The April 6th episode of Arrow sounded the death knell for ADA Laurel Lance a/k/a Black Canary. Fans are still in mourning, demanding that writers bring her back. I get it. Facing the loss of a favorite character is like a kick to the stomach, but in spite of the furor, her death makes sense.
Damien Darhk is pure evil with a side of psychotic. In episode four of Arrow this season, we learned that he’d forced Captain Lance to do his bidding using a threat to Laurel’s life. After his merciless killings, attempted murder of Felicity Smoak, and abduction of Oliver’s son, no one could doubt the man does not like to be crossed.
When Captain Lance took the stand to testify against Darhk, the betrayal set a sequence of events in motion that could not be restructured. His past actions had already shown viewers he kept his dark promises.
When Oliver Queen outed Darhk to the public, he retaliated by kidnapping Oliver’s friends and girlfriend and ultimately put Felicity in a wheelchair. He made good on his promise to Oliver. So how could viewers doubt he would deliver a special kind of vengeance to Captain Lance?
A villain that doesn’t carry through on a threat loses credibility as the season’s big evil, and like it or not, without the tragedies, Arrow would be a show about a man with a bow who never loses a battle. That’s much like Superman without Kryptonite. Every hero needs an Achilles heel.
Consider the past three seasons and the year-long enemies. Malcolm Merlyn carried through on his promise to level the Glades. Had he been defeated in the end without any devastation to show for it, he would have been seen as a weak challenger. There had to be some consequences as a result of his twisted beliefs.
In Season Two, Deathstroke promised to make Oliver suffer. That vow brought about the death of Moira Queen. I've no doubt we were all shocked when Deathstroke's blade ended her life, but, again, had no tragedies befell Oliver or Star City, Deathstroke's appearance would be muted.
Finally, in Season Three, Ras Al Ghul decided he wanted Oliver to succeed him in Season Three. When Oliver declined, viewers knew that, to change his mind, the Demon's Head would have to do something momentous. He stripped the Arrow of his name, his connection with Lance, his friendship with Roy Harper, and nearly killed Thea, proving himself a worthy adversary.
An enemy that can be defeated easily or whose threats carry no real weight is a caricature, as viewers will soon lose interest in fingers wags and chest puffing. Evil characters have to be willing to go the distance, and the writers need to be willing to allow it.
We invest in the characters, grow to love them, and mourn when they die, but happily ever after can’t be a guarantee for heroes that put themselves in the line of fire every day.