This week, with publicity shots of Katie Cassidy in the new black leather suit, Arrow seems to have confirmed once and for all that Laurel Lance is its Black Canary. And after two and a half years of waiting, dancing around this question, foreshadowing Laurel then introducing Sara then killing Sara, I am not satisfied.
There's a couple things that really stick out to me about this decision that I personally don't like. First, I don't like Laurel as Black Canary. Laurel is pretty unanimously considered the most unlikeable character on the show. Now this isn't her fault as a character, nor is it at all the fault of her actress Katie Cassidy. It's entirely the fault of the writers, who since the pilot have been writing the character into whatever role she needed to be for each episode. Starting in the pilot, she was introduced as an antagonistic moral center/love interest, a weird mashup of roles that was quickly replaced with the better moral compasses of Diggle and Felicity, and the better love interest of basically every other female character. This has left us with a dreadfully underdeveloped character who still feels incomplete, even after this season, for first time, really starting to allow her to evolve beyond her ever shifting, plot necessary role.
Further, in the few areas where she's been consistently rendered, she does not match the personality of the comics Black Canary. Any comics Black Canary. The same might be argued for Green Arrow himself, who is perhaps most commonly portrayed as a vocally liberal fighter for the oppressed (a far cry from the more rigid, authoritative, status quo enforcing, WASP-y Oliver Queen of the series). The issue here being that Green Arrow's interpretation within the comics have varied over the years, and the show has picked up on elements of the Silver Age (in his resemblance to Batman) and the Mike Grell era (the more down to earth, realistic setting and sense of style, including the hood). While it may not be the most enduringly popular interpretation of the character, and while I'd certainly prefer for the show to develop Oliver closer to the Neal Adams/Denny O'Niel interpretation, there is a basis for the show's version in the comics especially if the show continues to evolve and grow. Laurel does not in any real way resemble any version of Black Canary, and in many ways is the complete opposite. Dinah
Laurel Lance of the comics is a free spirited, fiercely independent, optimistic blonde of indomitable good humor who got into superheroics as part of her teenage rebellion and sticks with it because it's fun and helpful. This was the case even in the Mike Grell era of Green Arrow comics, which worked particularly well because she served as a foil to the more serious, down to earth Oliver. Dinah Laurel Lance of the show is a serious, professional, civic minded, home making, brunette lawyer who has lied, blackmailed, and gotten herself a drinking problem and is inspired to superheroics by way of a vengeful response to tragedy. Her behavior, her reactions, her personality, even her general look do not resemble the comics' Black Canary in any way, other than the fact that she's a foodie.
An even bigger issue is that I really, really like Caity Lotz' Sara Lance as Black Canary. All the things about Laurel that don't work? Sara's got them. She's got the spunk, she's got the skills, she's managed to weather harrowing survival stories and years with the League of Assassins and for most of her appearance she remained in admirably good humor about everything. The training she's aquired allows her character to be nearly on par with the comic book character's insane martial arts talent; the years she spent in Nanda Parbat allow her character to have history with any number of characters related to the martial arts corner of the DC Universe. She's got everything, and even looks like the character to boot. Everything about Laurel that would have to change to make her a legitimate adaptation of the Black Canary character are already present in Sara Lance. And they killed her.
And that's the other big thing. I am really sick of Arrow and its killings. The unnecessary killing of likable side characters is perhaps the most accurate adaptation of comics tradition that this show has. They started the series with death. They're averaging two major character deaths a season, and the third season might give us more. When they kill characters, it's often the most likeable characters present, and the loss of Shado, Tommy, and Sara have made the subsequent episodes less enjoyable. The show has taken the concept of superheroism and turned it into something anxious and unpleasant. That should not be the case.
With these major points in mind, I am outlying a few possibilities that could improve this situation. While Laurel is definitely putting on the newly revealed costume and taking the name of Black Canary, everything else, including how long she does so, is still up in the air. And I think there's ways to use that:
Option One: The Best of All Possible Worlds
(In my opinion at least.)
Sara comes back from the dead, resumes being Black Canary, Laurel becomes Manhunter.
