We knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any less brutal. In a shocking turn of events, Damien Darhk violently stabbed Laurel Lance to death in revenge for Quentin’s betrayal in tonight’s episode of Arrow. While Arrow fans have speculated as to which of the show’s characters would be meeting their maker this season after the death was teased in the season premiere, tonight that morbid little mystery was solved…most likely to the great shock of comic book fans everywhere. Dinah “Laurel” Lance is the Black Canary, one of the most iconic female heroes in DC’s stable and Oliver Queen’s most consistent comic book soul mate. So of all of Arrow’s cast, why was she the one chosen?
To answer that question and fill us in on what this means for the show, we caught up with Arrow Executive Producers Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle, along with actors Paul Blackthorne (Quentin Lance) and the dearly departed herself, Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance), at a recent event to discuss tonight’s emotionally charged episode and tearjerker of a death.
So why Laurel?
Marc Guggenheim: Arrow is always evolving. It’s a show where every character, arguably except for Oliver, is fair game. We started off this year with the promise of a death, and when we worked our way through our creative choices, we realized that the thing that will give us the most pop going into the end of the season and next season, unfortunately, would be Laurel.
We knew that it would enrage a lot of people. We’re not blind to the “shipping” and the internet controversy, but we’ve never made decisions on the show creatively because of the internet. One of the things we knew that people would think is that in a season where Oliver and Felicity get engaged and Laurel dies, that’s clearly making a choice about who’s going to end up with whom. Truth be told, we told the Laurel/Oliver romance story in Season 1. We never really thought about going back to it.
We recognize that upsets a lot of fans, particularly the comic book fans. In the comics, Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen are in a romance together. 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’re telling our own version of the Green Arrow mythos. Green Arrow and Black Canary have had so many different interpretations over the years that we never felt beholden to one particular interpretation.
This is our interpretation, like it or not, and I recognize that there are plenty of people up and down my Twitter feed who do not like it. I totally respect that. But it made the most creative sense for us going forward, despite the fact that we love Katie. We absolutely love her. That part, not getting the chance to work with Katie day in and day out is tempered by the fact that now lives in a universe where there’s resurrection, parallel earths, time travel and flashbacks. We have all these different ways of keeping Katie in the Arrowverse family. In fact, you will see her in an episode of Flash, playing the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance. Katie is also reprising her role as Laurel of Earth-1 in Vixen Season 2. Death does not mean goodbye on any of these shows.
Katie, can you talk about the emotions of shooting your death scene?
Katie Cassidy: I had found out that this was the choice that was going to be made creatively right before we were shooting some court scenes, and I remember having to put it on the backburner because I had a huge day of legal jargon ahead. But it actually worked out really well because I’m actually in in flashbacks.
The scene where I’m in the hospital and I say to the team that I was thinking of giving up the Black Canary and I couldn’t do it—shooting that scene was so real for me because it was my saying goodbye to the team and all of us. It definitely wasn’t difficult for me to get to that emotional point. It was hard, but it was very real and I felt like that was good. It was genuine.
Paul, Quentin Lance has lost Sara twice and now has lost Laurel. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Paul Blackthorne: Quentin’s point of view is almost like that of the audience’s, and all of the outrageousness this year with the magic and everything, he can’t really take it on as a reality. But if this is the result of what’s going on, he has to deal with it. He can’t really accept it, but he has to accept that it is happening.
This death, of course, is just devastating for Quentin. Because this is not the one that was ever supposed to happen. Personally, I was almost as devastated as Quentin was when I got the news about this because Katie and I have had such an amazing working relationship, it actually really is hard to accept that I’ll be going to work without this fabulous lady to work with.
In terms of Quentin, he’s going to have to pick up the pieces, not pick up a bottle, and reconcile what’s left of his life. Obviously, he’s got the Arrow family. That will be where he’ll have to find his anchor now from here on in without his beautiful daughter.
Should viewers be suspicious about how the death was presented? How Laurel was fine and wanted some sort of favor from Oliver, and then the next time we see her, she’s dying?
