, with whom he fathered a child.
- Laurel dies at the hands of Darhk.
He’s later offered the Deputy Mayor position by Thea, after watching/helping Oliver Queen ascend to Mayor status, on the condition that he stops drinking. He takes the position but keeps drinking anyway. He experiences blackouts, thinks he might be a vigilante known as Prometheus, and then goes to rehab, emerging totes fine again.
- Quentin is then shocked to see Laurel alive and well, but double-shocked to find out she’s a doppelganger from another Earth and is the villainous Black Siren.
- Quentin survives the explosion of Lian Yu, but is also forced to shoot his dead daughter’s doppelganger, thinking he’d killed her and heaping more layers of guilt onto his already fragile mental state.
- Surprise! Black Siren survived. Quentin is currently caught up trying to rehabilitate the alt-Earth Laurel–who just shouted another vigilante to death on the most recent episode–with limited success … for now.
- As if the past and present storylines weren’t bad enough for Lance, there are two alternate timelines in which Quentin dies: one during an invasion of the city by Slade Wilson’s son, and another in an alternate past in which he dies alongside Sara in battling Darhk.
- Update: As of the Season 6 finale, “Life Sentence”, Lance took a bullet for Not Laurel, developed sepsis in the hospital, and after going under for surgery, he seized and his brain was deprived of oxygen for seven minutes, ultimately killing him in the most overly explained way possible. So assuming that Arrow is actually letting Blackthorne depart the series, this is his final farewell…
This. Is. In. Sane.
With the exception of the title hero, every other character who has suffered even a fraction of this insanity has either been mercifully killed off or allowed to transition into a doppelganger version of their character. Quentin Lance has received no such comforts. Between alcoholism and depression, drug dependency and tenuously held sobriety, it’s amazing that Lance hasn’t completely cracked and gone crazy yet.
That’s certainly one option Arrow has in the quiver, but it would be a disservice to the character and to Blackthorne. Another option is to let him die the hero’s death, either self-sacrificially or in service to the plot in which he’s trying to save Alt-Laurel; that’s definitely on the table. But what I’d prefer to see is some sort of reward for Lance’s dedication to (at least attempting to) keep Star City safe. Let the man retire to some tropical locale, let him investigate petty crimes and small-town mysteries … or let Blackthorne go back to Chicago as wizard-turned-private investigator Harry Dresden in a reboot. Both Quentin Lance and Paul Blackthorne deserve better than the slow, psychologically pummeling-to-death he’s currently subjected to on Arrow.
Update: Farewell, Quentin Lance. May you be well-remembered.