Arrow: Why Laurel Lance Deserves Better

April 7th, 2016 | by Tatiana Hullender
Arrow: Why Laurel Lance Deserves Better
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Resident Arrow and Flash expert Tatiana Hullender lays out her case for why the writers of Arrow have done a disservice to one of her favorite characters, Laurel Lance.

The following article contains major spoilers for Arrow’s latest episode, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.” Also note that this is written from the perspective of someone who loves Laurel Lance, but feels very strongly that Arrow failed at writing Black Canary.

It is no secret that Laurel Lance has been a divisive character since she first appeared in the pilot episode of CW’s Green Arrow adaptation. Fans argue back and forth whether it was an issue of chemistry between the leads or a matter of poor writing, but Katie Cassidy’s character inspired passionate reactions, positive and negative. I’m not here to talk about whether Laurel was a good character or whether hatred of her is justified, though. Instead I’d like to question whether any character deserves the treatment she received at the hands of Arrow’s writers.

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The moment that the show changed her name from Dinah to Laurel, they began the unintentional process of alienating her from the core fan base. Yes, her name was still technically Dinah Laurel Lance, but audiences did not recognize the middle name as easily. This is not about catering to  comic book fans, who admittedly make up a small portion of the viewership – it is about giving an iconic character the chance to be recognized. Considering that they removed her from her superheroine status and saddled her with the backstory of a woman scorned, the least the writers could do was let her keep her name recognition. Instead, she was made out to be bitter towards the main character and completely out of the loop. And, because fans are going to take the male protagonist’s side even if he is in the wrong, pitting her against Oliver made her unbearable to the most vocal segment of the audience.

The issue of her character not fitting into the story was compounded when they did away with the romance between her and Oliver in season two. To be fair, this was the best choice creatively, but bringing in a new character to usurp both her romance and her story line was not the way to make fans warm to her. Sara is a wonderful character, but she is also basically Black Canary. Why was she needed if Laurel Lance was always intended to become a masked vigilante? Instead of allowing her to grow into the role naturally, the writing of her sister’s arc made it seem like Laurel was nothing more than a copy. She didn’t need to be attached to Oliver romantically to have worth as a character, but taking everything else away from her after that poorly executed love story was over made it seem like that was the case.

Arrow

Credit: Warner Brothers

When they finally did get around to Laurel’s Black Canary arc, it was undercut first by killing Sara off and later by resurrecting her. Viewers felt like Laurel was the one usurping the title, when it was meant to be hers. Fans even mocked her inconsistent fighting skills – which the writers appeared to forget she had since the first season. Despite the fitful start and the comparisons to her sister, however, Laurel Lance earned her place on team Arrow by the end of season three and a new chapter began.

Except this season proved that was not the case. Laurel was more in the background than ever. Her personal storylines barely registered or received any screen time at all. This is precisely why she seemed the obvious choice once it was revealed that a main character would find themselves in the grave: removing her from the story changes nothing fundamental about the show. That should never be true about the female lead who has been there from the pilot, even if she’s been a lead in name only for the last two years.

Once I reconciled myself to the fact that Laurel would be dying, I naively believed the writers would allow her to go out with a bang. She would die fighting for the city she loved, perhaps, and have a touching goodbye with the family she had fought so hard to keep together. Instead I was forced to watch a series of unwanted tropes in quick succession. First, Laurel is stabbed while she is completely helpless, and her stabbing has nothing to do with her or her actions. It is a message to her father for betraying the season’s villain, meaning that Laurel’s death is about a male character’s pain. Then her final moments are spent telling Oliver he was the love of her life, in a move so tone-deaf I’m surprised so many people allowed it to be filmed. It has been two seasons since Laurel showed any signs of having feelings for Oliver, and it has been even longer since he appeared to romantically care about her. Laurel’s journey has – for better or worse – occurred outside of his orbit for most of the show’s run. Why would any fan who loves her, or more importantly any writer who cares about her character, want to reduce her to Oliver’s old love interest in her final moments?

Yes, this show is about the Green Arrow, but it’s also about his team and the lengths they will go to in order to protect Starling City. Making Laurel Lance waste her last minutes of life reminiscing about her failed romance instead of battling her enemies or bonding with her family does a disservice to her story and to the show as a whole. The writers may claim they love both Katie and her character, but I hope that even those of us who did not care for her can agree that she deserved better.

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Tatiana Hullender is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Foller her on twitter at: @MyrcellasEar

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61 Comments

  1. micaelaj says:

    You touched on all the things I came to loathe about this show. The writers apparent ineptitude for writing their female characters and this was magnified with the way they chose to have Laurel exit and this is coming from a viewer who has never been that invested in the character ( due to the poor writing) bur I could still see how wrong on so many levels her death was and I hope thsee writers are able to learn from this and not make this mistake ever again. Women in fridges I’d a trope thar needs to die with the flames of 1000 suns. Arrow writers you have failed the black canary.

