***Spoilers follow for anyone not caught up on tonight’s episode.***
Arrow certainly shook things up on tonight’s episode, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine”, with the death of a major character and the reveal that a minor one has been up to no good for some time. The death we saw coming since Season 4 opened with an end-of-premiere stinger scene that showed Oliver grieving over a fresh grave; the identity of the person in the grave, however, was a matter of discussion. Heck, the mystery even gave rise to a poll about who just might be in the grave, one which had wildly different results than who the showrunners would ultimately kill off.
Yes, on tonight’s episode, a member of Team Arrow passed away in a rather violent way, though not before getting a chance to have a few last words at the hospital bedside. While the loss of this character and actor will have unforeseen repercussions going forward with the rest of Season 4, one thing is certain: Damien Darhk’s days are numbered. Let’s get into it.
To understand some of the events of tonight’s episode, we’ll have to pay a brief visit to the flashback sequence on Lian Yu. Remember that Oliver and Taiana were attempting to escape Reiter’s clutches in the caves while also hoping to liberate the remaining prisoners before the madman could execute them. And remember that their sacrifices were meant to be done in tribute to an idol that would give Reiter phenomenal power. Instead, Oliver and Taiana turned their guns on the mercenaries themselves, then used some convenient C4 charges to collapse the cave with Reiter inside. There were two interesting things of note in these scenes: the first is that Reiter himself powered up just before the cave-in, so he might very well be alive; the second is that Taiana made Oliver promise to go to see her parents in Russia to tell them about her and her brother Vlad if she didn’t make it out alive. (Could we be going to Russia during the flashback sequences of Season 5?) Oliver then showed Taiana an old picture of Laurel, to whom Taiana promised to deliver a message should Oliver die on the island. It remains to be seen just who, beyond Oliver, ever escapes Lian Yu.
Reading between the lines, however, it’s easy to see that this would be Laurel Lance’s, and by extension Katie Cassidy’s last episode. Flashback Oliver showing a soft spot for his ex-girlfriend coupled with the fact that Laurel was gearing up for one last go-round as the Black Canary before hanging up the mask to become newly elected Mayor Ruvé Adams’ District Attorney…you just saw the writing on the wall. The manner in which her death would play out was rather mishandled, which is actually a testament to how the writers have struggled with the character of Laurel Lance since Season 1.
Equally telegraphed in this episode was the eventual betrayal of a relatively minor character on Arrow, that of John Diggle’s brother Andy (Eugene Byrd). Viewers saw Andy speaking with Malcolm Merlyn in a previous episode, apparently caught between the reigning Ra’s al Ghul and Damien Darhk himself. While Andy’s behavior and dialogue in this episode was just ambiguous enough to keep viewers guessing as to where his allegiance actually fell, Oliver’s mistrust proved out over John’s brotherly loyalty. And the cost of Andy’s betrayal amounted to more that the restoration of Darhk to power; it ultimately cost Laurel Lance her life.
This entire episode revolved around the powerful idol that turns blood sacrifice into ultimate power for whoever prays to it. Oliver, who had seen that same idol wield deadly force on Lian Yu, decided to piece it all back together and store it in his lair–which Malcolm Merlyn, Magician and Master of the Shadows, had easy access to…–with one important exception: a certain stone that would complete the idol and allow it to grant its power. Only two people knew the location of this stone: Oliver and John Diggle…until John blabbed to Andy that he had hidden it to keep it safely away from Darhk. Oliver is convinced that Andy is playing his brother, but Little Diggle’s duplicitous nature gave the rest of the team pause and forced John’s hand against his longtime friend and partner in favor of siding with his brother.
