‘Arrow’ 4×18 Review: ‘Eleven-Fifty-Nine’ (aka an Honorable Goodbye)

When it comes to Arrow there are moments that are significant. And then there are moments that are game changing. “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” was that episode for Arrow as it closed the book on one major hero and set its sights on what’s sure to be a gut-wrenching final five episodes as the rest of our characters deal with the fallout of this emotional goodbye.

Obviously if you’re reading this review I’m assuming you’ve already watched “Eleven-Fifty-Nine,” so you know that Arrow bid a tragic goodbye to Laurel Lance that provoked a whirlwind of emotion from the characters and audience alike.

With this episode being touted as a game changer that would see the death of a major character this was an episode that evoked strong performances from all of the actors, namely Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Stephen Amell, and Paul Blackthorne.

But Arrow lives on with Laurel’s death. While the show may have bid adieu to a major character that exists in the comics we need to remember that this is Oliver Queen’s story. The show lives and dies by him. So this show is far from over. But Laurel’s death will have a significant effect on the characters and this show moving forward that will show that even in death the Black Canary will continue to fly.

A Hero’s Journey Fulfilled

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It’s no secret that from the very beginning Laurel Lance has been a character often met with harsh criticism from critics and fans alike. But it’s also no secret that it was the result of the way that she was written. But there’s also no mistaking that the character of Laurel Lance has been controversial in this fandom for quite some time.

Laurel Lance came into Arrow as a woman who wanted to save the world, and that’s exactly what she gave her life to do. While she originally started her journey battling the evil scum of the world as a lawyer she eventually found her place as Black Canary where she fought alongside her friends and fellow heroes to save people. Laurel had a purpose in life, which was to protect those that needed it. And she gave her life protecting them from an evil that threatened them.

Laurel’s journey is one that has been long and arduous, but over this past season she has grown into a full-fledged superhero worthy of her Black Canary moniker. She’s proven herself as a fighter and as a valuable member of the team. She had fulfilled her hero’s journey, which is why it made sense for her to die.

The death that Arrow set up in the season premiere held huge implications and expectations for the fans. While the producers swore they didn’t know who was in the grave from the start, the entire season worked to set up Laurel’s rise and fall and cement her legacy as Black Canary.

While Laurel has been present since Arrow’s pilot back in 2012, she has never been a character that has been “safe” on a show where high stakes often translates to death. The only person that is safe – Oliver Queen, you know the person who Arrow is centered around – actually “died” for a hiatus. But Laurel’s death wasn’t meant to serve a ship (which is an utterly ridiculous claim), it was meant to be a catalyst for Team Arrow moving forward. Laurel’s death was significant; Laurel’s death will serve a purpose.

But it was evident from the start that this episode was all Laurel’s – and that it was setting up her demise. In fact, this entire season has been setting up the close of Laurel’s journey on the show. But “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” showcased Laurel’s heroic journey and ultimate sacrifice as she went against the likes of Damien Darhk and Malcolm Merlyn as a means to protect the city.

For me, Laurel has always been a controversial character because of how she’s been written. This was the woman that was Dinah Laurel Lance – the Black Canary – and at times it felt like the writers didn’t care about her.

But the most important thing about this death for me was that it was a satisfying one. Laurel found her purpose. While originally she thought her future rested in saving the world as a District Attorney, she learned in this episode that her destiny was to save people as the Black Canary. And that’s exactly what she did.

The thing is there’s no shame in a hero’s death. There’s honor. In fact, it’s not something that we see often enough on superhero shows or movies. The thing with heroes is that they are mortal; they are vulnerable; they can be defeated. That’s why we’re so drawn to heroes is because of what they represent. They represent hope, inspiration, and light in a world filled with so much darkness. But they’re no different from us, for the most part, other than the fact that they actively choose to put others lives before their own. That’s what makes them heroes. Their first instinct is to protect others.

So as Laurel went into Iron Heights alongside Oliver, Diggle, and Thea, she was fighting alongside her friends as a means to bring an end to an evil force that was threatening the people of her city. A hero doesn’t hesitate when it comes to stepping up. They act. And that’s exactly what Laurel did. Despite the threats from Damien Darhk, Laurel never backed down. She stepped up in the face of danger because heroes rise above. Heroes are symbols of hope and justice.

Coming into this episode I wanted the Arrow writers and the actors to make me cry over the death I knew was coming (thanks spoilers that I will always actively seek). And it very well accomplished that. This episode was building to that fateful moment and the hospital scene that followed as the Green Arrow carried the Black Canary into the hospital and how Oliver was the last person to speak to Laurel. About how the team had all gathered to essentially say goodbye (although they didn’t know that at the time). And we saw just how fleeting life and death can be when Laurel had an embolism that spelled her demise. In a way it was fitting that Laurel succumbed to something that hasn’t as a direct result of Damien putting an arrow to her chest. She died as a result of something that is so simplistic and can happen immediately even after everything seems fine.

But the moment that broke me completely was when Quentin came down the hall and saw Oliver’s face and he just knew. And he collapsed to his knees as the emotion of losing a daughter for the third time crashed down upon him with an insurmountable weight.

