Batman and Robin. Ant-Man and the Wasp. Power Man and Iron Fist. Cloak and Dagger. In the comic books and in other media, certain superhero team-ups become synonymous with the very knowledge of those characters.
Though they have spent a lot of time apart, DC Comics’ Green Arrow and Black Canary are another one of those pairings. When The CW’s Arrow killed off Dinah Laurel Lance, the Black Canary’s alter ego as played by Katie Cassidy, in an episode last season, there were a fair amount of fans who responded as though one of the story’s sacred texts had been violated. After all, you’d think a Green Arrow TV show would end with a Black Canary partnership, whether romantic or not.
The producers of Arrow seemed to realize the same thing at some point. “It’s hard to do a show about Green Arrow without having a Black Canary,” Executive Producer Wendy Mericle said in an interview posted at TVLine.com earlier this month. At the time, many fans assumed that she was referring to the returning Katie Cassidy who appeared in the show’s January 25th episode. As viewers saw — spoiler warning here — Katie wasn’t playing the Laurel Lance that we all knew, but instead was the villainous Black Siren of Earth-2, a holdover from Season 2 of The Flash. Taking things a step further, the episode titled “Who Are You?” actually ended with someone else using a Black Canary-like scream: Tina Boland, a new character being played by The Walking Dead’s Juliana Harkavy. Since it’s a day that ends with a “Y,” some Arrow fans are not too happy about that.
Tonight’s episode of Arrow is called “Second Chances,” and in it, we get to see and learn more about this Tina Boland character. More specifically, we know that Laurel’s dying wish was that she wouldn’t be the last Canary, and we know that Oliver and Felicity will be looking for a replacement. Trailers have shown that Tina and Team Arrow will be meeting, and it probably won’t go well at first. Naturally, an instinct is that such a storyline may be disrespectful to actress Katie Cassidy, who put so much of her life and training to become Arrow’s Black Canary, but I actually don’t have that feeling. From my perspective, Arrow is just giving us some slices of the DC Universe that we were always expecting, but in new and exciting ways.
There are a few things to consider as far as this storyline goes: For one, the Black Canary of Arrow that we have seen so far, at least in Earth-1, doesn’t have a metahuman scream. This character seems to.
Also, we don’t necessarily know that “Tina Boland” is this character’s real name at all. In current “New 52” comic book continuity, as she was in the Golden Age, the Black Canary is Dinah Drake. Could “Tina Boland” be an alias? And taking it a step further, if she got her scream at the time of the S.T.A.R. Labs reactor explosion, wouldn’t that mean Dinah Drake precedes the Dinah Laurel Lance “Black Canary,” therefore matching the comics after all in that Dinah Drake was an earlier Canary that preceded Dinah Laurel Lance? (Don’t ask – it’s complicated).
Another thing to consider: While Tina clearly didn’t grow up with Oliver and have the same history that Laurel did, how are we to know she doesn’t have a tie to another character from Oliver’s past, for example Talia al Ghul, who just came to the show as played by actress Lexa Doig? And, heck, in any version of the comics, Black Canary and Green Arrow never knew one another until they were adults anyway.
As someone who has enjoyed Arrow from the start, and someone who really appreciated what Katie Cassidy brought to the role (particularly in seeing her journey to becoming a Black Canary) I am completely fine with the choice of a new Black Canary, provided Cassidy wasn’t disrespected in the process. I don’t feel she has been. Nothing is saying that the Black Siren can’t have her “redemption arc” later in the series. The show has already welcomed Katie back, and I’d assume they will continue to do so whenever she may be available. But if Katie is unavailable, should we really have a show with no Black Canary? It’s also exciting to me to possibly see a character who is fully formed with complete control of her powers. Best of all, it puts the Black Canary — an important part of the Green Arrow mythos — back on the table. With Speedy working in the mayor’s office and Felicity the only female representation on the team at the moment, she would certainly add a lot.
I’m going into these next episodes of Arrow with a very open mind, and I hope others will as well. This could be a very exciting time to be watching the show; essentially, let’s not freak out that it’s something bad until we’ve actually seen it. A new Black Canary does not take away from the contributions that Katie Cassidy made in the first four seasons of the show. Laurel will always be a part of the show’s DNA, and so will Katie Cassidy. A new Black Canary doesn’t take away from the possibility of “Olicity” getting back together. But it could continue the already positive movement toward being the vigilante drama we all know Arrow can be.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights on The CW