Originally written for Fandom Following.
Just last week, primetime television seemed to be full of major female characters deaths. So much so that The Hollywood Reporter made a list of them. Now, everyone and their mother will want to tell you why killing off Sleepy Hollow’s Abbie Mills was an absolutely horrible mistake, but that’s not what I came here for. I want to have a conversation about Arrow’s Laurel Lance, AKA the Black Canary. We need to talk about how, despite the writers’ machinations, Laurel still came out to be one of the best characters on this show.
You read that right. I am firmly of the belief that Laurel Lance was way more important to this show than people realized. In that same THR article, the author of the article points out how Laurel was the most sensible candidate for the death that the show had been foreshadowing all season. Except, I don’t think that Laurel Lance’s character would ever be a sensible death for Arrow. I think that the creators just wanted us to think that she was, and that’s ultimately a mistake. .
Too much? Let me start from the beginning.
You have to realize that Arrow is not just about the Green Arrow, it’s about the Black Canary as well. Laurel Lance is the most developed character on this show, next to Oliver Queen.
When Laurel Dinah Lance was introduced during the pilot episode of Arrow’s first season, she was a fleshed out character with a promising career at a good law firm, whose father also happened to be a police detective. She was a good person, she did pro bono work with her best friend, and she even knew how to handle herself in a fight. The only thing wrong with Laurel’s story was the way that they presented her relationship with Oliver Queen.
Keep in mind, if you know anything about the Green Arrow, you know that his go-to love interest is the Black Canary. Oliver Queen is canonically horrible in some way, shape, or form, to everyone he’s involved with, including his own son, but he seems to always make his way back to Dinah Lance. That’s canon, that’s endgame, that’s bae. That’s what we all expected.
At the beginning of the show we are told that Laurel and Oliver were originally engaged before the boat Oliver and his father were on blew up in the middle of the ocean – with Laurel’s sister, whom Oliver was cheating on Laurel with, also on said boat. This never made sense to me, because if Laurel was supposed to be endgame, why would they make her relationship with Oliver so complicated? He could have cheated on her with anyone else, but the decision to have it be Laurel’s sister would make the situation ten times harder. How was she supposed to get over that?
However, they gave Laurel a whole other love interest who helped to up the drama factor, and the first season of Arrow seemed to be beautiful for everyone involved. Right up until they killed off said love interest. Mind you, this is after she cheated on him with Oliver.
I could write close to five hundred words about why Tommy Merlyn’s death and non-resurrection was a mistake, but this is a Laurel Lance post and I won’t take anything away from her. Just know that, all things considered, he got out before they could ruin him.
So, with Tommy dead, Laurel has a whole new storyline in the second season. She’s grieving, she becomes an alcoholic, she even loses her job. Cool, fine; it was a little bit too stretched out, but it made for a good character development.
Except, they let Sara Lance – Laurel’s formerly dead, boyfriend-stealing sister – be the Canary first. And then, to add insult to injury, while Laurel is drowning in a bottle over Tommy, Sara and Oliver hook up again.
So let’s recap: Laurel cannot logically take Oliver back – while he’s becoming a superhero – since he cheated on her with her sister, and is technically responsible for her sister’s death. In a moment of weakness, Laurel later cheats on her boyfriend, Tommy, with his former best friend, Oliver (Best. Drama. Ever.). After said boyfriend dies, Laurel’s sister comes back, takes Laurel’s badass superhero title before Laurel can use it, crushes it, and gets back together with Laurel’s former fiancee’ whom said sister had been sleeping with because of petty BS from when Laurel and Oliver had originally started dating.
Tell me that that does not sound like some soap opera type of mess? Even if Oliver and Laurel were still endgame at this point, how was she supposed to come back from that? Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance) was acting her butt off with that really good character development. Mind you, they had sent her best friend away in the middle of the first season, killed off her boyfriend, and almost destroyed her job prospects. Then here comes Sara with the great martial arts moves and her awesome Canary. Instead of people praising Laurel’s growth, they were cheering on Sara’s ass-kicking and wondering why the hell Laurel was still blaming people for Tommy.
It was terrible. But Laurel had nowhere to go but up because, at the time, it had seemed like she had already hit rock bottom.
Sidenote: I never got the appeal of Sara and Oliver. She seemed highly bored with him. I mean, she looks bored anytime she’s on screen, but she was looking at Oliver like ‘I have seen the Promised Land, and it is not your penis’.
I can honestly say that season three was where it went downhill fast for Laurel Lance. When season 2 ended, Sara had given Laurel her Canary jacket and rode off into the sunset with her true love, Nyssa al Ghul. Sara’s story should have ended here: either never to be seen again, or only popping up to train her sister. Instead, the shows creators decided to unnecessarily bury their gays.
The death of Sara Lance was supposed to spurn Laurel onto becoming the Black Canary, but my gosh did they mess that up fast. Laurel reburied her sister in her old grave, lied to her father about Sara’s whereabouts, and then made the rash decision to be the new Canary. This is when I knew that the creators didn’t care about Laurel.
