The death of Laurel Lance struck a chord across the "Arrow" fanbase last season. Now, with the show's 100th episode mere hours away, we take a look back at her controversial death, and consider whether producers made the right decision in killing Black Canary.
Considering Black Canary's near 70-year comic book history and Laurel's significant character development over four years on "Arrow," it's safe to say that killing her wasn't a good choice. Her legacy deserves to live on in the Arrowverse -- not as a statue or as a reminder of what Team Arrow lost, but as a living, breathing heroine with agency and life. Here's why.
Black Canary's Legacy
When Katie Cassidy was cast as Dinah Laurel Lance in 2012, comic book readers knew they could expect two things: a strong superhero who fought crime, and the future Mrs. Oliver Queen. Only one of those aspects materialized before her death.
In Season One, Laurel wasn't a superhero -- she was an attorney, grieving the loss of her sister Sara. She eventually began working secretly with the Arrow and began to rekindle her romantic feelings for Oliver Queen. Her journey seemed picture perfect, and gave comic book fans a lot to hope for -- that is, until Season Two when her sister showed up alive as a hero named the Canary. Suddenly, Black Canary's legacy was being rewritten. Now, a character was on the show who looked more like Black Canary than Laurel Lance did, and viewers began to like her more. Sara Lance had a cool backstory and romantic connection with Oliver; maybe she was meant to be Black Canary and Laurel was just a misdirect. But then Sara was killed in front of Laurel in the Season Three premiere.
Sara's death catalyzed Laurel to don her sister's mask and fight crime in her name, forming Black Canary's origin story. Laurel trained hard with Wildcat, until Oliver finally let her join the team. At the end of Season Three, Cisco even made for Laurel Black Canary's iconic "Canary Cry" device, and she regularly suited up with Team Arrow. At the beginning of Season Four it seemed as if the comic book Black Canary was beginning to take shape. Laurel had the blonde hair, the black uniform, the Canary Cry -- she appeared ready to take on the bad guys of Star City alongside Green Arrow, just as she was meant to. Her journey was cut short, however, in Episode 18 "11:59," when she was stabbed with an arrow (how poetic) by Damien Darhk. That development made no sense, considering that "Arrow" spent four years bringing Laurel to this place.
Why would the series kill off a character who spent years becoming Black Canary? She was fully developed, she worked first as a legal aid attorney and then as an assistant district attorney, she overcame personal demons like substance abuse and alcohol addiction -- she was perfectly suited to play lawyer and hero -- but her journey was brutally cut short.
Killing Green Arrow's Wife
Laurel's death not only ended the future of Black Canary, but also her life with Green Arrow. In the comics, Oliver and Laurel have been depicted as married. They are an iconic romantic duo in DC Comics, likened to Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Aquaman and Mera, Barry Allen and Iris West. While it's common for television series to drag out a romantic storyline over a few seasons, Laurel's death halted all potential for "Arrow" to ever showcase this famous relationship. In the wake of Laurel's death, showrunner Marc Guggenheim said "Arrow" never had plans for Oliver and Laurel to embrace Green Arrow and Black Canary's relationship. That decisiion does such a disservice to both characters, who have such a strong bond in the comics. Surprisingly, "Arrow" will be pay homage to that relationship during this week in its 100th episode, but it's not meant to foreshadow the future. It's more a vision of what could have happened if they traveled down a different path. The show actually could have pursued that relationship, instead of saving it for a one-episode dream sequence.
Her Death Didn't Advance the Story
Sometimes character deaths have far-reaching ramifications, such as when Oliver was driven to be a better hero following Tommy Merlyn's demise. When Sara died, Laurel took up Sara's legacy as the Canary. However, Laurel's death hasn't motivated anyone on "Arrow" this season. In fact, her death has hindered a lot of character development, particularly in the case of her father, who's drinking again. If Laurel were still alive, she would be the district attorney working to bring down Church and Prometheus. She could spend her days serving alongside Mayor Queen, Thea and her father, and nights training the new team with Oliver. That would actually be a perfect Season Five, particularly if the show headed down the path to reunite Oliver and Laurel. They could be a daytime political power couple, and kickass superheroes after dark. Unfortunately, that's no longer able to happen.
Resurrection Could Solve Those Issues
When Katie Cassidy returns for "Arrow's" 100th episode, she'll play a Laurel that could have been -- the Laurel who never lost her sister, whose parents are still married, and who's about to marry the love of her life. But this dream state won't last, and when the episode ends, Laurel will again be dead in the Arrowverse. That is, until "Arrow's" midseason premiere. Wait -- what?
Executive producer Wendy Mericle told TV Guide that Laurel is in fact coming back to the show. "I can definitely tell you that there's a way we're going to bring her back, and she's going to be alive and well. And Flashpoint might have a little bit to do with that." That also coincides with Cassidy's new contract, which allows her to appear on all of The CW shows, including "The Flash" and "DC's Legends of Tomorrow." With Laurel coming back, does this give "Arrow" the chance to hit the reset button with this character? Is there a way for them to fix this Black Canary storyline and give her a proper place on the series again? Hopefully so.
With Laurel returning in some mysterious way in the second half of the season, "Arrow" could make some course corrections for her character. Black Canary could receive the homage she deserves, especially as she approaches her 70th anniversary.
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.