Sara, to me, is the only real option for Black Canary, but that doesn't mean that I'm against the idea that Laurel becomes a superhero herself. The position of DA, and Manhunter, was opened when Kate Spencer was (annoyingly) killed in the season 2 finale. Laurel's job as a lawyer and drive for justice make her a great possible adaptation of the character Manhunter, leaving the position of Black Canary open for the character who fits it better. At this point, while Laurel and Sara in their new respective superhero roles could both continue as regular cast members of Arrow, an even better option would be Sara spinning off into a Birds of Prey series. I think it's important to note that Laurel's recent behavior, blackmail last year, taking suspect interrogation into her own hands this year, randomly grabbing weapons from the Arrowcave, and going on a, ahem, manhunt for Sara's killer all frankly foreshadow her taking a turn for Manhunter in far more direct ways than she ever was foreshadowed for Canary.
Option Two: Double Trouble
Sara comes back from the dead, both sisters become differently colored Canaries.
This idea was actually given to me by a friend, suggesting that having two Canaries be the reason why they color coded their names, making one of them become Black Canary and the other going by a different color. And the thing is, it has precedence. While the comics do not feature sisters sharing the role of Canary simultaneously, there have been other related characters to go as a Canary of another color. Gail Simone introduced a villain by the name of the White Canary, and Lady Shiva, for a time, replaced Dinah's role on the Birds of Prey under the moniker Jade Canary. Of the two, White Canary carries the most theatrical name in relation to the other, though a matching costume for the Jade Canary sounds more plausible. In any case, either sister could legitimately take either name, and even if Laurel claimed Black, Sara as a Canary of any other color could still possibly spinoff into Birds of Prey.
Option Three: Sara's a G-G-G-Ghost
Sara stays dead, but returns as a ghost.
Hear me out. I know it sounds crazy, and I'm not going to try to convince you that the idea isn't crazy because it is. But it's also not that far outside the realm of possibility. The DC Universe has many ways of circumventing death without necessarily being resurrected. Even within the world of Arrow, this season is bringing us closer and closer to the supernatural; the League of Assassins likely have the mystically rejuvenating Lazarus Pit, Tatsu Yamashiro may bring us the Soultaker Sword, there's possibly a Cyrus Gold who should have been killed but keeps regenerating loose in Starling City, and Nanda Parbat could easily have a guardian diety in the form of Rama Kushna with a certain power over life and death; you might notice all of these elements feature a certain connection to life and death, and I find it no coincidence that Arrow has gotten us so close to all of them. Season 2 introduced major elements of science fiction, from super strength serums to metahumans to time travel, and spun off a science fiction based superhero as well. If another series is coming, magic and mythology may be its genre, and Sara Lance, ghost, just might have a place to make recurring appearances. While this option doesn't do a whole lot about Laurel being a poor choice for Black Canary, it is so bonkers crazy that I kind of love it, and would not be against this coming true (though I'd much prefer options one or two).
Option Four: Identity Crisis
Sara comes back from the dead, Laurel remains Black Canary, Sara takes on a new identity.
The first one my mind goes to is that Laurel remains Black Canary and Sara becomes Manhunter, sort of an acknowledgement that the two characters are essentially adaptations with swapped personalities. It might work. Or Sara might come back from the dead to defeat and take the identity of who killed her, like possibly Ravager. Which itself isn't outside the realm of possibility, as Sara's first planned identity was originally that of Ravager. Again, this option isn't really the top of my list. It leaves us with Black Canary being a poor adaptation and the character who should be Black Canary off doing something else, but it at least keeps Sara around being awesome and probably spin-dropping into crime scenes on giant scarves.
Option Five: Barry, Do Your Thing!
The Flash reboots everything, we get to start from scratch.
But seriously, wouldn't it be hilarious but also kind of amazing if this is just what the CW does, say, 10 years into their TV DC Universe, and then they start over with all new shows?
So there you go, Arrow, some suggestions on how not to do what I feel like you're about to do that I really, really, really don't want you to do.