When I often ask myself about the appeal of superheroes to our society, I think about what they represent: hope, love, and protection. But I also think about what makes them so viable: they are representative of us.
While superheroes are often viewed as these indestructible forces of good that always prevail against the forces of evil, the fact of the matter is that heroes don’t always win. Sometimes they lose. Sometimes they fall.
Superheroes are not invincible despite the way in which they carry themselves acting as a beacon of hope and protection for a city that often doesn’t ask for it but also couldn’t imagine life without. Heroes owe us nothing, and yet they give us everything. And sometimes they sacrifice their life for us.
Such was the case for Arrow, where Laurel Lance (aka the Black Canary) met a tragic end as she was fighting the very evil that threatened Star City when Damien Darhk fulfilled a dark promise he made to Quentin Lance in the season premiere by killing his daughter. It was an emotional episode that left the characters and audience in tears and the future in question as the team must now deal with this heartbreaking loss.
Laurel’s death has been met with a lot of anger and criticism with some enraged fans claiming that there’s no Arrow without Laurel. But the fact of the matter is that Arrow is centered on one person’s journey: Oliver Queen. While Arrow is by no means all about Oliver – as we’ve seen with the exploration of the members of Team Arrow and their significance to this show – but it does revolve around him. Everything that happens has some kind of connection to him. In a high stakes world of crime fighting, where our heroes go up against mystical forces like Damien Darhk, the only one safe on Arrow is Oliver Queen. And even he died for a hiatus during season three.
But the death of Laurel Lance, the Black Canary, doesn’t spell an end for Arrow. In fact, it begins a new chapter.
I understand that there is outrage over Laurel’s death. Her fans, rightfully so, are angered over the death of their favorite character; a character that they assumed would always be safe in this world because she was the Black Canary. I won’t deny that I’d have been equally outraged if it had been Felicity or Diggle that had been in the grave because of how much they mean to me. So I understand their anger over Laurel’s death, but let’s make it clear: Arrow does not end with Laurel’s death. Her death is a significant plot point that will make her character more relevant than it has been all this season.
The fact of the matter is that Laurel had to be the one to die. Laurel had to die because her death was significant in a way that impacted everything and everyone on this show, whether it was Team Arrow or Quentin or the legal system. Her death isn’t something that’s going to be easily dismissed. It’s going to drive the rest of the season as it combats with character relationships, dynamics, and Darhk’s ultimate demise.
Also let’s not forget about the other characters on this show whose stories will live on long after Laurel’s death. This show was never called “Black Canary.” This has never been solely about one person. But if it was it wouldn’t have been Laurel — it would be Oliver, whose show this actually is.
I’ve seen a lot of talk about Laurel’s death being a “fake-out” or “temporary,” but the fact of the matter is that the executive producers have said from the get-go that this death is permanent. They cemented it with the destruction of the Lazarus Pit, which ironically was due to Laurel’s determination to save her sister Sara, which she ultimately did. There is no coming back from the dead for Laurel. Sure, she’ll appear on an episode of The Flash later this season as he Earth-2 doppleganger and even voice herself on Vixen’s second season, but the Laurel Lance we knew is not coming back. And it has to be this way.
But the thing is that had her death been a fake-out or something that she ultimately is resurrected from, her death means nothing. It loses all meaning. Her death isn’t something to be glossed over. It’s not something that the characters will easily get over. It’s something that will inspire them. It’s something that will make them better. Team Arrow will honor Laurel Lance the way she honored them and this city. They will fight in her memory and they will do it as the heroes that she knew them to be.
The thing with superhero stories on the small and big screens is that we don’t often see heroes die. It’s not that I want to see these symbols of hope fall to the darkness we fear, but there is no shame in dying. Whether as a hero or an ordinary person. It’s the ultimate sacrifice. Death doesn’t negate your strength, your reputation, or your importance. There is meaning in death. No matter how hard it might be to deal with.
A hero is someone who has given their life to something bigger than them. Arrow will live on without Laurel Lance, but she will be honored in death as she was in life. And Laurel’s sacrifice will not be forgotten.