 

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If you know one thing about Quentin it’s this: He would lay down his life for his daughters. There is nothing in this damn world that he wouldn’t do to protect them. We saw just how far he was willing to go this season when Damien Darhk threatened Laurel’s life if he didn’t continue to help this man that was bringing ruin upon his city. There is no price too high, no action too large for Quentin when it comes to protecting his daughters. He’s lost a daughter now three times: Sara twice and now Laurel. And yet this man continues to fight through it. Quentin has experienced incredible heartbreak that no person should ever have to experience. And there’s nothing he could do to stop any of their deaths.

So as Laurel’s loved ones mourn her death – the start of which we’ll see on April 27 when Arrow returns from yet another hellatus – her presence will never be forgotten; her story never untold.

Laurel Lance might not have been a perfect character, but she had a fighting spirit that was inspiring and showed that she’s the hero that she had always set out to be. She just didn’t know her final destination. Her death was an honorable one. She went out the hero that she was destined to be. But now Laurel is with Tommy where she’s found a sense of peace and her fight is over. But the Black Canary will continue to fly even after her death.

A Brother’s Betrayal

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When it comes to Arrow, one of the central themes of the show is redemption. It has been from the start of Oliver Queen’s journey as we were met with a man that possessed great darkness and lacked humanity, and flash-forward four seasons and he’s a full-fledged superhero who has embraced his humanity.

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So when the show introduced Andy Diggle as John’s brother that had come back from the dead and was essentially a monster we were met with an interesting but familiar storyline. But it seemed as if after several episodes that Andy had made significant progress and had regained a bit of his humanity back that would be enough to ultimately prove to be his salvation.

It had been far too quiet on the Andy front for the past seven episodes after he had proven his loyalty to John and the team. So with last week’s tease about whether or not Andy may or maybe not have been H.I.V.E.’s ace in the hole, we were left questioning everything we had believed to this point. Had Andy really been redeemed? Or has he been a master magician this entire time as he convinced his brother that he was good enough to let him stay at his apartment where his wife and daughter slept?

Andy’s allegiance was an ongoing storyline in this episode as we the audience and Oliver was on going back and forth between whether Andy could be trusted or not. On the one hand Andy had proven his loyalty in saving his brother when they went up against Shadowspire, but then Andy had a resume of eight years under the control of Damien Darhk an H.I.V.E., which begs the question: Can people really change?

That was something that John Diggle really struggled with earlier in the season. After he discovered the truth about who his brother really was – which was not a good person – we saw John begin to question everything about what he believed. Suddenly his brother wasn’t his brother; he was the enemy. But after several weeks of progress we saw John come around to the idea that perhaps there was hope for his brother.

In this episode we saw John Diggle take a firm stance behind his brother. He had seen what Andy had become and he believed he had seen him come back from that darkness. The thing was that we had seen John be in that place that Oliver had been before. But it was Oliver that had told John that he had to trust his brother. It was Oliver that promised John that redemption was possible.

But we saw Oliver and John come to blows over Andy’s allegiance. While Oliver’s gut told him to be wary of Andy, Diggle had an unshakable trust in Andy that he would not turn away from. Diggle lashed out at Oliver about what it takes to be redeemed. While Oliver might believe that he’s not yet been redeemed — which is crap — Diggle believes that redemption is possible. And that caused Diggle to defend his stance despite Oliver’s beliefs. Because he was stuck in a place where you can’t evolve.

But as we saw at the end of the episode, Andy ultimately was playing a double-double-double agent as the relationship he had rebuilt with John had been a sham; a plan to worm his way into his heart; to build that sense of trust and ultimately use it to his advantage when the time called for it. And that time called for retrieving the missing piece of the totem that would give Darhk his magical abilities and ultimately spell trouble for Team Arrow in these final five episodes.

And that was the moment when John’s world came crashing down. John had put his faith, love, and trust into his brother. He believed that he had changed. He took his side over his other brother, Oliver. And he was repaid by a betrayal that will sting for a long time.

When it comes to redemption Arrow is a show that does it very well. We’ve seen it in all of these characters. While it might not be as big a journey as Oliver’s trek back from that island darkness, all of our characters have battled their way through their own islands. Redemption is possible, but only if you want it. And Andy Diggle does not want it.

How Will the Team Respond?

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Laurel’s death will serve as a catalyst moving forward for Team Arrow in these final episodes. But the most question to come out of this is: how will the team deal? Obviously each member of the team will feel guilty for Laurel’s death. Obviously Oliver will feel guilty because he’s Oliver; Diggle will feel guilty because of Andy; Felicity will feel guilty because she wasn’t with the team; Thea will feel guilty because perhaps she didn’t get there earlier; and Quentin will feel guilty because he wasn’t able to get to his daughter.

So obviously Team Arrow is going to be in a bad place when we return in three weeks. They’re going to be in shambles as they deal with the fallout of Laurel’s death. But ultimately they will come to a place where they honor Laurel’s death, although that won’t come right away. These final five episodes will be quite dark for the team, and they’re going to be tested. But ultimately they are heroes that overcome darkness and tragedy, and we will see our heroes rise up and honor their friend’s life and legacy.

Arrow returns Wednesday, April 27 with new episodes on The CW.

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