SPOILER WARNING: The following feature contains MAJOR spoilers regarding the outcome of tonight’s “Arrow’s” episode, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.”
Cue up the anguished Hall & Oates anthem: she’s gone.
After spending the bulk of the season broadly hinting at the impending death of a major character closely connected to Team Arrow, tonight’s episode of “Arrow” revealed just whose fight for justice is officially over: Laurel Lance, AKA The Black Canary. After it initially seemed as though she would cheat death, Laurel became the unexpected victim of Damien Darhk’s vengeance, suddenly and shockingly succumbing to her injuries. Before her dying breath she confessed to Oliver Queen that, to the very end, she viewed him as the love of her life.
And if the producers of The CW hit are to be believed, there’ll be no Lazarus Pit resurrection or time-traveling reset button in Laurel’s future.
A contingent of the behind-the-scenes counterpart of Team Arrow assembled before the press to deliver the news — including Laurel’s off-screen alter ego, actor Katie Cassidy, and her oft-tortured on-screen papa, actor Paul Blackthorne, as well as Executive Producers and co-showrunners Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle. They eulogized the latest fatality to wear the costume of Black Canary and explained at length how hard her loss will hit the Team Arrow and the greater Arrowverse.
On why it felt time to say goodbye to Laurel Lance:
Marc Guggenheim:Â Obviously, “Arrow” is always a show that’s evolving. It’s always a show where every character, arguably except for The Arrow, is fair game. We started off this year with the promise of a death, and we worked our way through our various different creative choices, we realized that the thing that will give us the most pop, going into the end of the season and into next season, unfortunately would be Laurel.
By the way, we knew that it would enrage a lot of people. We’re not immune to the ‘shipping, and we’re not immune to the internet controversy. When I say immune, we’re not blind to it. But we’ve never made decisions on the show, creatively, because of the internet. One of the things we knew people were going to think was, “In the season where Oliver and Felicity get engaged and Laurel dies, that’s clearly making a choice about who’s going to end up with who.”
And truth be told, we told the Laurel-Oliver romance story in Season One. We told that story, and we never really thought about going back to it. So, the ‘shipping thing was not an element. It was not a factor for us. And we recognize that that upsets a lot of fans, particularly the comic book fans. In the comics, Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen, depending on which version of the character you like, are in a romance together, in various iterations. That, to some people, is considered canonical and iconic, and we respect that.
But at the same time, we’ve always made no bones about the fact that we are telling our own version of the Green Arrow mythos. The Green Arrow has had so many different interpretations, and Black Canary has had so many different interpretations, over the years, that we never felt beholden to one particular interpretation. This is our interpretation, like it or not, and I recognize that there are plenty of people, up and down my Twitter feed, who do not like it, and I totally respect that. It just made the most creative sense for us, going forward, despite the fact that we absolutely love Katie [Cassidy].
Not getting a chance to work with Katie, day in and day out, is tempered by the fact that we now live in a universe where there’s resurrection, parallel Earths, time travel and flashbacks. We have all these different ways of keeping Katie in the Arrow-verse family. In fact, you will see her on an episode of “The Flash,” playing the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance. Katie is reprising her role as Laurel in Earth-1 to be in “Vixen” Season Two. Death does not mean goodbye, on any of these shows, but we’ve made a creative choice and we’re sticking to it.
We recognize that Black Canary and Laurel have an incredibly loyal fan base, and Katie has an incredibly loyal fan base, but the show has never been just about the comic book history or just about one or two particular fan bases. We make the creative choices we feel benefit the show as a whole, and the story that we’re telling overall.
On how Cassidy was able to make peace with letting Laurel go:
Katie Cassidy: From a creative standpoint, I think the writers — and I’ve always said that since Season Two, up until now, Laurel has had truly an amazing journey and they’ve written so well for me. I’ve had such an incredible arc. It makes sense to me, creatively, that we’ve told Laurel’s story; it has come to an end in the Arrowverse.
It’s television, and I always say anything can happen. It made sense to me. I love everyone on set, I love our crew. Being there for four-and-a-half years, they’ve become family; it’s hard to not go into work every day and to work with such amazing people. That part is certainly sad. Again, I was okay with it, and we all came to an understanding that this was going to happen. It made sense to me.
