We Need to Talk About Laurel

**This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Arrow, “Crucible.”**

As an episode about revelations, coming to terms with past actions, and choosing between what is easy and what is right, this episode was solid. Stephen Amell did some of his best acting opposite Caity Lotz, and she in turn delivered a very memorable and likeable performance as the Black Canary, who turns out to be Sara Lance.

If this episode were an after-school special about the perils of drunk driving, I would have to call it a resounding failure. In fact, I think the episode failed on all fronts regarding Laurel. The last thing anyone wants to watch on TV is a perpetual victim, it’s not exactly an attitude or frame of mind that viewers will rally behind.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s kind of unfair, that sometimes happens with grief, people react in different ways. It’s realistic.” That might be true, but it’s not like Laurel is brand new to tragedy. She survived the death of her sister and her boyfriend and the indignity that their deaths occurred while they were sneaking around behind her back. Instead of spiraling out of control, Laurel worked hard to become a respected lawyer in the wake of her personal tragedy. Now, we are made to believe Laurel was in denial about her role in Tommy’s death, and she only realized last week that it was largely her fault he died. (It’s a point of contention, but let’s call a spade a spade: Tommy wouldn’t have been in the Glades if Laurel hadn’t been too stubborn to leave before the earthquake.)

I’ll also concede the point that she went through a very traumatic ordeal last week; “Broken Dolls” was considerably darker than Arrow’s usual fare, and Laurel came dangerously close to death. It would be enough to send anyone on a spiral, and I would understand it if Laurel had chopped off her hair, quit her job, and moved to the Amalfi Coast. I even understand her hitting the wine bottle pretty hard; it’s not a healthy way to cope, but we all have our ways of dealing.

What I can’t understand is Laurel, former CNRI lawyer and current employee for the district attorney, slamming back glass after glass of wine and then getting behind the wheel of a car. As if watching her drive drunk wasn’t enough cause for outrage, Laurel then proceeded to use her position at the D.A. to try to get out of trouble, and when her father, who watched as his daughter almost died a week ago, showed up to take her home, she was not at all apologetic for her actions.

Even then, maybe I would’ve cut her some slack for still being drunk and full of the nasty emotions that usually accompany inebriation when you’re in a state of grief. Surely the next day, when she’s sober, she would be more reasonable, right? Well, we aren’t that lucky. Instead, when a concerned Oliver turns up to check on her, Laurel trots out her list of woes and holds her unapologetic line regarding her DUI before blowing Oliver off.

I don’t understand the endgame here with Laurel. Each week, she becomes less relatable to a fanbase that is already predisposed not to care about her. I actually started watching this show solely because I was a fan of Katie Cassidy, and for a good part of the first season, I was invested in Laurel’s life. Now, I don’t even know if I care whether she gets her life back on track. She doesn’t serve as a love interest or a nemesis of Oliver, and as of this week, she’s not even hell-bent on catching his alter-ego. The lack of Tommy means Laurel now lacks softness or nuance. She’s no longer serving as a mentor to Thea, and her only interactions with Felicity have been perfunctory. Her only scenes now are with her dad (who delivered much better scenes with Hooded Oliver last week than Laurel has thus far) and with Adam, a character we don’t know enough about to really form an opinion. I know people are speculating that she will somehow become the Black Canary, and I guess the logic is that Laurel needs her own darkness to match Oliver and Sara’s, but her coping mechanisms appear to be different from theirs. So what are they attempting to do with Laurel?

This episode wasn’t all about Laurel, though. Arrow continued its tradition of fast-paced reveals by unveiling Black Canary as Sara Lance, Laurel’s sister. Fortunately, Sara is engaging, entertaining, and equally as tortured as Oliver. Her scenes with Stephen Amell were fraught with emotion, and her concern for her sister and father was evident.

