***This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Arrow “Eleven Fifty-Nine”***
Arrow has finally made good on their promise. In the first episode of the show’s fourth season, Arrow teased a death that would take place six months into the future. The death was to be so close to home that even Barry Allen took time off from battling Zoom to make it to Star City and console a broken Oliver. After months of speculation we were finally given the answer, and one thing is for sure:
Arrow, you have failed Dinah Laurel Lance.
Dinah Laurel Lance, also referred to as Black Canary, is one of the most gifted and skilled fighters in the DC Comics Universe. Personally, my first introduction to the character was on the animated Justice League Unlimited where she was portrayed beautifully and was a highlight of every show she was part of. Black Canary is truly one of the best female characters in all of comics.
So what happened?
Arrow failed Laurel Lance way back in its pilot episode when she was introduced as Oliver’s ex-girlfriend whom he cheated on multiple times. That’s how the show decided to introduce one of the most beloved comic book relationships of all time. Connecting her to Oliver’s backstory was their first misstep.
In season 2, the show decided to bring her sister, Sara, who was presumed dead since the first season, back to life and introduce her into the show as the Canary — who also wears black. Not only should this have been Laurel’s arc, but because she wasn’t yet privy to the fact that Oliver was the Arrow, she was given a separate arc in which she became an alcoholic (which actress Katie Cassidy won an award for). This did two things: first, it made Sara the show’s definitive Canary for a lot of fans — meaning they would never accept Laurel’s eventual transition into the role. Second, a large number of fans turned against Laurel for her addiction and her treatment of Sara.
In season 3, they fast-tracked Laurel’s Black Canary transition arc, having her fight members of the League of Assassins after just a few months of training in a gym with a former vigilante, Wildcat. This caused a lot of fans who were already anti-Laurel to scoff at the idea that she could stand up to such enemies.
In season 4, the show decided to bring Sara Lance back with the Lazarus Pit because… the Internet! They had the great idea of having Laurel be the one to resurrect her, thinking that having her bring a fan-favorite back to life would put her in the good graces of fans. Unfortunately, they made the circumstances around Sara’s resurrection strained and painted the act as a selfish one on Laurel’s part — even going so far as having Nyssa desperately try to stop her. Then they acted like they didn’t know why some people didn’t like Laurel.
Arrow has become a show of gimmicks. Sara’s death, Oliver’s death, Felicity’s paralysis…all reversed. It seems every season premier and mid-season finale the writers throw another gimmick at fans to keep them watching and speculating and to distract them from the lack of storyline, character development, and the fight choreography that seems to get worse each season.
Laurel Lance is a character that has been around for 70 years, some fans would have been angered by her death no matter how it happened. But the way that it actually went down ensures that all fans will be furious with the writers’ decision, because ultimately, her death was just another of Arrow’s trade-marked gimmicks. Laurel wasn’t given a warrior’s death, her death didn’t further the story in the least. It wasn’t honorable, it wasn’t gut-wrenching, it wasn’t well-written, it didn’t do anything for her character — she died because the writers decided that they wanted to implement another gimmick and they had no idea who would eventually draw the short straw.
Producer Marc Guggenheim has confirmed that he and the writers actually didn’t know which character would be in the grave when they originally shot the scene for the premier. How you start a season on a major cable network without knowing the ending is beyond me, especially in this scenario. Essentially, they wrote themselves into a corner and were forced to pull the trigger on this death even though it did nothing for the overall story. The episodes leading up to “Eleven Fifty-Nine” were Felicity-centric and Laurel was sidelined for most of the season, acting as the fifth member of Team Arrow. There was no lead-up, no dramatic build-up to this death — the writers decided that someone was going to die, then shoehorned it in where they saw fit.
To make matters worse, she didn’t even get to spend her final moments with her father, with whom she’s had an extremely rocky relationship throughout the first three seasons, but had finally achieved peace with. Why? We’ll never know. Guggenheim forgot.
I’ll be totally frank with you — I don’t remember. I just remember being in the writing room and pitching out this moment where Oliver walks out of the room, Lance comes around the corner, Lance sees the look on Oliver, and he immediately knows.
The most damning evidence that Guggenheim truly has no grasp of the character, though, comes when he essentially dwindles the Black Canary character down to a ship.
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, [I mean] we’re not blind to it. We’ve never made decisions on the show creatively because of the Internet.
First of all, there’s no doubt in my mind that some of the decisions they’ve made have been due to the Internet — in fact Guggenheim even admitted that Felicity’s code name “Overwatch” was suggested to him on the Internet. Secondly, to take a fan-favorite character of 70 years and act like she’s only worth as much as her “ship” is truly pathetic and disrespectful to not only her fans, and women everywhere, but those that created her and helped develop her over the years. The fact that Guggenheim was given creative control of a character with such a rich history which has been molded by dozens of skilled writers only to completely fail the character in every way possible is extremely disappointing.
To add salt to the wound for all of her fans watching, her final moments were used to prop up “Olicity” — you can’t make this stuff up.
So now the question is: Will the risk payoff? Will the show be revitalized from the shocking reveal or will Laurel’s fans band together and create a mass exodus that leads to a big drop in ratings? Guggenheim doesn’t seem too worried about the latter.
But at the end of the day we have to tell the story we’re telling and we did it in spite of what we imagine will be a loud response from a vocal minority.
So, at the end of the day Guggenheim thinks that the comic book and Laurel fandom is just a vocal minority and won’t hurt the show’s ratings much at all…we’ll have to wait and see about that.
Killing characters is fine and it’s something that all of these shows need to do to keep the viewers on edge, but the way they went about killing Laurel was the final nail in the coffin. This show has been plagued by terrible writing now for two seasons – writing that has completely ruined two potentially great villains and now a fan-favorite comic book character. With the latest gimmick done, I can officially say that I won’t be watching Arrow after this season.