Let's be very clear about something: Quinn Fabray is not the best character on Glee. What's unfortunate about this fact is that she could be.
A quick rundown of Quinn's development: She started out as the bitchy Queen Bee cheerleader, the arch nemesis for Rachel Berry. Perfect boyfriend, perfect life. Cruel and conniving, she insisted on making the protagonist's life hell. In short: her life was a stereotype. Then she got pregnant.
Yes, the pregnancy itself was still a stereotype. Now she was the bitchy, knocked-up cheerleader, who slept with the bad boy and paid the price. But then the writers introduced something a little more three-dimensional.
Quinn Fabray started showing a little heart. Maybe it was pregnancy hormones, or a big fat helping of humble pie (getting kicked off the Cheerio squad and out of your own household certainly brings you down a peg or two), but everything about Quinn's character changed. The tight ponytail transformed into softer styles and braids, and the harsh Cheerio uniform turned into baby doll dresses and cardigans. And she was downright... nice.
This development was certainly promising. Ryan Murphy has said that Dianna Agron, Quinn's portrayer, accidentally ruined the awful character he was originally envisioning. It's interesting to ponder this thought. Agron was the last of the original kids to be cast, and literally gave two whirlwind auditions that were taped and shown to Murphy, who gave the okay the day before filming started. I do wonder if the whole process happened so quickly that they didn't stop to consider the impact that casting this girl had on Quinn's character. Agron's off-camera persona (and wardrobe) is much more aligned to the post-Cheerio Quinn, and it's clear that if she weren't the one wearing Quinn Fabray's skin, Quinn Fabray would probably still be a bitch. This is not to say, of course, that Agron is incapable of portraying a character different from herself. She's got chops. But I'm getting off point.
Even if casting Dianna Agron fundamentally changed the character of Quinn, Ryan Murphy rolled with it, and it paid off. The first 13 episodes of Glee were created in a bubble. This is supremely interesting in that you can glean a lot of the writers' original intent, unaffected by fan and critic feedback. For Quinn, these episodes explored her pregnancy, her rapidly eroding lie about the baby's father, and her plummeting social status. Not only that, but we got a sympathetic glimpse into her home life, a rarity for this show. It was interesting! There was depth! She was treated like a main character! Hell, she was a main character! In the fall of 2009, while the show was still fairly fresh, Glee had the opportunity to send some actors to Comic-Con. Who did they send? Rachel, Finn, Quinn, and Mr. Schue. It's clear who they intended their main characters to be.
So what happened? If the first 13 episodes embody the potential for Quinn Fabray to be the best character on the show, then the "Back 9" completely undo it. The writers decided to listen to fans, and pulled focus from the plotlines involving pregnancy/lying. Well, Terri Schuester's sinking ship took Quinn's character arc down with it. Quinn got virtually no screentime in the Back 9, and the scenes she had reeked of inconsistency. When we last saw Quinn in "Sectionals," she was emotionally raw, having had the truth about her baby's paternity exposed to the world and her relationship implode right in front of her. She'd had a rather zen-like conversation with Rachel Berry, and told Puck she didn't want to be with him. Promising, right? But when Ms. Fabray showed back up on my screen months later, she came with hardly a line of dialogue, and background actions insinuating she and Puck were together. Needless to say, I was more than a little outraged.
There's a huge disconnect between the first 13 episodes and the last 9, and frankly, it's frustrating, especially where Quinn's character is concerned. I'm under the impression that if you have a pregnant teenager bitch who's deciding to change her ways, well, then that character arc needs to be on screen. Instead, Quinn was relegated to the background, where she remained until her water broke. We didn't even know where she was living for six episodes! Yes, the writers tried to keep the delicate balance between Head Bitch Quinn and Old Softie Quinn, but instead she just came off as wildly inconsistent. One episode she was perfectly content being in the Glee club, the next she was scheming to get her popularity back, and the next she was wielding a charming but clunky friendship with Mercedes. Characterization whiplash is not becoming, Glee writers. (And truthfully, Quinn is not the only character that suffers from it!)
The most frustrating conclusion of all this is the woulda, coulda, shoulda. The fleeting glimpses we've seen into Quinn's personality have been compelling - she's sarcastic, strong-willed, insecure, stoic, caring, angry, feministic, and intelligent - in short, a well-rounded female character. The execution is just not employing all of these characteristics. What happened to the Quinn Fabray that blackmailed Sue Sylvester to get the Glee Club their page in the yearbook? It bears repeating: she blackmailed Sue Sylvester! And without all the ridiculata (and hair gel) that Schuester brings when he tries to do it! Seriously, let's hear it for the girl.
So what's the future of Quinn Fabray, post-neglect and post-baby? It's hard to say. It seems as though she'll be back up to her old tricks in the new season, and as long as that brings her character development back to the forefront, I'll be content. But if it undoes every inch of her character arc, I will have to cut a bitch. Fabray-style.