Posted by Michael Patterson @WatchTower
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Michael Patterson

Arrow has been on the air for over five years now, and in that time it has seen many faces come and go. And none of them were greater than Laurel Lance. One of the original members of the cast and Team Arrow, Katie Cassidy's character certainly divided fans in the beginning, with Laurel undergoing endless trials and persecution from her loved ones on the show. She would live up to her comic book counterpart by taking up the mantle of Black Canary and kicking some major ass until she was unjustly killed last season.

Black Canary ended up becoming 'Arrow's strongest character. (via The CW)
Black Canary ended up becoming 'Arrow's strongest character. (via The CW)

So, with all that mind, allow me to take this opportunity to reflect on the character's journey from Seasons 1-4 and highlight how Katie Cassidy did a fantastic job of bringing Arrow's strongest character to life.

Character Development

The sign of a good character is one that consistently grows and develops as the story moves forward — nobody is going to be interested in someone who stays the same the whole way through — and that kind of development is exactly what we saw from Laurel Lance. From the strong, smart young woman who worked at CNRI right through to her crime-fighting days as Black Canary, Laurel developed through the entire show and went on an emotional journey which eventually turned her into the hero she was destined to become.

Laurel Lance was a very different person in Season 1 of "Arrow." (via The CW)
Laurel Lance was a very different person in Season 1 of "Arrow." (via The CW)

The first real instance of development we saw from the character was her Season 2 storyline where she battled with alcoholism and grief based on her sister's death and subsequent resurrection. And it wasn't just the writers who made this happen, Katie Cassidy did a phenomenal job of portraying Laurel's flaws over the years — from the jealous facial expressions when she found out Sara was with Oliver, to the drunken state he often came home in, it always felt authentic and that was down to Cassidy's powerful performance.

Laurel's growth as a character was on full display during Season 3 when she found herself having to deal with Sara's death all over again. Instead of letting the loss of her sister force her back into her former habits, Laurel used it as motivation to clean up the dangerous streets of Star City. In many ways, this was the moment that the Black Canary was born. And while her transformation to hero still had its hiccups, Laurel consistently trained herself to get better, eventually becoming the hero we all knew she was.

Katie Cassidy's authentic performance made Laurel's journey believable. (via The CW)
Katie Cassidy's authentic performance made Laurel's journey believable. (via The CW)

By Season 4, the world had accepted Laurel in all her glory — so much so that Black Canary was voted DC's best TV hero — and even the naysayers had warmed to the character — because for the first time ever, she was finally where she needed to be. Laurel Lance had gone from grieving sister to dealing with alcoholism to losing her sister again to finally becoming a hero. Looking back on it, it makes all the adversity worthwhile because not only did she grow as a character, she finally became the hero she was destined to become. And nobody else on the show had that kind of rich storytelling. Laurel Lance was far from a perfect character, but that was what made her interesting.

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She Constantly Overcame The Odds

I don't think I've ever seen a character on #TV who was treated as poorly as Laurel Lance was. Since the show's inception, Laurel has been grieving for a lost loved one and as it went on, she continued to lose more and more, all while having to deal with her own problems. In fact, she's always been fighting an uphill battle, even when it came to the Canary mantle as it was Sara who was given it first.

Laurel fought back so hard she became the Black Canary. (via The CW)
Laurel fought back so hard she became the Black Canary. (via The CW)

But each time Laurel got knocked down, she always managed to make one heck of a comeback. And there's no greater example of this than when she lost Sara for the second time. Instead of letting the grief beat her, she found a way to channel it and became the Black Canary. By channeling her own sister's legacy, she carved out a brand new one for herself.

When she was told she wasn't a hero, she fought valiantly to become one — and did. Despite not being the show's original Canary, Laurel's fought hard to come out of Sara's shadow and did so in a huge way. Moreover, Cassidy's strong performances reinforced this, especially when it came to her refusal to be told no. Cassidy portrayed the role with determination and heart, and that is exactly what Laurel needed in order to get to where she needed to be.

Black Canary Was A Unique Persona

In a show overflowing with archers, sidekicks and badass bodyguards, Black Canary managed to stand out from the crowd. While Oliver constantly surrounded himself with great #superheroes in the form of Arsenal and Speedy, both of them were very much more of the same — archers. Moreover, Diggle went from being a badass bodyguard to badass bodyguard in a helmet. As far as originality went in Team Arrow, there wasn't that much. However, that's where the Black Canary came in.

Black Canary was the most original hero on Team Arrow. (via The CW)
Black Canary was the most original hero on Team Arrow. (via The CW)

Modeled after the comic book version, the Black Canary easily stood out from the crowd. From her original outfit to her weapon of choice — the tonfa — Laurel set herself apart from a team of near-identical personas. All of this — and her training from both Wilcat and Nyssa Al Guhl — helped her to become her own hero, rather than just another member of Team Arrow. Despite naysayers, Laurel Lance became the Black Canary. And once again, Katie Cassidy had no issue going to extreme lengths to protect the storyline's authenticity, highlighted by the intense training she undertook in order to physically prepare herself for Laurel's transition into Black Canary.

However, the thing that helped Laurel the most when it came to standing apart from the rest of heroes was undoubtedly her Canary Cry collar. This was a feature that only she utilized which allowed her to incapacitate enemies without ever having to be near them. And in ways, this actually made her the most deadly hero of the pack.

The Canary Cry was deadly.
The Canary Cry was deadly.

Katie Cassidy's portrayal of Laurel Lance was not only a worthy interpretation of the iconic character, she ended up helping Laurel to become the strongest character on the show. Despite Laurel's emotional trials and constant brushes with tragedy, she managed to overcome all of this to become the beacon of hope that is the Black Canary. Although she is gone now, her purity, her strength and her legacy live on thanks to the memorial statue.

Even though we know Katie Cassidy will return to Arrow, #TheFlash, #LegendsOfTomorrow and maybe even appear on #Supergirl, I still find myself questioning the creative team's choice to kill off the character when she finally reached where she needed to be. It makes it seem like all this incredible development was for nothing. And for that reason alone, Arrow is a much duller place without Katie Cassidy's presence.

Yes, yes it does!
Yes, yes it does!

After intense battles, extensive character development and overcoming the odds, Laurel Lance set herself apart from the rest and moved us week after week as she transitioned from heartbroken sister into badass action hero. And with these great storylines to work with, it was Katie Cassidy who brought Arrow's strongest character to life.

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