Goodbye Laurel Lance –You Deserved Better
Try as I might I have found it impossible to write a quippy review covering all of the usual nonsense in an Arrow episode. Rather than inspire me to put fingers to keyboard, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I cannot shake. It’s as if the arrow that pierced Laurel Lance in the gut hit me there too. My emotions are a jumble of guilt, disgust, and sadness. I never liked Laurel much so what right to I have to mourn her now? Well, maybe because with her death, Arrow has killed off yet another female character – and worse, a character that only recently has been allowed to realize her purpose.
It’s no secret that Arrow has not known what to do with Laurel Lance since day one. Despite years of comic book canon at their disposal, Arrow writers opted to build Laurel’s character around Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow rather than start her off with an independent hero’s journey of her own. There is nothing wrong with this creative choice in and of itself, yet it ended up doing a disservice to Black Canary – an iconic superhero in her own right. As Laurel Lance struggled to find her footing within Oliver Queen’s story so too did the audience. Laurel’s cold exterior did nothing to complement Oliver’s and added little joy to the Arrow canvas.
Laurel’s most compelling raison d’être, her identity as Black Canary, stayed out of reach far too long. After several false starts including the introduction of her captivating younger sister Sara in Season Two, showrunners allowed Laurel’s super hero persona to take flight only recently. For some fans it might feel convenient to blame Laurel’s often-downward-rarely-upward trajectory on the appearance of Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity Smoak. An honest assessment of Laurel’s storyline, however, reveals that from Arrow’s inception writers gave Laurel little to do and few places to go. Fan complaints should not be with Rickards; rather they should be with showrunners who in a spectacular example of creative stagnation determined that Laurel would serve the story better dead than alive.
Arrow has a habit of killing its female characters. And not just killing them, making sure they die at the hands of men, unable to defend themselves. This pattern began with Shado, continued most egregiously with Moira Queen, and now Laurel Lance. Arrow did not simply send Laurel to her grave at the mercy of Damien Darhk. Instead, the show stripped her of her physical and intellectual power, forced her to stand mute and paralyzed with fear in her eyes, while Darhk’s arrow ripped through her. Even her canary cry stayed silent. Moira Queen died much the same way with her hands tied behind her back, as Slade plunged a sword into her abdomen.
The specific circumstances of Laurel’s death undercut and nearly negate the lengths Arrow went to turn her into Black Canary – a highly skilled warrior more than able to defend herself, and fight alongside Green Arrow. Showrunners do not chart a new creative path for themselves or their remaining characters by killing off Laurel Lance. Instead, they fall prey to a tired cultural pattern in which women’s storylines are shunted aside or fridged in favor of a male’s.
If I want to see a powerful man maim, murder, and discard a woman unable to defend herself I can watch any number of generic crime dramas. I hang out in the Arrowverse to see capable men and women fight the bad guys. There is little more insulting to Laurel and her fans than determining her character has become so irrelevant to the story that her death holds more interest than the life she might have led. Arrow did not even grant Black Canary the dignity of dying as she lived – as a fighter. While Laurel Lance has never been a favorite of mine, she deserved the chance to become one.