Guggenheim: That’s the joke I’ve been making—“Oliver Queen killed Laurel!” There are certain coins of the realm on our show. Death is one of them, mysteries and secrets are another. What did Laurel say to Oliver? We didn’t intend for it to be that she asked Oliver to euthanize her.
But could he have drugged her and faked her death?
Guggenheim: No, we’ve done that. We’ve done a fake death before. That’s the thing. We’re always trying to figure out new ways of doing this. That fake out where she was okay and then she wasn’t was our attempt at doing a death that we hadn’t done before. We’ve had people killed right in front of Oliver, we’ve faked a death, we’ve had someone be fatally injured and then Oliver arrives on the scene. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have this same creative challenge. It’s the nature of having a long-running show that deals with death as a major component of it.
Will we find out what Laurel said to Oliver?
Wendy Mericle: You’ll know in Season 5.
Katie, how did you go about letting go of the character after you found out about the plan?
Cassidy: Since Season 2 up until now, Laurel has had a truly amazing journey. The writers have written so well for me and I’ve had such an incredible arc. It made sense to me creatively. Laurel’s story has come to an end in the Arrowverse.
I love everyone on set and our crew. Being there for four and a half years, they’ve become family, so it’s hard to not go into work every day and get to work with such amazing people. That part is certainly sad, but I was okay with it. We all came to an understanding that this was what was going to happen and it made sense to me.
I think the shock value is good. It’s such a jolt and a turn in the story that it gives the writers so much more to do and places to go with it. Otherwise, I feel like shows can get stale.
Blackthorne: That’s what the writers are masters of. From one episode to one season, culminating in months like this. That’s what makes the show so watchable. You never know what’s coming next, and this is like the mother of all of that.
So what sort of emotional aftermath will this have on the rest of the team?
Mericle: Well, it’s going to be huge and significant. There’s no question that it is going to be shocking. It was a shocking thing for us to process. We really wanted to make sure we in a way that was very honorable and that gave us space to honor all of the characters’ reactions to it. The episode’s we’ve written after this one are devastating, and they’re meant to be. That’s what we wanted. We wanted to explore that and have everyone feel the impact of this loss because it is significant. It’s a game changer. In both a very sad way because we’re losing a beloved character, but also in a sense that it’s going to open up new storytelling avenues and will force our character to rethink their decisions and their objectives.
Death is a reality on this show, and I think with the Lazarus Pit and possibility of coming back that it’s easy sometimes to forget that our characters are vigilantes. They’re out on the street and they’re doing really dangerous things. What this does is it really brings that reality back in a very brutal way. I think it’s good for the audience to be reminded of that and our characters as well.
How much guilt will the characters be carrying over this?
Guggenheim: We’ve already heard Oliver say in the first episode’s flashforward that in the past he would have blamed himself. It’s still Oliver. There’s an element of that. But Diggle… Like he says in that hospital, he’ll never forgive himself. I’d say the biggest consequences emotionally are felt by Thea and Diggle. You can draw a straightish line from his decisions in this episode to Laurel’s death, and that’s certainly not a fact lost on him.
Will news of this reach Sara on Legends of Tomorrow?
Guggenheim: Sara will find out on Legends. I think we give it it’s due. We always said on Legends that we weren’t going to shy away from this development as far as Sara was concerned and Paul was very gracious to lend his time to Legends to really allow us to explore that.
Katie, what was the most memorable part of playing Laurel for four seasons?
Cassidy: When I put the jacket on for the first time at the end of Season 2.
Guggenheim: I remember that night!
Cassidy: Yeah, I still get a little choked up talking about it because I was so excited. I remember trying on the jacket because I’d been waiting for that moment.
I think that for me was the turning point. Obviously, in Season 2, my character had a really hard time. The writers were writing so brilliantly and it was great to be able to take on that challenge and hit rock bottom and then come back on top. Being in fight training and getting to become a strong female character that’s also out there kicking some ass too was definitely something cool. I had a blast doing it.
Arrow returns on Wednesday, April 27th.