If you’re an Arrow fan, it was likely the only thing you could talk about last Wednesday night. In a shock of a final twist, Sara Lance was killed by an unseen assailant. Fans reacted passionately, from confusion, to sadness to outright anger. And you know what? We get it.
Here at DCComics.com, we’ve been huge fans of Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance ever since she was first revealed to be the Canary. We even devoted an entire article to her almost a year ago, shortly after the Canary was introduced. (An article that’s gone on to become one of the most popular on our site, so we know you feel the same way.) Since then, we’ve had her on DC All Access and spoken with her about her character and the show on the site. We’re feeling this loss too, and so is the entire Arrow production team.
“It was hard,” says Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim. “Every time we kill off a character on the show, it’s always incredibly hard. We’re not Game of Thrones. We’re not Sons of Anarchy. It’s really, really difficult.”
So why do it? That’s been a question being discussed (often very heatedly) by fans since the Season 3 premiere. Considering the character’s popularity and chemistry with the cast, the producers couldn’t be blamed for giving Sara more screen time, rather than taking her out of the present day action. But doing so would likely put the show at odds with comic book continuity, to say nothing about the precedent set on the show itself.
As longtime viewers know, one of the recurring themes of the series is inheritance—notably, earning the right to inherit by demonstrating that you’re ready to do so. We see this through Oliver accepting the responsibility that comes along with his place in the Queen family when he returns from Lian Yu. But more interestingly, we see it through his inheritance of the Arrow persona from Yao Fei in Season 1. We also see the theme play out a bit differently with the character of Deathstroke, who’s initially introduced in Season 1 flashbacks as Slade Wilson’s former partner, before Slade adopts the moniker and familiar mask himself in the present day.
In the comics, Dinah Lance is Black Canary, and while we don’t know for certain that she’ll be stepping into her sister’s shoes as the Canary on Arrow, it’s always been a possibility. Of course, for that to happen, Sara would need to vacate the role in some way, and she certainly didn’t seem the type to retire.
However, the reason for the decision extends far beyond any interest in staying in line with the comics. As Guggenheim explains it, it drives the characters’ unique motivations as well as much of the action for Season Three.
“As with Tommy’s death and Moira’s death, the story implications for this development are so far reaching for the show and affect all of the characters,” he says. “It kicks off a mystery that will drive us for at least the first half of the year. It will set Laurel on a trajectory that she’s never had before on the show. It’s always a hard thing to do, but it is really the engine that’s driving the whole third season.”
Fans will begin to see this starting with tonight’s episode, which is fittingly entitled “Sara.” Some pretty big decisions must be made while also trying to get to the root of what happened. There’s also the matter of grieving, something that we’ll definitely be seeing on screen.
“It’s probably one of our most emotionally gut-wrenching episodes,” Guggenheim promises. “As it needs to be and should be because this character’s death affects all of the characters on the show.
“There’s the question of what should be done with Sara’s body. There’s the question of who do they tell. Do they tell Lance, for example, that his daughter died a second time? It definitely has repercussions for Oliver and Felicity. It has repercussions for Felicity and Ray Palmer. And obviously for Laurel. Laurel is very much at the center of the episode. We’re also going to turn to a suspect in the killing, and with us, you never know how soon things will get resolved or in what way they’ll get resolved.”
So while we’ll have to say our goodbyes to Sara Lance as a part of Oliver’s present day life, we’ll be dealing with the loss right along with the characters onscreen. Plus, just because Sara won’t be seen in Starling City going forward, doesn’t mean she’s off the show entirely. Guggenheim points out that Lotz is signed for at least three episodes this season—and that’s only so far.
“One of the beautiful things about our show is that we do flashbacks,” he says. “We still want to tell the story of what happened when Sara washed up on the shores of Lian Yu after the sinking of the Amazo. How she met Nyssa. How she joined the League of Assassins. There’s still a lot of story left to be told with Sara. You certainly haven’t seen the last of her.”
But for now, we have tonight’s aftermath episode, which Guggenheim assures us will handle the death of this beloved character with the respect and emotional weight it deserves.
“It’s all out there,” he says. “It was a really hard episode for the cast to shoot, particularly Emily, Stephen and Katie. It’s really, really powerful stuff. It’s a hard episode to watch. If you’re prone to tears, you’ll probably be crying.”
We’ll be watching, tissues at the ready.
Season 3, Episode 2 of Arrow, "Sara," airs Wednesday, October 15th on The CW. You can watch a preview of it by clicking here.