I think the shock value is good. I think being producers and writers and being in the writers’ room, I think it definitely gives you so much — it’s such a jolt. It’s such a turn in the story. It gives them so much to do, and places to go with it. Otherwise shows can get stale.
Paul Blackthorne: And that’s what the writers are kind of masters of, as well. Every act is some kind of weird, crazy, “Where the hell did that come from?” thing. From one episode to one season, to culminating in moments like this, that’s what makes the show watchable isn’t it? You just never know what’s coming next. And this is the mother of all “never know what’s coming next.”
Guggenheim: I did want to say what a class act Katie is, but I think it’s pretty obvious. She’s such a pro, and coming to work every day after we had this discussion, and giving 120 percent, and being gracious, and sweet and a joy to collaborate with. It’s hard for us. Even though we’re not up in Vancouver, we got to work with her in our own way, and we’re constantly on the phone or texting back and forth. We’ll miss doing that, as I like to say, on a regular basis. Like I said earlier, dead is not goodbye. We’re still working together.
On Cassidy’s emotional last days on set:
Cassidy: I found out that this was the choice, creatively, that was going to be made and obviously I talked to Marc and Greg [Berlanti] and Wendy and I actually had found out right before the court scenes — that day we shot in the court. Which was hard. I remember I was like, “Okay, I need to put this on the back burner for now,” because I had a huge day of all legal jargon. But it actually worked out really well because in the next episode, 19, I’m actually in the episode and it’s a lot of flashbacks.
And emotionally it’s interesting because that scene that you see when I’m in the hospital and I say goodbye, I say to the team, “I never wanted this, I was thinking of giving up the Black Canary and I couldn’t do it.” Honestly, that scene was definitely so real, shooting it, because it was my saying goodbye to the team and all of us, and so it definitely wasn’t difficult for me to get to that emotional point. For sure it was hard, but it was very real and it was good, it was genuine.
And then the last scene I think I shot was… we had to do a reshoot, actually, of when I actually die, when Darhk stabs the Black Canary, and that was a week after, I think? That was the very last scene that we shot, and it was so weird because I remember we had broken for lunch, we came back — I was running to set and putting on my jacket and my gloves and they were just calling me to set to show wrap me, and I didn’t know I was done and it was just sort of a bit of a shock. But it was good, I feel like there was no other way I would want it to go.
Blackthorne: When you find out news like this, it’s rather annoying and very devastating and all the rest of it — you’re going to lose a cast member such as Katie, but at the same time, it was such a shock, certainly to me and I think to everybody, when the news came out, that you’re thinking ‘God, we’re right in the middle of this thing and it was shocking. What’s it gonna be to the audience?”
And in terms of fantastic story, as awful as it is that Black Canary’s the sacrifice, it’s like wham — and if that’s not what story’s about, then what is it about? So in terms of the element of this story, it’s an amazing turn to throw at the audience and people aren’t expecting it, and it’s fantastic. If it shocked us that much, what’s it going to do to the audience? It’s great story.
On Quentin Lance’s reaction to the loss of another of his daughters:
Blackthorne: From a character point of view, Quentin’s point of view is almost like that of the audience’s going, “What the hell is going on around here?” This year, there’s all the outrageousness with the magic and all that stuff. He can’t really take it on as a reality, but if this is the result of what’s going on, then he has to deal with it. He can’t really accept it, but he has to accept that it is happening.
And with these deaths, with Sara’s reprisal through magic and the Lazarus Pit, while it’s all a bit for Quentin to reconcile as something that could truly be happening, it is happening, therefore he’ll deal with it. We started things off with Sara being “dead.” So, there’s always been a world of, “Sara’s dead,” and then, “Oh, but she’s back,” and then, “Sara’s dead again,” and then, “Oh, my god, she’s back again,” but it was always based in her being dead, since we began.
This death, of course, is just devastating for Lance because this is not the one that was ever supposed to happen. How could this be on the books? Personally, I was almost as devastated as Lance, to be honest, with the news of this happening. Katie and I have had such an amazing working relationship that it really is hard to accept that I’m going to be going to work without [her] to work with. That, as an aside, is slightly annoying.
