No, Olicity Is Not Why ‘Arrow’ Killed Off You-Know-Who
[Warning: Spoilers from Arrow's April 6 episode below!]
Arrow's been promising a major character's death since the beginning of Season 4, as flash-forwards showed The CW series' flawed hero Oliver Queen looking devastated at an unnamed person's funeral. When his (now former) fiancee, Felicity, was ruled out in subsequent episodes, fans began wildly speculating on who it would be — and we found out on Wednesday night, when a core character and beloved DC heroine made a particularly devastating (TWO-PART, COMPLETE WITH FAKEOUT!) exit.
Laurel Lance, the show's version of the Green Arrow comics' Dinah "Black Canary" Lance, was stabbed by current big-bad Damien Darhk. And while no core character's death would have been met with indifferent shrugs — well, Thea's might've incited an "again?" or two — Laurel's demise especially enraged a vocal subsection of fans who can be pigeonholed into three categories: Laurel/Katie Cassidy stans, comic book purists and people who despise the romance between Oliver and hacker-turned IT girl-turned tech magnate Felicity Smoak (known to fan groups as Olicity). All three discontented factions rallied behind the #NoLaurelNoArrow hashtag on Twitter following the episode's shock this week, claiming they'd swear off future episodes.
Yes, Ollie and Dinah/Green Arrow and Black Canary are a couple in many major iterations of the DC franchise, and they seemed to be endgame at the beginning of the series. But their amorous reunion on the show was brief — and more importantly, Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy's romantic chemistry was tepid at best. They were never going to recreate the epic two-badasses-in-love pairing onscreen that's canon on the page/lovingly captured with many a figurine. That said, the Arrow writers' choice to have Laurel tell Ollie he was the "love of her life" was cringeworthy and unnecessary. It undermined a character arc and an actress who, in my opinion, grew in leaps and bounds (and kicks, and punches) over the past three seasons. That's coming from someone who could barely stand Cassidy's Ms. Lance for at least the first 22 episodes, and screamed WHY NOT LAUREEEEL? at the sky when they tried to take Sara Lance from us in Season 3.
But no: Laurel was not, to paraphrase Forbes' piece on the matter,"killed by Olicity."
I count myself among those who've found several recent deaths on CW shows problematic. I despise "fridging," the practice of offing a female character to further the male protagonist's story, and may never forgive Supernatural for how they did Felicia Day's Charlie dirty. And the urge to direct anger over a fave's death toward the couple you think it's "propping" is also super understandable. In this case, it's also wrong.
“We knew that it would enrage a lot of people," executive producer Mark Guggenheim told journalists at a press screening of "Eleven-Fifty-Nine" (quotes via IGN). "We're not immune to the shipping and we're not immune to the internet controversy -- when I say immune I mean we're not blind to it -- but, you know, we've never made decisions on the show creatively because of the internet."
"One of the things we knew people would think would be, ‘Oh, in the season where Oliver and Felicity get engaged and Laurel dies, that's clearly making a choice about who's going to end up with who.’," he continued. "Truth be told, we told the Laurel/Oliver romance story in Season 1, we told that story, we never really thought about going back to it, so the shipping thing was not an element, it was not a factor for us."
Quentin Lance's death or Thea's death #2 would not have delivered the same emotional wallop. John Diggle, while a non-canon character invented for the show, has his own loyal fanbase and is the only other current male member of the team (though they seem to be grooming Felicity's right-hand-man Curtis Holt to replace her, and DC fans have an inkling of where his terrific character's likely headed). Felicity is divisive to say the least, but she's also wildly popular. Laurel had deep connections to the Queen family, has grown close to Felicity and Diggle and was the bridge to Star City forces outside of Team Arrow, i.e. her father Captain Lance and the district attorney's office. Her death has the farthest reaching implications story-wise, Olicity or no Olicity. Hate them if you will, but their (supposedly over) romantic storyline did not drive Laurel Lance off the show. A plot not going your way does not equal "jumping the shark."
And besides, anyone who's watched Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow knows that death hardly means you'll never see a character again when there's flashbacks, Lazarus Pits, alternate realities and time masters. We'll see Cassidy again very soon, and the show-runners say they'd love to have her back in future episodes.
"The concept of death on the show is evolving and changing as we've already seen with Sara Lance," Guggenheim says. "We do an episode where Oliver Queen meets the Laurel Lance of Earth-2, that's now on the table. Time travel is now on the table. As the show has evolved, so has death."
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