In the end, Oliver was right. Andy handed the stone over to Darhk during a prisoner break-out at Iron Heights, giving the devious magician the upper hand and a new team of soldiers to boot. With a parting shot, Darhk made good on his promise to Quentin Lance, that he would kill his daughter should the former Captain ever betray him. Darhk stabbed Laurel (nearly) to death, but unwisely let the rest of Team Arrow live, for some reason. And while Green Arrow (still in costume) carried Black Canary (still in costume) to the hospital instead of the Arrow cave for the first time pretty much ever, I’m happy to ignore the fact that the trauma team didn’t seem to notice that Star City’s A.D.A. had been masquerading as the Black Canary. (Damien Darhk now knows Team Arrow’s identities, so it follows that all of Star City might know them soon, as well.) The more important part was what happened next.
Rather than dying in the heat of battle, an event that would have really hit home how dangerous and unpredictable their vigilante lifestyle really is, Laurel got a chance to say goodbye to her friends and have a heart-to-heart with Oliver. (Not with her father, mother, nor sister, however…) While Laurel was happy that Oliver found Felicity and hoped that he’d find his way back to her, Laurel then admitted that he was the love of her life, even if the reverse wasn’t true. The curious bit of dialogue here was when Laurel asked Oliver to promise her something, but whatever that was isn’t heard as she told it to him off-screen. Then, in typical soap opera fashion, Laurel had a seizure, flatlined, and was pronounced dead at 11:59. (This was a tough scene to watch, but Quentin’s wordless reaction was even tougher.)
I don’t think the writing team ever truly had a handle on Laurel Lance. She’s gone from jilted girlfriend, to drunken mess, to vigilante-in-training, only to finally emerge as a confident fighter (and lawyer) in this fourth season. And then they kill her off without any rhyme or reason. Perhaps her death is just another chink in the armor of Team Arrow which, in Oliver’s own words, is already falling apart. Perhaps it was meant to remove any potential love triangles involving Oliver and Felicity. Or maybe it’s just because the writers couldn’t find anything useful for her to do anymore, but also chose not to shift her character to another show. Whatever the reason, she’s gone.
And so passes Laurel Lance/Black Canary from Earth-1. Team Arrow is sure as Hell going to take their vengeance out on Andy Diggle, Malcolm Merlyn, and Damien Darhk when the season returns later this month, but one wonders just how far they’ll take things. There’s an opportunity here to go really dark. For example, Thea had Malcolm–arguably the baddest of the bads on this series–pinned beneath her blades, but hesitated. There’s room in the script here for Team Arrow to go truly vigilante, like Punisher-level, but I don’t see The CW going there. Andy Diggle, Malcolm Merlyn, and especially Damien Darhk deserve death if only to prevent an exponentially increasing amount of bloodshed with the innocents of Star City paying the price. The question isn’t whether or not Team Arrow could do the deed, it’s whether or not the writing staff will let them.
If you want more on this episode, what it means for Katie Cassidy, and where you can get your fix of Laurel Lance in the future, check out these links:
- ‘Arrow’ EPs and Stars on That Shocking Grave Reveal and Whether Dead Means Dead
- ‘Arrow’ Star Katie Cassidy to Guest Star on ‘The Flash’ and ‘Vixen’
Rating: ★★★ Good
Merlyn: “A magician never reveals his secrets.”
Darhk: “Don’t be so high-handed.” Is Merlyn’s hand already healed somehow?
Darhk: “A father would do anything to protect his daughter from the dark.”
Diggle: “Not all men are like you, Oliver. Some of us change, some of us grow, some of us evolve. You’re stuck feeling pity and self-righteousness, and that is why Felicity left you.” Too far, Spartan!
Oliver: “This city has enough heroes with masks on. With Ruvé Adams as mayor, it needs a hero without a mask. It needs Laurel Lance.”
Laurel: “One last time.” R.I.P., Laurel Lance. We hardly knew you, but we’ll watch your return on The Flash and Vixen.
Darhk: “On the count of three, I’m going to turn that wall into a Jackson Pollack painting with his brains.”
Darhk: “I feel so much better!”
Darhk: “Miss Lance, nine months ago, I made your father a promise. I told him what I would do to you if he betrayed me. Now, I want you to give him a message. I want you to tell him…I’m a man of my word.”