This is part of a series of articles about tonight’s episode of Arrow, titled “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.” If you are not on the East Coast and have not seen tonight’s show, read no further!
Tonight’s game-changing episode of Arrow killed off a character who has been with the show from the beginning — Laurel Lance, a.k.a. the Black Canary, as played by Katie Cassidy.
Earlier this week, we attended a Q&A with Katie as well as Executive Producers Marc Guggenheim & Wendy Mericle and fellow actor Paul Blackthorne, who plays Captain Quentin Lance on the show. You can find all of the post-mortem interviews here. For the post, let’s shine the spotlight on Guggenheim, who talks about why the decision was made.
“Arrow is always a show that’s evolving,” Guggenheim said as soon as he was asked why the show decided to kill Laurel. “It’s always a show where every character, arguably except for the Arrow, is fair game. We started off this year with the promise of a death, and when we worked our way through our various different creative choices, we realized that the thing that will give us the most pop going into the end of the season and into next season, unfortunately, would be Laurel,” he said.
“We knew that it would enrage a lot of people,” he acknowledged, assuring that online reaction is not what caused the death of the Canary. “We’re not immune to the ‘shipping,’ and we’re not immune to the internet controversy — when I say immune, we’re not blind to it — but we’ve never made decisions on the show, creatively, because of the internet. One of the things we knew people would think is, ‘Oh, well in the season where Oliver and Felicity get engaged and Laurel dies, that’s clearly making a choice about who’s gonna end up with who!’ Truth be told, we told the Laurel/Oliver romance story in Season 1. We never really thought about going back to it. So, the ‘shipping’ thing was not an element; it was not a factor for us. We recognize that that upsets a lot of fans, particularly the comic book fans who [know] in the comics, Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen are – depending on which version of the character you like, are in a romance together, in various iterations. That, to some people, is considered canonical and iconic, and we respect that, but at the same time, we’ve always made no bones about the fact that we are telling our own version of the Green Arrow mythos,” he explained.
“Green Arrow has had so many interpretations, and Black Canary has had so many interpretations over the years, that we never felt beholden to one particular interpretation, and this is our interpretation, like it or not, and I recognize that there are plenty of people up and down my Twitter feed who do not like it. Totally respect that. But, it made the most creative sense for us going forward, despite the fact that we absolutely love Katie,” he said, adding that death doesn’t necessarily mean “goodbye” on any of their shows…. in fact, Katie will be appearing on an episode of The Flash later this season as well as Season 2 of the Vixen series on CW Seed.
With that said, and knowing that there are fans who might not be happy, Guggenheim stands by the show’s creative choice. “We made a creative choice, and we’re sticking to it,” he said. “We’re recognizing that Black Canary and Laurel have an incredibly loyal fan base, and Katie has an incredibly loyal fan base, but the show has never been just about the comic book history. It’s never been just about one or two different particular fan bases. We make the creative choices we feel benefit the show as a whole, and the story that we’re telling, overall.” But, fans wanting more Green Arrow/Black Canary might look to the possibilities of what might happen as a result of us meeting Katie’s “Black Siren” of Earth-2 in her episode of The Flash. “Seeing Laurel in a parallel universe, there’s a world where we [could] do an episode where Oliver Queen meets the Laurel Lance of Earth-2. That’s now on the table. Time travel is now on the table. So as the shows evolve, so has death. Again, I’ll leave it to you to decide if death is more or less impactful as a result,” Guggenheim said. Since Laurel said something to Oliver before she died — and Guggenheim insists that it wasn’t something like ‘she asked Oliver to euthanize her’ – one might wonder if the death was faked… a notion Guggenheim shoots down. “No. We’ve done that. We’ve done a fake death before,” he said. As for what was said? We will find out what Laurel told Oliver in Season 5.
What’s next? We will see Laurel in flashbacks in the next episode, and certain characters will have different reactions to Laurel’s passing. “Diggle, especially, like he says in the hospital, he will never forgive himself,” Guggenheim recalled. “I would say that the biggest consequences, emotionally, are felt by Thea and by Diggle. Of course, obviously Oliver and Felicity, and Lance… everyone’s also having their own reactions… [but with] Diggle, you can draw a straightish line from his decisions in this episode to Laurel’s death, and that’s certainly a fact that’s not lost on him,” he explained. We will also see the reaction of Laurel’s sister Sara, in an upcoming episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
“Sara will find out in Legends about what happened with Laurel. I think we give it its due,” Guggenheim confirmed. “We always said on Legends that we were not gonna shy away from this development as far as Sara’s character is concerned, and Paul [Blackthorne] was very gracious to lend his time to Legends, to really allow us to explore that.” And even though the body isn’t even cold yet, is the Black Canary costume up for grabs? “I don’t know if I’d say ‘up for grabs’,” Marc responded. “I haven’t even had a chance to really discuss this with Wendy or with Greg. It’s a mantle that multiple people have had. We’ll play with that notion in Episode 19 [this season]. I personally like the idea that DC Comics all have the concept of legacy in them. We’ve seen on Legends, that someone picks up Oliver Queen’s mantle, for example. That doesn’t always mean that the person is a hero. 19 is the answer to that question.”
In the end, Guggenheim wanted to praise what a “class act” Katie Cassidy is. “She’s such a pro. Coming to work every day after we had this discussion and giving 120% and being gracious, and sweet, and a joy to collaborate with… it’s hard for us. Even though we’re not in Vancouver, we go to work with her in our own way. We’re constantly on the phone, or texting back and forth. We will miss doing that on a regular basis. But like I said earlier, dead is not goodbye, and we’re still working together.”
As for the legacy of Laurel Lance? “Someone had pointed out to me that with Arrow, when we publish the DVD boxes, it doesn’t say ‘Green Arrow, and Speedy, and Spartan, and Black Canary.’ It says ‘Oliver, and Diggle, and Thea, and Laurel.’ On this show, we really always start with who these characters are before they put on the mask, and I think Katie has so embodied Laurel. Even when she’s wearing the mask, you feel like ‘oh. That’s Laurel Lance. That’s this good person who’s doing good things.’ She just changes up her methodology for how to make the world a better place. Laurel Lance, always trying to save the world.”