‘Arrow’ Cast, Producers on the Show’s Emotional Death

Katie Yu/ The CW
Arrow -- "Blood Debts" -- Image AR410a_0227b.jpg -- Pictured: Stephen Amell as The Arrow -- Photo: Katie Yu/ The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Warning! This post contains spoilers for the Arrow episode “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.”

Arrow has lost its Black Canary.

Though Team Arrow fought to keep Damian Darhk (Neal McDonough) from regaining possession of his mystical idol, Darhk’s newfound alliance with Malcolm (John Barrowman)—and Andy (Eugene Byrd) betraying his brother—led to tragic consequences.

Darhk—who pieced together the identities of Team Arrow, thanks to Andy—was able to get the final (previously hidden) piece of his figure, and get back to his full magical strength. And given Lance’s (Paul Blackthorne) decision to betray Darhk, Damian paid him back by stabbing Laurel (Katie Cassidy) in the chest with an arrow.

Initially, Laurel appeared to be fine: she recovered from surgery, and was able to tell the team how much they meant to her. But after her private conversation with Oliver (Stephen Amell)—which included a not-heard request to her former boyfriend—Laurel flat-lined and the doctors were unable to save her.

“It’s always a show where every character, arguably except for The Arrow, is fair game,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim told reporters after a screening of “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.” “We started off this year with the promise of a death, and we worked our way through our various different creative choices, we realized that the thing that will give us the most pop, going into the end of the season and into next season, unfortunately would be Laurel.”

Arrow, Katie Cassidy

Katie Cassidy

Cassidy, for her part, only learned of the decision a few episodes before she shot Laurel’s death. “I found out that this was the choice, creatively, that was going to be made and obviously I talked to Marc and [executive producers] Greg [Berlanti] and Wendy [Mericle]; I actually had found out right before the court scenes–that day we shot in the court,” she recalled. “Which was hard. I remember I was like ‘OK, I need to put this on the backburner for now,’ because I had a huge day of all legal jargon and a lot [to do].”

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When it came time to shoot her final episode, Cassidy got to say some things as Laurel that she felt herself. “Emotionally it’s interesting because that scene that you see when I’m in the hospital and I say goodbye, I say to the team ‘I never wanted this, I was thinking of giving up the Black Canary and I couldn’t do it,’” Cassidy said. “Honestly, that scene was definitely so real, shooting it, because it was my saying goodbye to the team and all of us, and so it definitely wasn’t difficult for me to get to that emotional point. For sure it was hard, but it was very real and it was good, it was genuine.”

Even though the show had been teasing the death for months, Guggenheim acknowledged that he expects this twist to be particularly brutal. “We knew that it would enrage a lot of people; we’re not immune to the ’shipping, and we’re not immune to the internet controversy,” he said. “But we’ve never made decisions on the show, creatively, because of the internet. One of the things we knew people were going to think was, ‘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.’ And truth be told, we told the Laurel-Oliver romance story in Season 1. We told that story, and we never really thought about going back to it. So, the ‘shipping thing was not an element.”

The move might be particularly rough for fans of the source material to swallow, given the history between Black Canary and Green Arrow. “We recognize that that upsets a lot of fans, particularly the comic book fans,” Guggenheim said. “In the comics, Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen, depending on which version of the character you like, are in a romance together, in various iterations. That, to some people, is considered canonical and iconic, and 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. The Green Arrow has had so many different interpretations, and Black Canary has had so many different interpretations, over the years, that we never felt beholden to one particular interpretation.”

And though the producers insist dead is dead, that doesn’t mean Cassidy is gone from the DC TV universe that has emerged—or Arrow. “It actually worked out really well because in the next episode, 19, I’m actually in [it] and it’s a lot of flashbacks,” Cassidy previewed.

“Not getting a chance to work with Katie, day in and day out, is tempered by the fact that we now live in a universe where there’s resurrection, parallel Earths, time travel and flashbacks,” added Guggenheim. “We have all these different ways of keeping Katie in the Arrowverse family. In fact, you will see her on an episode of The Flash, playing the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance. Katie is reprising her role as Laurel in Earth-1 in Vixen Season 2. Death does not mean goodbye, on any of these shows, but we’ve made a creative choice and we’re sticking to it.”

What impact death now has on Arrow—and the pain it has on viewers­—could be up in the air, Guggenheim acknowledged. “I think the thing we’ve recognized ever since the Lazarus Pit, parallel universes, etc., etc , we definitely recognize, across all three shows, that when we kill off a character, it means something different now,” he said. “I’m not gonna put a qualitative judgment on whether it is more or less impactful, I’ll leave that to the audience and to you guys, but certainly we acknowledge that there’s a difference. And I think Arrow, much more so than Flash or Legends [of Tomorrow]…traffics in death. We start off the series with the apparent death of Sara Lance and the actual death of Robert Queen, and a hero that murdered people. For better or for worse, death is part of the show.”

“What we’re finding is that death now—and as it should when you start to get, as we are, pushing into Season 5—the show has to evolve, it has to change, and the concept of death on the show is evolving and changing. There’s a world where 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, and I’ll leave it to you guys to decide if death is more or less impactful as a result.”

But viewers shouldn’t go holding on to any last minute hopes that whatever favor Laurel asked Oliver—a secret that won’t be revealed until Season 5—could lead to her revival. “The joke I’ve been making: ‘Oliver Queen killed her!’” Guggenheim said. “Certainly, what did Laurel say to Oliver? But we didn’t intend for it to be like, she asked Oliver to euthanize her…[and] we’ve done a fake death before. We’re always trying to figure out what’s the way to do this. That fake-out where she was OK and then she wasn’t, was again, our attempt [at] how do we do a death we haven’t done before?”

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In the aftermath of Laurel’s death, the characters will struggle to adjust to their grief. “We really wanted to ensure that we did it in a way that was very honorable, and that gave us space to honor all of the characters’ various reactions to it,” Mercile said. “And I will say that the episodes that we’ve written in the aftermath, they’re devastating, and they’re meant to be; and that’s what we wanted. We wanted to explore that and to have everybody feel the impact of this loss. Because it is significant and we do feel that it is a game-changer—in a very sad way, in that we’re losing a very beloved character; but also in the sense that unfortunately big moves like this will open up new storytelling avenues and will force our characters to re-think their decisions and to rethink their objectives.”

Of course, the person dealing with the loss the hardest is Laurel’s father. “He can’t really take it on as a reality, but if this is the result of what’s going on, than he has to deal with it; he can’t really accept it, but he has to accept that it is happening,” Blackthorne noted. “And with these deaths, with Sara’s reprisal through magic and the Lazarus Pit, while it’s all a bit for Quentin to reconcile as something that could truly be happening…this death, of course, is just devastating for Lance because this is not the one that was ever supposed to happen. How could this be on the books?”

“Personally, I was almost as devastated as Lance, to be honest, with the news of this happening,” Blackthorne continued. “Katie and I have had such an amazing working relationship that it really is hard to accept that I’m going to be going to work without [her] to work with. That, as an aside, is slightly annoying. But in terms of Quentin, he’s going to have to pick up the pieces, not pick up a bottle, and reconcile what’s left in his life. With that, 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.”

Arrow, Wednesdays, 8/7c, The CW.