But in terms of Quentin, he’s going to have to pick up the pieces, not pick up a bottle, and reconcile what’s left in his life. With that, he’s got the Arrow family. That will be where he’ll have to find his anchor now, from here on in, without his beautiful daughter.
On the emotional aftermath for the rest of Team Arrow:
Wendy Mericle: Well, it’s going to be huge and significant, and in terms of our process for making the decision you can kind of judge the impact by how important that character was, how important Laurel was to the universe we created. And there’s no question that it is going to be shocking, and it was a shocking thing to us to kind of process and to write the aftermath. We really wanted to ensure that we did it in a way that was very honorable, and that gave us space to honor all of the characters’ various reactions to it.
And I will say that the episodes that we’ve written in the aftermath, they’re devastating, and they’re meant to be. And that’s what we wanted. We wanted to explore that and to have everybody feel the impact of this loss. Because it is significant and we do feel that it is a game-changer — in a very sad way, in that we’re losing a very beloved character; but also in the sense that unfortunately big moves like this will open up new storytelling avenues and will force our characters to re-think their decisions and to rethink their objectives.
Guggenheim: I think Diggle — the guilt factor — we’ve already heard Oliver say, in the flash forward from 401, we’ve already had Oliver say ‘In the past I would’ve blamed myself.’ And it’s still Oliver: there’s an element of that. Like Paul said, that’s also part of the show. Secrets, guilt, death, and that’s our secret formula. But Diggle especially. Like he says in that hospital, he’ll never forgive himself.
And I would say the biggest consequences emotionally are felt by Thea and by Diggle. And of course, Oliver, Felicity and Lance, everyone’s having their own reactions, but Diggle — you can draw a straight-ish line from his decisions in this episode to Laurel’s death. And that’s certainly a fact that’s not lost on him.
Mericle: I can tell you this that it will definitely have a big impact on Felicity, and that if you think about Felicity and what she would do in the wake of something like this, I leave you to draw your own conclusions. You’ll find out in 19, but everyone is going to be compelled to try to fix this and figure out what happened and get revenge on the people who did it.
On the permanence of Laurel’s death in DC’s TV universe:
Guggenheim: I think the thing we’ve recognized ever since the Lazarus Pit, parallel universes, etc., etc., we definitely recognize, across all three shows, that when we kill off a character, it means something different now. I’m not gonna put a qualitative judgment on whether it is more or less impactful, I’ll leave that to the audience and to you guys, but certainly we acknowledge that there’s a difference.
And I think “Arrow,” much more so than “Flash” or “Legends” for a lot of reasons, it traffics in death. We start off the series with the apparent death of Sara Lance and the actual death of Robert Queen, and a hero that murdered people. For better or for worse, death is part of the show. What we’re finding is that death now — and as it should when you start to get, as we are, pushing into Season Five — the show has to evolve, it has to change, and the concept of death on the show is evolving and changing, as we’ve already seen with Sara Lance and we’ve already seen with seeing Laurel in a parallel universe.
There’s a world where we do an episode where Oliver Queen meets the Laurel Lance of Earth-2 — that’s now on the table. Time travel is now on the table. As the show has evolved, so has death, and I’ll leave it to you guys to decide if death is more or less impactful as a result.
Mericle: With the Lazarus Pit and the possibilities of coming back, it’s easy in some ways to forget that our characters are vigilantes, they’re out on the street doing really dangerous things, and what this does is it really brings that reality back in a very kind of rude and brutal way. And I think that it’s good for the audience to be reminded of that, and for our characters as well.
On whether Sara Lance will learn of her sister’s death on “Legends of Tomorrow”:
Sara will find out in “Legends” about what happened with Laurel, and I think we give it its due. I’m looking at Paul to see if I’m lying, but I feel like we give it its due. And what we said on “Legends,” like, we were not going to shy away from this development, as far as Sara’s character is concerned, and Paul was very gracious to lend his time to “Legends” to really allow us to explore that.