  2. RCM says:

    I’m sorry, but Cassidy’s interpretation of this character is an absolute travesty. Having to sit through four years of this character make a mockery of one of my favorite super heroines has been painful. Personally, I’m glad her death was so undignified, it was somewhat cathartic for me.

  3. Kevin Ford says:

    I agree completely. What makes it worse it’s that Laurel is not the first woman in this show to die only to further a man’s story. As a matter of fact, it happened way too much: Moira, Laurel, Sara, Shado, Waller, etc. It seems to me ARROW writers simply cannot write any female other than a love interest, which is Felicity’s only purpose in this show. ARROW has jumped the shark and there is no going back.

  4. Magyar Zoltán says:

    I was thinking that i’m the only one who does not like her as Black Canary her acting was so bad i could not even watch when she was in a scene and her Canary scream face was like someone was pulling her hair. Sara was so much better probably because she does not look like a broomstick,dresst in leder, i was afraid in fight scenes she would brake in a half. I was thinking when the show started maybe she would get better but after 4 years she is still bad

  5. Patricia says:

    I was pretty much never a fan of that character—it’s just —sometimes you connect w/a character and sometimes you just don’t. I never did. That said, I am VERY disappointed that she died like she did. I had hoped that it would be something like she was protecting Thea from the machinations of Malcolm, like Tommy died saving her. A heroic death. I’m sorry that didn’t happen. As you say, she did deserve better.
    Your review is the first “comic” based review I’ve read since the episode, that didn’t use it as a conduit of hate filled rhetoric against the relationship of Oliver & Felicity to further enflame the mob mentality currently occurring online. I appreciate that, even though I’m guessing you prob do hate it. But that’s fine–everybody likes different things. You’re also the first comic based reviewer that actually seems to have “seen” the show they’ve been showing. I appreciate that as well.

  6. Ugonna Wosu says:

    I don’t liked the helpless aspect, but she did die a hero . She was fighting bad guys along with the team.

  7. Kevin Ford says:

    But that’s not Cassidy’s fault. You can blame the writers for that.

  8. RCM says:

    I do blame Cassidy. I blame the writers too, the origin story they gave her in season 3 was one of the lamest I’ve ever seen. And their attempts to write her into the main story all fell completely flat. All the same, they offered a version of Green Arrow I usually find pretty interesting (not one of my fav characters typically, only really know him through Black Canary) so they’re off the hook for me on this one. I’m especially glad they finally realized their mistake and stopped trying to make her character work.

    Cassidy, on the other hand, has been an all consuming black hole of charisma on this show since the first episode. As an actress, I find her fraught, stiff and generally unpleasant. She never had a convincing dynamic, at least on this show, with any of the other actors except a bit with Paul Blackthorn. She looked absolutely ridiculous is the costume and fight scenes. The final nail in the coffin: it was actually her idea to have Laurel’s final words be about her romantic history with Oliver, which is one of the main issues this article complains about. All things considered, Cassidy did this character no favors.

  9. myrcellasear says:

    I actually don’t hate Olicity at all, promise. I never enjoyed the show’s iteration of Laurel and Oliver, and I think they made the right choice in changing course to Felicity. The mistake I think they made was replacing Laurel’s Black Canary arc with Sara instead.

  10. Kevin Ford says:

    Cassidy is the only actor who won an acting Award for Arrow.

  11. RCM says:

    Uh-huh… I hope she hugs that award tight when she considers the place her career is right not. I mean, she got booted off the leading lady position of a CW series, surely that can only indicate greatness in her future. Casting directors will look at her oeuvre comprised mostly of forgettable side characters that die in bad movies and say, “Sure, but she won that obscure award no one cares about for that addiction story everyone agreed was ridicules; quickly, offer her all the good parts.” I’m sure that Emmy is coming any day now.

    Awards are a dime a dozen in the entertainment business, and shouldn’t determine yours or anyone else’s opinions on something. It certainly doesn’t disqualify any of my very lucid critiques of her very bad job on Arrow.

  12. Kevin Ford says:

    Every actor on Arrow is pretty average at best. I don’t see your point. None of them are gonna make it big.

  13. RCM says:

    My point was simply that a silly award doesn’t make Cassidy’s performance on Arrow praiseworthy.

    With the exception of Cassidy, I’d say the actors often perform above the quality of the writing. I’m not sure if any of them will make it big, but two or three of them have a shot.

  14. Kevin Ford says:

    I’d say they’re pretty much average. That’s why they’re in the CW in the first place. Especially Amell, that boy has got zero acting skills.

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