A version of this post originally appeared on a TV.com forum on April 29, 2016, under my Titan4lizife username.
With Laurel’s death at the end of “Eleven-Fifty-Nine,” it was reasonable for fans to expect that the following episode, one titled “Canary Cry” no less, would focus largely on Laurel and what she meant to the team. Well, “Canary Cry” didn’t live up to that expectation.
Yes, “Canary Cry” focused on the preservation of Laurel’s legacy as a “beloved civil servant,” and on her legacy as Black Canary. Yet, in all the brouhaha about legacy, the episode didn’t focus much on Laurel. What was supposed to be Laurel Lance’s eulogy turned out to be an hour-long mission to stop a Black Canary impostor, essentially separating Laurel from her alter ego.
While Oliver was quick to say that Evelyn Crawford Sharp is not the Black Canary, going so far as to unwisely out Laurel as B.C. (and potentially implicate himself as the Green Arrow) at her funeral, the episode treated “Black Canary” as an idea, a legacy that needed protecting, and a mantle that could one day be passed on.
The episode declares that Laurel and her vigilante persona are separable, and that makes “Canary Cry” difficult to enjoy. While I’m displeased by the writers’ decision to kill Laurel (and by the unheroic way that she died), I could have easily enjoyed this episode had it taken the time to celebrate what Laurel meant to the people who knew her best.
What I expected to see in “Canary Cry,” and all I really wanted, was a scene with Oliver, Felicity, Thea, and Diggle sharing a bottle of Russian vodka (prochnost!), as Diggle and Roy did in “Midnight City” when they thought Oliver was dead. Standing in front of Laurel’s costume rack, glasses raised “To Laurel,” they would share personal anecdotes of good or bad times with their fallen teammate. Just a few hours earlier, as Laurel stretched out on a hospital bed, she declared her love for the team, and Felicity, Thea, and Diggle had replied, “We love you.” The task “Canary Cry” had to meet was showing that mutual love to the audience, and it failed.
Early in the episode, the writers handwaved #TeamArrow’s lack of sentimentality.
Oliver: Darhk is out there and he has his magic back. As much as I’m sure all of us want to climb up inside of our own grief…
John: We have to get that son of a bitch.
Thea: Definitely, but we haven’t even put her in the ground yet.
It’s understandable that the team cannot go into a state of emotional collapse over Laurel’s death, since the mission to stop Darhk must be completed. But even in their quiet moments (Thea with Alex; Diggle with Felicity), no one took a moment to say what Laurel meant to them personally.
When Alex apologizes for making a joke so soon after Laurel’s death, Thea replies, “Please, I could use some jokes. Anything to keep my mind off … everything.” In this moment, it seems like Thea, who is on the verge of tears, is purposefully choosing not to focus on Laurel’s death, which makes sense. But, in the very next moment, she seems completely fine, and has moved on to asking Alex why he became a “political operative.”
I’d accept it if Thea couldn’t fully grieve Laurel because of an effect of the Lazarus Pit, which doesn’t seem to be the case, or if Thea were choosing to suppress her grief for Laurel in order to focus on killing Malcolm. In either case, the writers needed to explain that Thea cannot or purposefully will not grieve Laurel. Otherwise, Thea’s dry-eyed, expressionless face at Laurel’s funeral is inexplicable.
After Oliver left Starling City at the end of season three, it was Laurel (and John) who supported a recently Pit-healed Thea in her new role as Speedy. While the writers may have conveniently moved Thea into Laurel’s apartment at the beginning of season four only to allow Oliver to move into an already constructed set (Thea’s loft), the fact remains that the two women have lived together for almost a year. So it makes little sense that Thea would so stoically mourn a woman who was not only her roommate but probably her best friend.
As for Oliver, he came close to an emotional breakdown when discussing the case with Nyssa.
Nyssa: Oliver, are you alright?
Oliver: Our friend was killed at the hands of a man that I am currently powerless to stop. And his wife is dragging her legacy through the mud. And after everything that she’s done and everything’s she’s stood for, it just doesn’t seem right.
After saying this, Oliver abruptly walks away and the scene ends before Nyssa can respond.
Since Nyssa conveyed more feeling for Laurel in one scene with Quentin — when she told Quentin of the comfort Laurel’s friendship was to her during a difficult time in her life, and quickly wiped away that solitary tear — than Oliver and Thea, who knew Laurel better than anyone else in Star City save Quentin, did in this entire episode, I can only imagine what a strong scene it would have been if Nyssa had been allowed to respond to Oliver’s monologue.
Like Oliver, who was more concerned with stopping the impostor and protecting Laurel’s legacy than with mourning her, Diggle was distracted throughout the episode. Yes, Diggle is overtly emotional for much of the episode, but the reason he is “so angry he can hardly breathe” is because of Andy’s betrayal. He is devastated that Laurel was a casualty of Andy’s disloyalty, and feels overwhelmingly guilty; but at the end of the day, his sadness is not derived from Laurel’s death in and of itself, but more so from Andy’s duplicity.
Felicity, too, spends most of “Canary Cry” dealing with “guilt,” repeatedly telling others (and repeatedly being told) that Laurel’s death is not their fault.
Besides Nyssa, Quentin is the only one who conveyed a sense of personal loss. He wasn’t concerned with protecting some abstract legacy, but was overwhelmed by the sudden loss of the daughter who had meant everything to him.
Quentin: You don’t understand. When we lost Sara, when I became a drunk, when no one else believed in me, she did. She’s always been there. She’s my rock. She was my rock.
Even if you haven’t seen every other episode of Arrow, in this moment, you know exactly what Laurel meant to Quentin, and how broken he is now that she’s in the past tense. Was it too much for the writers to create similar scenes for #TeamArrow?
Even Dinah, who had less screen time here than she did in “The Climb” when she found out Sara was dead … again, did an excellent job in conveying how Sara’s frequent deaths have desensitized the Lances in the face of Laurel’s demise. But the team didn’t have that haze of disbelief to prevent them from properly mourning Laurel; instead, they had bouts of self-loathing and an obsessive need to defend the Black Canary legacy.
“Canary Cry” was about the Black Canary, but it wasn’t about Laurel. It’s the show’s final insult to Dinah Laurel Lance, saying that the person and the persona are so easily separated.