People will tell you that the death and disposability of Laurel Lance came with the canonization of Olicity (Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak). However, as much as I don’t like it, I’ll always concede that Olicity was necessary because Laurel was doing too much growing to go back to Oliver right then, and Oliver was literally running out of valid love interests. I always figured that the only way that Laurel and Oliver would work, after he’d bounced between her and her sister twice, was by working through their issues as friends and then returning to a romance a few seasons down the road. Then they made a terrible move with Olicity, and there was nothing anyone could do about the fallout.
But no, Laurel Lance’s disposability started to become apparent when the writers started to let her fight. In the middle of the first half of the third season, Laurel Lance takes it upon herself to ambush a man who was beating his wife. Because said wife did not want to press charges, this man could not be arrested. So Laurel decided to teach him a lesson.
It did not go well.
That first loss was necessary. It was brutal, but it was necessary because she needed to know that she couldn’t just go out there and take on bad guys. Laurel needed training. And when Oliver turned her down, Laurel went out and found somebody who could train. She went to Wildcat, who is canonically a superhero trainer.
The subsequent losses that Laurel received after she started training with Wildcat were entirely unnecessary. I remember Laurel was getting beat up so much, and having the bruises be visible on her face for several episodes, that I had to wonder about myself because I was starting to enjoy it. Then I remember live tweeting an episode with other Arrow fans and realizing that they were enjoying it too. Then it hit me: the writers wanted us to enjoy it.
There was no reason that Laurel Lance, who had been through so much and pulled herself up by her bootstraps to keep going, should have been getting her butt-kicked for most of the season. This girl was introduced to us as having defensive skills, but episode after episode she kept getting beaten badly for most of season three. And then they had Wildcat beaten up, so now the audience thinks that Laurel is failing because her mentor wasn’t good enough.
By the time Nyssa al Ghul came in to help train Laurel, it was already too late. People were calling Laurel “Wack Canary”, and Sara’s return was set in stone because audiences preferred her. Even Nyssa’s training seemed to be out of pity, and there were fans who wanted Laurel gone.
I stopped watching Arrow, for the most part, at this point. The Oliver/Felicity sex scene debacle turned me and quite few others off to the show. However, I stayed relatively aware of the goings on, because I needed to know how they were going to fix that train wreck of a season.
Laurel did end up making an improvement. She fought better, she was Assistant District Attorney, and she even got herself a sidekick. Her love life seemed nonexistent, but she seemed to be pro-Olicity at the weirdest times if any of the reactions I’ve seen are to be believed.
I want to say that Laurel’s worst moment this whole season was the decision to dig up Sara’s surprisingly not too decomposed body to resurrect her sister using the Lazarus pit. However, both Arrow and The Flash seemed to suffer in the first half of their current seasons for the Legends of Tomorrow setup. So I can forgive that one moment.
So this was a relatively good season for Laurel, and this last episode was especially good, but Arrow had been teasing this death all season and somebody had to die.
People will tell you that it couldn’t be Diggle because he’s one of the few minority characters, and the only one in the main cast, and I will agree. There is no logical reason to kill off John Diggle; Oliver doesn’t need to dedicate any more seasons to dead loved ones. They will tell you that the show will be boycotted should Felicity die. Listen, I liked Felicity Smoak for the first two seasons, and I love that she’s being fleshed out again, but I did not like how they almost ruined her character for this ship.
People will tell you that Laurel Lance should die because nobody likes her Black Canary, but, as I’ve said before, she is the second most fleshed out character in this whole show. This is literally her story too. Killing Laurel off for good, especially after that Laurel-heavy episode, is the worst mistake this show could ever make.
In all honesty, if somebody had to die, it should have been Thea. She was the Roy Harper stand-in from the jump, and now that we’ve had Roy Harper, she’s become unnecessary. She was the drug-abuser, she was the Hidden Prince trope, she got trained by an assassin, she’s been brought back to life. What else can be done with this character? She is literally everyone else’s stand-in. Her mentor just died. Is she now supposed to be the new Black Canary?
If that’s where this show is headed, go ahead and cancel Arrow because that’s officially the sign of a shark being jumped. The show would not survive.
For all that the writers have jerked her around, and the fans have tried to write her off, I think that Laurel Lance was honestly the best character to come out of Arrow. She was a grown women who did the impossible and became a superhero because of sheer willpower. She suffered a ridiculous amount of tragedies and came out of them a much stronger person. For her to be truly dead would be a loss to the show, but if she is dead, then we should appreciate the work put in by Katie Cassidy to make Laurel so great.
I personally don’t think that Laurel is dead. I feel like there was a fakeout in her last few moments with Oliver, and they’re trying their hardest to keep it under wraps. Even if Laurel and Oliver never end back up together, the Black Canary is an institution in the Arrowverse. Her death could never make sense.