On those mysteriously unrevealed final moments between Laurel and Oliver:
Guggenheim: That’s the joke I’ve been making: Oliver Queen killed her! But again, there are certain coins of the realm on our show. Death is one of them. Mysteries and secrets are another. Certainly, what did Laurel say to Oliver? But we didn’t intend for it to be like, “She asked Oliver to euthanize her.”
We’ve done a fake death before. And that’s the thing: we’re always trying to figure out what’s the way to do this. That fake-out where she was okay and then she wasn’t, was again, our attempt — how do we do a death we haven’t done before? We’ve had people killed right in front of Oliver, we’ve faked a death, we’ve had someone be fatally injured and then Oliver arrives on the scene.
“The Walking Dead” has this problem, too — I shouldn’t say “a problem,” a creative challenge, the deeper you get into your story — “Game of Thrones,” also. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Jon Snow, but that is also probably going to change things. It’s the nature of having a long running show that deals, with a major component of it, with death.
Mericle: You’ll know [what happened between them] in Season Five.
On whether sometimes derisive fan reaction to Laurel factored into her exit:
Guggenheim: Let me be clear: when I say this gives us a lot of pop, I don’t mean on the internet or publicity. I mean creatively for the show. Every time we’ve killed off a character on the show, it’s really been for the effect it has on all the characters left behind.
I don’t want to spoil the end of Season Four or what we have planned for Season Five — which we’re already in the room working on — but how divisive, quote-unquote, Laurel is as a character on Twitter, that’s not a factor. And truth be told, Twitter is a very specific sub-segment. And the number of people who don’t like Laurel, it’s probably a [very small] group. It’s not statistically relevant.
On whether the title and costume of Black Canary is again up for grabs:
Guggenheim: I don’t know if I’d say “up for grabs.” I haven’t even had a chance to discuss this with Wendy or with Greg [Berlanti]. Like you said, it’s a mantle that multiple people have had. We’ll play with that notion in Episode 19.
I personally like the idea that in DC Comics, all the comics, they all have the concept of legacy in them. We’ve seen on “Legends” that someone picks up Oliver Queen’s mantle, for example. We’re in that world but we lean into it and I think we lean into it pretty strongly in [Episode] 19 but that doesn’t always mean that the person is a hero. 19 is the answer to that question.
On Cassidy’s most memorable moments playing Laurel Lance:
Cassidy: I think at the end of Season Two, going into Three, when I put the jacket on for the first time. I mean, that moment was like… something.
I still get choked up talking about it because I was so excited. I remember trying on the jacket and I’d been waiting for that moment and I think that, for me, was sort of the turning point and obviously season two my character had a really hard time. I think, as an actor, I think the writers were writing so brilliantly and I think it was great to take on that challenge and go there, hit rock bottom and then come back on top.
I think the end of Season Two, going into Season Three, and all of Season Three, even up to Season Four, up to now, every day going there, I was excited to be thereÂ and happy to be there. Also, being in the training and fight training and getting to be a strong female character who is also out there kicking some ass, too, was definitely something that was cool and I had a blast, too.
I asked for the jacket and mask and I didn’t think they would let me have it but, yes, I got to keep the Black Canary jacket and mask.
On the hoped-for legacy of Laurel Lance:
Cassidy: It’s still something I still feel so close to, this character. Obviously for the last four years it’s been a character that’s very close to me, andÂ also, as we said, I go onto “The Flash” and I am on Earth 2 as the Black Siren — as they know, I love working with them and always happy to come play with them, if they have time travel and whatnot. I think to me, Laurel was always such a good person and had such a good heart and was a fighter, and for her being remembered that way is definitely important to me.
Guggenheim: Just to further that, someone had pointed out to me that “Arrow,” unlike the other shows, when we published the DVD boxes, it doesn’t say Green Arrow and Speedy and Spartan and Black Canary. It says Oliver and Diggle and Thea and Laurel. On this show, we really always start with who these characters are before they put on the mask.
I think Katie has always so embodied Laurel that even when she’s wearing the mask you think, that’s Laurel Lance, this good person who is doing good things. She just changes up her methodology for how to make the world a better place. Laurel Lance, always trying to save the world.
Cassidy: Always trying to save the world!
“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
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