Spoilers ahead for “Eleven Fifty-Nine,” the latest episode of Arrow!
The short version: A team member is tragically killed in the line of duty, as we finally find out who is in the mystery grave. Also: Malcolm Merlyn is helping out Damien Darhk, and the big bad gets back his magic mojo.
R.I.P. Laurel, you went out on top
The character of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) has had a complicated history on Arrow, and at times, it seemed like the writers never really knew what to do with her. You’d have to think she was originally conceived to be Oliver’s true love ala the comics (a story they threw a nice nod to in her swan song), but once the Olicity chemistry stole the show, the character lost some direction. It took a few seasons, but when Laurel eventually pushed past her demons, she finally found her legs as a character. But… we knew someone had to end up in that grave. Plus, Damien Darhk did promise he would kill her. Say what you will about the dude, but he keeps his promises.
As far as a swan song goes, “Eleven Fifty-Nine” was a fitting tribute to who Laurel had become, and a heartbreaking goodbye to someone who had finally come into her own. She got a chance to go on one last mission with Team Arrow, and just before her death, came to terms with the fact that she’ll always be the Black Canary. Her moments with Oliver were also touching, and a nice reminder of the history between these characters (some of it even going back to the early seasons of the show). The flashback scenes were also a nice touch, as we’re reminded that a faded photo of Laurel was his tether to humanity during his five years following the ship wreck.
Her slight reprieve from death following surgery was a narrative gut-punch, sure, but it also gave her a chance to say a proper goodbye to the team — especially Oliver. Her blessing of Oliver and Felicity’s relationship was a sweet moment, and could be a hint that they’ll eventually find one another again down the line. If nothing else, we’re now certain they won’t be following the comic storyline where Oliver ends up with Laurel. But, the one thing that stung almost as much as the death itself: Capt. Lance was just a moment too late reaching the hospital, and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Paul Blackthorne rips your heart out, as he collapses in the hallway, after seeing Oliver’s face.
So why did Laurel have to die?
Though you’d think she might have some hard feelings about taking an arrow to the chest, Katie Cassidy said she understands why the writers chose to kill off Laurel. Cassidy told Entertainment Weekly she felt “Laurel’s story had come to an end,” noting the show has never been afraid to take creative risks to stay fresh and exciting. The actress said she enjoyed the journey, and teased she could pop up again down the line via flashbacks (her Earth-2 doppelgänger will also be popping by on The Flash soon, and she’ll have a flashback role on Vixen).
For those hoping this might be some kind of fake-out, with Oliver helping her fake her death (which, hey, the show has done it before), Cassidy talked openly about this being her last day on set, and the journey coming to an end. Oh, and as for the secret she told Oliver off-screen? That’ll apparently pay off next season, per the writers. So, the death seems legit:
“At the end of season 2 going into 3 when I put the jacket on for the first time, that moment was something. I still get a little choked up talking about it because I was so excited. I remember trying on the jacket; I had been waiting for that moment. I think that for me was the turning point. Obviously season 2, my character had a really hard time. As an actor, the writers were writing so brilliantly, it was great to be able to take on that challenge and go there and then hit rock bottom and come back on top. Also, being in training and fight-training and getting to be a strong female character who’s also out there kicking some ass too was definitely something that was cool and I had a blast doing it.”
Producer Marc Guggenheim also chatted with The Hollywood Reporter about the creative decision, and where it might propel things for the rest of the season (and into next year). He also acknowledged it’ll almost certainly upset fans hoping she and Oliver might eventually find their way back together. Ain’t happening, folks. Here’s an excerpt from his comments:
"We recognize that that upsets a lot of fans, particularly the comic book fans. In the comics, Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen are in a romance together in various iterations. To some people, that is considered canonical and iconic. We respect that but at the same time, we've always made no bones about the fact that we are telling our own version of the Green Arrow mythos. ... But it made the most creative sense for us going forward despite the fact that we love Katie. Every time we've killed off a character on the show, it's really been for the affect on all the characters left behind.
We made a creative choice and we're sticking to it. We’re recognizing that Black Canary and Laurel have an incredibly loyal fanbase and Katie has an incredibly loyal fanbase but the show has never been just about the comic book history. It's never been just about one or two different particular fanbases. We make the creative choices we feel benefit the show as a whole and the story we're telling overall."
R.I.P. Laurel. You went out on top, which is all you can really hope for, in the end.
Damien Darhk is back in play, along with Malcolm Merlyn
Though Laurel’s death obviously dominated the proceedings, this episode also featured a massive prison break where Darhk and a boatload of inmates escape from Iron Heights. Merlyn helps facilitate said prison break, by bringing Darhk his evil mojo head thing (which Oliver also encountered back on the island via flashbacks, remember). After being put on the back burner the past few weeks, Darhk is back in play in a very big way — with power-hungry Merlyn by his side. With Laurel killed in the crossfire, the face off between Oliver and Darhk is going to be legendary. Bring. It. On.
Andy Diggle was a traitor all along
You just knew this twist was coming, despite Diggle’s brother doing everything he could to prove his allegiance to Team Arrow. But, when push came to shove, his true allegiances were revealed — and it cost Laurel her life (it also led Diggle to absolutely shred Oliver over Felicity leaving him, which was brutal). Diggle has always been one of the most earnest characters on this show, and living with that is going to eat his alive. This is some ripe storytelling territory, and it looks like they’ll be digging deep into it. Also, you have to give credit to Oliver: He saw through it all, but didn’t want to push Diggle away, so he trusted Diggle’s (very clouded) judgement.
Line of the night: ”One last time.” -Laurel
Up next: The aftermath of Laurel’s death, and it seems Diggle will be going after Darhk’s wife for… revenge? Yeah, April 27 can’t get here soon enough.