Arrow: Why Laurel Lance Deserves Better
April 7th, 2016 | by Tatiana Hullender
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.
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.
Tatiana Hullender is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Foller her on twitter at: @MyrcellasEar