The second revelation came from Oliver, who confided in Diggle and Felicity that he’d lied about Sara’s cause of death. It turns out, Oliver had seen Sara after the shipwreck, and we get a glimpse of that at the end of the episode, where a flashback reveals Oliver coming face to face with Sara on his mysterious captor’s ship. We’ll find out next week about Sara’s role in the flashbacks and how she survived the shipwreck, and hopefully we’ll get some clue about what’s going on with Slade, who was tragically absent from this episode. (Sidenote: Is that the last we’ve seen of Shado? Did she die in the bombings?)

It was this second revelation that produced the best scene of the night: Diggle and Felicity confronting Oliver about his decision to keep Sara’s real cause of death a secret. Thankfully we have Diggle there to muddle through Oliver’s half-truths and omissions as he focuses on the fact that Oliver hasn’t told them everything (or anything) about the island.

Diggle: All right, so just to make sure I understand this correctly: After not drowning when the Gambit went down, Sara didn’t exactly make it to the island with you, where you would see her die yet again. Feel free to fill in the blanks.
Oliver: Not right now.
Diggle: You mean not ever, don’t you, Oliver?

Obviously, Oliver is not forthcoming with fill-in-the-blank details because otherwise we would have no fodder for flashbacks for the rest of the season. The real problem is that Diggle and Felicity have been following Oliver blindly for almost a year now, and neither of them know what it is that made him into the man he is today. Diggle’s been noticeably short-tempered since his breakup with Carly, and that probably has to do with the fact that Oliver still refuses to confide in his team. They’re not ones to sit around and tell sob stories, but Diggle and Felicity deserve at least morsels from Oliver regarding his time on the island. We know all about Oliver’s first year on the island, but that’s because we have the advantage of the show telling us about it in backstory form. There’s no evidence that the name Slade Wilson is familiar to Diggle, much less Felicity.

Speaking of Felicity, her concern in this conversation has more to do with the Lance family and what it means for them that Sara is alive; her secondary concern is for Oliver, who openly cries during the entire scene. “Laurel and Mr. Lance, they both blame you!” Oliver, with the proper amount of angst, says it was his fault she was out there anyway, so why torture her family with the truth about Sara’s death? But it’s after Felicity points out that the Lances deserved to know the truth that Oliver finally explodes: “These were five years! Five years, where nothing good happened! And they were better off not knowing!”

 

Diggle asks the toughest question of all, “Do they deserve to know now?” but Oliver deflects, focusing instead on the Crime of the Week: stolen assault rifles. The Baddie of the Week is known as The Mayor, and he’s not long for this world or episode. The gun problem brings Oliver into an alliance with Alderman Sebastian Blood as they do a gun buy back, during which Oliver confides in Sebastian about his problem with the Lance sisters (though he doesn’t name names). Sebastian’s advice is convoluted and a little alarming:

“Sooner or later, we all go through a crucible; I’m guessing yours was that island. Most believe there are two types of people who go into a crucible: the ones who grow stronger from the experience and survive it, and the ones who die. But there’s a third type: the ones who learn to love the fire, who choose to stay in their crucible because it’s easier to embrace the pain when it’s all you know anymore.”

Oliver was pretty distracted, so I guess that’s why he didn’t recognize that for the scary declaration that it is. Their conversation is interrupted by The Mayor, who ambushes the gun buy back. Sin, the Canary’s sidekick and a new friend to Roy, sustains a gunshot wound to the gut, but she survives it thanks to Roy’s quick aid (and Oliver’s anonymous financial aid).

Toward the end of the episode, Sebastian visits Oliver at Queen Consolidated to thank him for his help during the ambush, and he delivers another chilling line after Oliver suggests he run for mayor: “There is more than one way to save a city.” Hey, didn’t Malcolm Merlyn spout the same sort of propaganda during his ramp-up to the Undertaking?

