If you’ve been watching “Arrow” for any length of time, you might have noticed that the identity of the Black Canary keeps changing. During Season 1, there was no Black Canary, though there was a Dinah Lance — Dinah Laurel Lance — Oliver’s jilted lover and Starling City lawyer. In Season 2, the Black Canary was a former member of the League of Assassins, another one of Oliver’s jilted lovers and sister to Dinah Laurel, Sara Lance. In Season 3, the Black Canary was dead, and Dinah Laurel began training to pick up her sister’s fallen mantle. In Season 4, Dinah Laurel was the Black Canary full time, regularly suiting up with Team Arrow, until she was killed by Damien Darhk. Now, in Season 5, “Arrow’s” current season, the Black Canary is a statue, a symbol of the hero who once protected Star City.
Despite being the most important character in DC Comics’ Green Arrow mythos outside of Oliver Queen, “Arrow” has had difficulty in getting its version of Black Canary right. That’s not to say the show hasn’t tried, or that either actress, Caity Lotz or Katie Cassidy, didn’t do the character justice — they both did. But despite the team’s best efforts, it always felt like the show kept building up the ideal of Black Canary only to tear her down.
Lotz was an amazing Black Canary. Her character, Sara Lance, had a dark side, and as in the comics, was the daughter of Dinah and Quentin Lance. Sara had fantastic chemistry with Oliver, a synthesized Canary Cry, and League of Assassins training — and then the show killed her off. Katie Cassidy, too, made for a nuanced Black Canary. While she wasn’t trained by the League of Assassins like her sister, she was trained by Oliver and Wildcat. Laurel was also the daughter of Dinah and Quentin and had a passion for justice, which she channeled both in the courtroom as Star City’s District Attorney and as a costumed vigilante. But then the show killed her off, too.
That’s two dead Canaries in less than four seasons.
If killing off a pair of popular, powerful female characters seems odd to you, it should, because the narrative just doesn’t make sense. For a show that has successfully plotted out five seasons and 10 years of Oliver’s life, from the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit to Oliver becoming Mayor, it feels like “Arrow” had a plan for the Black Canary that at some point, for some reason, got derailed along the way. “Arrow” Executive Producer Wendy Mericle recently commented on the character, saying, “It’s hard to do a show about Green Arrow without having a Black Canary.” Oliver Queen himself, Stephen Amell, said something similar — “The Black Canary is easily the most important feature next to the Green Arrow.” These comments support the clear, new direction of the show, which is to fully move on from Laurel Lance and introduce new Black Canary, Tina Boland.
“Arrow” successfully (if not painfully) did both of these things in the last two episodes, “Who Are You?” and “Second Chances.” In “Who Are You?” a seemingly alive Laurel appeared in the Arrowcave, causing Oliver to fall into her arms and declare her resurrection a miracle. Laurel turned out to be Black Siren, the evil Black Canary from Earth 2, who was on assignment from Prometheus. The episode set out to ask the question, “can Black Siren be redeemed?” which held out the possibility that, if she could be redeemed, Cassidy could rejoin the show as Earth 2 Laurel. This possibility was squelched when Black Siren demolished the Black Canary tribute statue and was handed over to A.R.G.U.S. So, if Earth 2 Laurel isn’t going to be the new Black Canary, who will be?
Enter Tina Boland, a former police detective from Central City who became a metahuman in the particle accelerator accident. At first, her introduction seems to have come from left field. She had no recognizable name from DC Comics, no connections to any characters on the show, and no visible ties to the mythology of the Black Canary. That was until the final moments of “Second Chances” where she revealed her name was not Tina Boland, it was Dinah Drake, the name of the original Black Canary from DC Comics’ Golden Age.
Dinah Drake’s first comic book appearance was in 1947’s “Flash” #86, where Dinah was introduced as the love interest for Gotham City Police detective Larry Lance. In 1948’s “All Star Comics” #41, Dinah became the Black Canary and joined the Justice Society of America. In 1969’s “Justice League of America” #74, during a Justice Society/Justice League team up, Larry Lance was killed. After this event, Dinah moved to Earth-1, joined the Justice League, received her Canary Cry, and began a relationship with the Green Arrow. It seems like this is who Tina Boland/Dinah Drake is supposed to resemble. Tina/Dinah has a Canary Cry, was in love with Star City Police detective Vincent Sobel, and she just decided to take Oliver’s “second chance” by joining Team Arrow.
If “Arrow” had introduced a new Black Canary with no comic book history, it would have felt like a serious blow to Laurel’s legacy. Like Diggle said, no one can replace Laurel. But since Dinah is the Dinah Drake from the comics, she might actually be what the show has been looking for all along.
Dinah’s backstory actually mirrors Oliver’s perfectly. After the love of her life was killed, she tracked his killer all over the country. Like Oliver, she pushed past the boundaries of the law in order to find Vincent’s killer. She even had her own list, and was willing to become a monster to take out everyone on it. This type of life experience puts in her in sync with Oliver, who knows what it’s like to compromise his morals to see vigilante justice done. He knows what it’s like to take a life, and even called himself a monster during his time spent in Russia. This could bring Dinah closer to Oliver than Laurel ever came, because Laurel never knew this side of Oliver. She respected that side of him, she trusted that he used to kill for good reasons, but Laurel was not a killer, nor was she a monster. Dinah, however, knows this darkness all too well.
Thanks to her experience as a police officer and a vigilante, as well as her descent into (and impending ascent out of) darkness, Dinah has the potential to be the Black Canary “Arrow” has needed all along. She has a morally gray compass, a powerful metahuman Canary Cry, and her name is Dinah, which means “Avenged” in Hebrew. She knows what it’s like to walk into Hell and come out on the other side. Star City could use a hero like her and Oliver could use a partner like her. While “Arrow” may have missed the mark with the Black Canary before, the show may have just hit the bullseye this time around. Only time will tell, but hopefully we’ll see her suit up soon — and maybe she’ll even get the black fishnets.
Starring Stephen Amell as the Emerald Archer, “Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, John Barrowman, Willa Holland and more.
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