Wednesday night witnessed the demise of one of my favorite characters on TV right now. And I am, honestly, still grieving. I’d known/suspected that Laurel Lance was going to be in the grave when we saw the Arrow season 4 premiere for a while now. Photos from the set were leaked that eliminated all doubt. Laurel was definitely going to die. But I could not accept it. Every time a paparazzi shot was leaked, I found an illogical justification behind it that always ended with, “Laurel’s not dying.” Stage 1: Denial.
And then the episode, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine,” aired. And Laurel definitely died. Stage 2: Anger.
The episode would have probably been one of my all-time favorite Laurel Lance episodes if only it didn’t feel so freakin’ contrived.
“Eleven-Fifty-Nine” gave us the Laurel Lance we’ve wanted since day one – as if it were a reward for LL-enthusiasts who’d been there since the start. We got to see her kick-ass. We got to see her ponder the possibility of becoming a justice-serving DA by day and a justice-enforcing Black Canary by night (and dammit, that would be have been a great logline for a spinoff), and we got to see her be one-half of one of the most cherished and loved Classic DC couples.
It showed us just how much her teammates appreciated her with Felicity calling her “the strongest” woman she knew and Oliver calling her his “home” in an island flashback.
The episode gave us a glimpse of what the show could have been if Laurel had been written for and served properly by Arrow’s execs (who lost almost all understanding and handle of the character when they realized Felicity Smoak would make a more popular love interest for Oliver Queen). The episode gave us an idea of how much potential the show’s wasted by sidelining Laurel Lance for the last three seasons. The episode was almost Felicity-free, and in one of the scenes, Laurel filled for her as Oliver’s whiteboard, “talk to me,” she told him. And the scene worked SO well. It made all the sense in the world for Laurel to be the one Oliver listened to. And all of that was so completely frustrating (as much as it was entertaining & tugging at my heart-strings) because it highlighted just how much Laurel Lance had been misused over the last few years.
But the truth is: Despite how much I enjoyed the send-off, it felt canon-divergent. Some of the most wonderful scenes in the episode (especially those Oliver/Laurel-related) did not feel completely earned because the show has continuously refused to acknowledge Laurel’s potent presence in its universe and that out of all the members of Team Arrow (aside from Thea), Oliver had known her the longest. She’d been part of his life for so long. But ever since Felicity appeared on Arrow, the show chose to conveniently forget that. It chose to disregard season 1 completely (where the only person Oliver cared for – again, beyond Thea – was her.) The episode ended with Laurel telling Oliver, “Ollie, I know I’m not the love of your life, but you will always be the love of mine.” And while I believe that, while this is my head-canon, the show has never conveyed that it believes so, too. It was just convenient, for the plot, that it believes it in that episode.
And that’s because all of these monumentally sentimental scenes were building up to that very last moment in the episode: her death. And the reality of the matter is, despite being this show’s supposed female lead, Laurel became a mere cannon fodder, a soldier whose death will motivate the army and push them forward. That’s the sensible explanation behind all the fringe emotional build-up in the episode. Laurel’s death will motivate the rest of the team to unite and finally defeat Damien Darhk. It will motivate Oliver to do whatever Laurel asked him to do right before she died. Her death is an emotional catalyst. And this is all too maddening because it confirms what we’ve all known for years: Laurel Lance/The Black Canary is expendable as far as the writers are concerned. She’s the Disposable Woman. And, man, that pisses me off beyond belief.
I have not reached Stage 3: Bargaining yet, but when I start tweeting the writers to make Sara time-travel and save Laurel or for Earth-2 Laurel Lance to stay in Earth-1 for more than one episode, that’s when you’ll know I’m there.
I was emotionally invested in the story of Laurel Lance/Black Canary the second the show was picked by The CW four years ago. And then Katie Cassidy was cast to play her and I was even more excited because Cassidy is such a great actress when given great roles. And while the show effed up with the character A LOT during the last four seasons (i.e portraying her as a bitch with an ax to grind when her cheating ex-boyfriend started dating her sister or when she was regarded as weak and wrong for being mentally ill) we ultimately got a Laurel Lance that loved life, that fought for justice and people in need, that triumphed over addiction, that needed no man to become powerful, and that became a badass superhero. She turned grief into strength and became the damn BLACK CANARY (That scene when she grasped her mask and said, “one last time,” killed me). Laurel Lance never took shit from anyone. She always fought for what she wanted, always fought for what is right. I’m definitely going to miss her, and I don’t know if Arrow is ever gonna be the same without her.