[Warning: this story contains major spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Arrow, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.” Proceed at your own risk!]
Bye bye Birdie.
Arrow promised a major death this season, and it certainly didn’t hold back when it finally paid off that big mystery. The identity of the person in that flash forward grave from the season four premiere is none other than …Laurel Lance, a.k.a. Black Canary, one of the core Team Arrow members. Whoa. Regardless of online spoilers, raise your hand if you didn’t see that one coming?! Her death came at the hands of Damien Dahrk, paying off his threat to her father Quentin Lance that if he betrayed HIVE, he would lose a daughter.
Her death also was the result of Diggle’s brother Andy betraying him, because, as everyone predicted, he had been working with Dahrk and HIVE since the very beginning. There was no chance of redemption for him, despite how hard Diggle tried all season long. After more than a few questionable actions and lies, Oliver tried to prove to Diggle that Andy couldn’t be trusted, but after Andy took an arrow for Oliver and Diggle stood by his brother’s side and even pointing a gun at Oliver, the team decided once and for all to ultimately put their trust in Andy. That proved to be a fatal mistake.
After Malcolm broke into the Arrow lair with his last few League of Assassins loyalists and stole Dahrk’s totem that gives him his magical powers (he did it to make sure he and Thea weren’t affected by Genesis), Andy stole the last piece from Diggle. While Dahrk attempted to break out of Iron Heights Prison by arming all the inmates with shivs and staging a hostage crisis with the guards, Andy’s final piece of the totem puzzle was the last thing Dahrk needed to use magic again. Once that happened, Team Arrow didn’t stand a chance. Dahrk, who announced that he finally figured out all of their secret identities, took an arrow and stabbed Laurel with it before making his escape with a ton of other inmates.
A distraught Oliver carried Laurel to the hospital, still in their Green Arrow and Black Canary gear, where she immediately went into surgery. The rest of Team Arrow changed back into civilian clothes and waited impatiently in the hospital to hear news, each blaming him or herself more than the last. Surprisingly, Laurel made it through surgery just fine. Her doctors told Oliver, Diggle, Thea, and Felicity (who, while not back on the team just yet, raced to the hospital when she heard what happened) that she would actually make a full recovery. Shock number one of the night.
That hope motivated Laurel to announce to her friends that while she was previously offered the position of District Attorney, she was going to turn it down because that would mean giving up being the Black Canary. She said that fighting alongside Team Arrow as the Black Canary was when she felt most alive, and she could never give it up. Earlier in the episode, Lance even encouraged her to turn down the job and continue her work as Black Canary, which goes to show you how far this father/daughter duo both have come when it comes to the vigilante lifestyle.
Later, Laurel had a heart-to-heart with Oliver at her bedside about how even though she was never the love of his life, he was always the love of her life. It was bizarre, because it certainly felt like she was saying goodbye, especially when she asked him to do one last favor for her (although we didn’t hear what that favor was). And that all made sense in the next moment, when Laurel coded. The doctors couldn’t revive her, and the last moment in the episode was Oliver staggering out of Laurel’s hospital room, only to see Lance arriving to check on his daughter. Lance, seeing the utter devastation and grief on Oliver’s face, realized immediately what happened, and collapsed on the ground.
So Laurel’s dead, Andy’s back with HIVE, Dahrk is in the wind along with a whole slew of escaped inmates, Diggle blames himself for Laurel’s death, and Thea’s ready to murder her father for his part in Dahrk’s escape. Everything is a mess.
But let’s talk about how, while going in to this episode there was no clear frontrunner in who would be in the grave, from the moment the episode began, Laurel’s death was heavily hinted and foreshadowed. Be it her extra screen time, to her sudden promotion, to her heartfelt scenes with every character that gave them all closure, the focus on Laurel’s “one last time” going on a mission as Black Canary, or all her conversations in the hospital, there was no question that she would be Dahrk’s target. Arrow played in to every single TV trope when it comes to a game-changing character death. Couple that with the fact that when Arrow first introduced the flash forward grave story, the showrunners didn’t know who they were going to put in it.
Call me crazy, but when a show plans to kill someone off, they should know who it is before doubling down on that story. Otherwise, that’s just poor planning. The story can get backed into a corner, and then there’s no good answer, so the final choice doesn’t end up working. A show shouldn’t have to rely on cliche tropes to pull off one of the biggest stories of the season, if not series. This show used to handle death in a compelling and smart way. Remember Tommy in season one? Moira in season two? Even Oliver’s “death” in season three was handled in a unique way. But the way in which Laurel’s death came about was …well, less than what this show usually produces.
But let’s all give a “Yasss, queen!” to Thea’s comments about Oliver’s willingness (or lackthereof) to share about his time on the island. That was literally the best. Every time something bad turns up in Star City, it always has some connection to Oliver’s time on Lian Yu, and he never says anything about it until he has to, or until it’s too late. Oliver, maybe it’s high time to start telling everyone everything that happened on the island before it starts killing people back home?
And speaking of the island, this week’s island flashbacks (yawn) saw Oliver and Taiana killing all of Baron Reiter’s men and burying him alive in the caves with Dahrk’s idol while they escaped with the other prisoners.
How do you feel about Laurel’s death? Tweet me your thoughts at @SydneyBucksbaum!
Images: The CW
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.