The return of Arrow last week stirred in me feelings from the previous season and opened old wounds (#foreversalt), so I thought I’d share an old post I wrote for my personal blog here.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T CAUGHT UP ON THE SHOW
Also, profanity up ahead. Proceed with caution.
I stayed up late last night thinking about how I haven’t watched the Arrow season 4 finale yet (yeah I know way behind), but truthfully, I’ve been avoiding it because I’m still salty about the death of Black Canary. Oh shit sorry, SPOILERS GUYS!
Obviously writing a show is hard. There’s pressure to write an entirely self-contained 45-minute story from week to week and film it and get it out. But, on the other hand, it’s not like they start the writing process the week before the season starts and go balls out with production. I know there’s a storyboarding room and details get hammered out for a cohesive plot line. So, with that in mind, why did they feel the need to kill Black Canary?
I get that the situations these characters are in are high stakes, and that means, people can die. Fine. It happens. I suppose I can’t think of an alternative high stakes consequence for Team Arrow to suffer other than the loss of a team member. But does losing a team member necessarily mean they have to die? (See Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD as an example of an emotional exit without death).
And that’s exactly the thing, isn’t it? Of course, if everyone always ends up coming out alright in the end, there’s no impactful consequence and things get boring. However, it is my opinion that lately TV creators and many TV critics are under the impression that the only way to have an impact is to kill a character. I’ve seen it in several reviews when people say things like, “If no one ever dies, what are the stakes? What’s the point? Why should these characters matter if they always make it out alive?”
So, in response, perhaps the writers of TV shows feel they need to shock the audience, and what bigger shock than killing off a beloved character (like Abby in Sleepy Hollow?! Excuse me?!). They’re not wrong; it is shocking, but is shocking the only way to get a visceral, emotional reaction from the audience? If that’s what you think, then clearly you don’t understand the spectrum of human emotion (might I recommend watching Inside Out to get a pretty damn good representation about the complexity of emotions and how they intermingle?)
The way I see it, if death is the only valuable consequence, that kind of invalidates the point of living and fighting. Loss, grief and pain are feelings that can be achieved through other high stakes consequences (again, see Agents of SHIELD regarding season 1 finale with the revelation of Grant Ward’s betrayal to the team).
Okay, fine, so I can’t come up with an alternative solution to killing off Black Canary. We’ll accept it and embrace that she is dead and gone. RIP Laurel Lance.
But here’s where I got really peeved with the way she died. She goes down in a fight against Damien Darhk, fighting as the Black Canary, doing what she believes is right, opposing a force of evil who is threatening her beloved city, and the last words the audience hears her say are, “Oliver, I may not have been the love of your life, but you were the love of mine.”
I’m having Teen Wolf flashbacks of the death of Allison, but let’s not go there right now. So, I know she says something else to Oliver before she dies, but we don’t know what it is. What we do know, is after all the shit she’s gone through and growth and progress she’s made to become a hero in her own right, she dies reminding the audience, “Remember I’m Ollie’s ex-girlfriend!” Even though their romantic relationship felt complete and resolved pretty much by the end of season 2 or 3 (I can’t remember which). Regardless, this whole season and probably for most of season 3 if I recall correctly, Laurel and Oliver are at a point in their relationship where they have a solid friendship that has moved past their romantic history.
So where in fuck’s name did that line come from?! Also, side note, it was a little hurtful I think to have her say Oliver was the love of her life because, I don’t know, she seemed to have a pretty good thing going with Tommy. Yeah, remember him? The guy that literally died crushed under a building’s debris so he could save Laurel from getting killed? I’m sure that line wasn’t meant to throw away Tommy and Laurel’s relationship, but it sure felt like he’d been momentarily forgotten.
Anyway, back to my salt. Look, I’m not saying Laurel’s love for Oliver (or Tommy!) is invalid. Of course it matters and it’s a huge part of her identity and history, and in certain ways that love has propelled her to where she ended up. But let’s be honest, if Laurel Lance had a true epic love of her life, it wasn’t any man; it was justice. She was dedicated to fighting for those without power and standing up for the city and the people that she loved. That was clear from the beginning when the show started with her as a low-paid lawyer working in a dinky law firm that serves the underprivileged.
Sure, she may have lost her way at one point, giving in to anger and fear that led her down the path of addiction and then to become the Black Canary for the maybe not so right reasons, but at the end of the day, she found her way back to righteousness and continued fighting as the Black Canary so that she could protect and serve. Laurel was married to justice and doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing from the beginning, even if she weaved in and out of that lane a bit at times.
So fine, she died because I guess “that’s where the story took them [the writers],” but did she have to die as Ollie’s ex-girlfriend after having gone down in battle as superheroine Black Canary? After the roller coaster story line she’d been given to live and fight and survive through, she deserved more than that in her death.