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It’s a strange day when Arrow manages to deliver on a character death better than The Walking Dead, but “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” was a tour de force that gave Laurel (and Katie Cassidy) a heck of a send-off.
Arrow spent its first two and a half seasons not really knowing what to do with Laurel, especially once it became clear that Felicity and Oliver were the show’s endgame couple. But in the last season and a half, Laurel has become one of the more interesting characters on the show, turning into a true confidant for Oliver- and often the only person who could get through his thick skull and make him see reason. And that is why I was particularly sad to see her go. The show needs to have a character who can call Oliver on his crap. Diggle doesn’t do it (and Diggle proved this week that he’s not the best judge of character). Thea can try, but Oliver won’t listen to his little sister when he clearly knows better. Felicity is out of the picture for the moment, although she has had some success at getting through to Oliver in the past. But Laurel was the one who could make Ollie realize his mistakes and atone for them before they became real problems. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill.
As for Laurel’s actual send-off, she went down fighting, and her death made sense within the season arc. It fit in with Lance’s deal with Darhk and it was a move that will resonate in a big way moving forward. But it also made sense within the show’s series arc. Even though she was Oliver’s sounding board, Laurel didn’t have much going on for her from an overall story perspective. She was stuck in the role of Team Arrow sidekick rather than a hero in her own right. Aside from moving up in the DA’s office, there wasn’t much more the character could do. So, killing her off made sense in the overall arc of the series. Which is a shame, since, while Katie Cassidy was a bit of a liability herself in the show’s early years, she had really come into her own as an actress. Where I tended to dread Laurel scenes in the early years of Arrow, during the last season and a half I often found myself hoping to see Cassidy on screen.
My only complaint about the episode is the same complaint I’ve been making all season: it shouldn’t have taken this long for Team Arrow to decide to kill Darhk. Yes, the show has a 22-episode order, which means season arcs get drawn out way longer than they should be. But how has it taken this long for the story to get to this point? This Genesis project is the slowest super-villain plan of all time. It feels like the show has simply let Darhk spin his wheels for months before he finally decided to kill someone important. He could have killed all of Team Arrow several times over a this point. Yet, he waits until now to strike a fatal blow? Yeah, I’m not buying that one.
Moving forward, I really hope the series explores the impact of Laurel’s death, beyond simply giving Team Arrow a rallying point. This should, rightly, devastate all of them. I want to see Diggle deal with the guilt over failing to believe Oliver regarding Andy. I want to see Lance fall apart (although, I sincerely hope it doesn’t lead to a relapse). And I don’t want Oliver to decide he needs to do things on his own as a result. I hope that Laurel’s death is a catalyst for Oliver to become more open and trusting of those around him. I trust the show’s creative team to handle the fallout as well as they handled this major turning point in the series. And that is something I never thought I would say.
— I’m thrilled the writers have decided Merlyn is full-out evil now. He’s a much more interesting character when he’s on the opposite side of Team Arrow. I also really like that he isn’t afraid to attack Thea now. It adds some interesting stakes to the show that haven’t been there for a while.
— How heartbreaking was Paul Blackthorne in the moment Captain Lance realized Laurel was gone? It killed me.
— I’m not usually a fan of a character getting a death speech, but I’ll give them a pass on Laurel’s. If it makes Oliver get over himself and become a better person as a result, I’m all for it.
— While Laurel’s death had been spoiled online this week, it was pretty clear she was a goner as soon as she mentioned she was suiting up as the Canary “one last time.”
— For a superhero show, Arrow had one of the best line-ups of female characters on television. While it still has a number of great characters in its orbit, the loss of Laurel will certainly be a big blow.