Oliver encounters Sara at the hospital as she tries to check on Sin, and he pleads with her to reveal herself to her family. She insists that she’s a ghost, “We died on that island,” but Oliver argues that they both lived for a reason. Sara rightly points out that if her family found out the truth, they’d never speak to Oliver again, but he says it’d be worth it. The gravity he has with Sara is the sort of thing we expected to see in his scenes with Laurel last season, which is a good case for keeping Lotz as the Black Canary. It serves as a nice balance for Amell, who gets to show his lightness and smiles in scenes with Rickards’ Felicity, and now we get to see his turn in equally charged scenes with Lotz’s Sara.

 

Paul Blackthorne also delivers two very emotional scenes; the first is where he seeks out Oliver at Verdant and asks him to talk to Laurel. He admits that he drank pretty heavily after Sara died, and that he is afraid of the same thing happening to Laurel. It’s a big moment for Quentin, and probably the closest thing Oliver will ever get to forgiveness from him. The other scene is at the end, when he talks to his AA group over shots of Laurel downing glasses of wine as she takes pills. It’s a tough scene given what he went through last week, the fact that he sacrificed a lot by asking Oliver for his help, and considering that he’s only recently started coming to terms with Sara’s death through healthier means.

As for the Slade-less flashbacks, Oliver sits in a prison cell and gets shot by the man interrogating him. They provide the tools for him to patch himself up, and his cell neighbor tells him they do it to test his strength. “Living is not for the weak,” he says, which is a practical motto for castaways and prisoners.

This episode was not short on reveals, though; at the very end, Sebastian unmasks himself (literally) as Brother Blood, and he’s trying to raise his own army of superhumans to help free the city from its chains. He tries to inject The Mayor, with a serum, but The Mayor dies almost instantly. The fact that The Mayor was taken into SCPD custody but somehow ended up in Brother Blood’s hands is telling: the police department is deeply corrupted.

A few miscellaneous notes:

– Oliver’s most heartbreaking line is when Diggle says, “You know, Oliver, someone once told me that secrets have weight. The more you keep, the harder it is to keep moving.” Oliver is choked up when he replies, “You see how hard I work out,” and poor Diggle doesn’t know how to argue against that. It’s hard to tell if Oliver’s doing it because he still doesn’t fully trust them, or if it’s for the same reasons he won’t tell the Lance family the truth about Sara: They’re better off not knowing.

– During Oliver’s recount of Sara’s survival and subsequent death, Felicity’s expression is tragic as she asks, “Do you have any happy stories?” It’s heartbreaking in an entirely different way.

– Summer Glau reprises her role as Isabel Rochev, but she only seems to chide Oliver for his lateness and continually ask him where he’s going to get money to fund his pet projects. I hope this show has better stuff planned for her in the near future.

– Sara and Sin have a great scene in the clocktower early on in the episode. We learn that they met when Sara saved Sin from a group of guys, and Sara sagely says, “No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men.” It’s clear these two women already have a shared loyalty to one another, even though they both have their secrets, which is why it was nice to see Sara sneak into the hospital to check on Sin at the end of the episode.

Next week, we get to meet the League of Assassins, and hopefully we’ll get to learn more about Canary’s Gotham roots and her connection to Ra’s al Ghul.

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4 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About Laurel

  1. […] We Need to Talk About Laurel (wewatchfortheplot.wordpress.com) […]

  2. We really need to talk about how everyone on this show is allowed, by the fandom, to have their pain and wallow in their pain but when Laurel does it, “what are they trying to do with her?!?!” Everyone excuses Oliver handling his pain by becoming a murderous vigilante but Laurel drinks and drives and gets annoyed at people meddling in her life and the fandom flips their lids.

    • As I said in the post, Laurel is allowed to grieve, and she is definitely allowed to get annoyed at people meddling in her life. But being flippant about drunk driving is inexcusable, so yes, I DID ‘flip my lid’ about that. I don’t understand why the writers think that’s okay. Setting aside real world morality, Oliver believed he was killing bad people. Laurel ran the risk of killing herself and other innocents by getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. That is hardly a double standard.

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