Why Arrow’s New Black Canary Actually Matters

I’m overcome by a flood of emotions.  Join me inside where you can be my superhero television themed therapist, and listen to me rant on about this show that never ceases to piss me off…yet always gives me that sliver of hope for something more, something…better…

**SPOILERS FOR THE 5TH SEASON OF ARROW FOLLOW**

In episode 11 of Arrow Season 5, entitled “Second Chances” we are introduced to the latest woman to (eventually) take on the mantle of Black Canary, as she joins a long line of Canarys over the four and a half seasons we’ve been witness to.  Let’s take a quick recap, shall we?:

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Arrow — “Birds of Prey” — Image AR217a_0316b — Pictured: Caity Lotz as Canary — Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW — © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sara Lance: Younger sister to the most famous Canary in DC’s canon, Dinah Laurel Lance (more on her in a minute), Arrow had Sara having an affair with the young idiot version of Oliver Queen, eventually going down on the “Queen’s Gambit,” being stranded on Lian Yu with Oliver, and eventually being trained by the League of Assassins.  After her training, she returns to Starling City as our 1st iteration of the Canary, until she is unceremoniously murdered by a brainwashed Thea, then brought back to life in Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit.
Current Status: Leading the Legends of Tomorrow as the White Canary.

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Dinah Laurel Lance: The most well known Black Canary in the DC Universe, Laurel took up the mantle of the Canary after her sister’s death, training with Ted Grant’s Wildcat and using a mechanism around her neck to create her patented “Canary Cry.”  Over the better part of 3 decades in the comics, Laurel and Oliver were a couple made in vigilante heaven, at one point getting married.  Most assumed when it was announced that Katie Cassidy would be playing Laurel Lance, that she would eventually take up the mantle of the Black Canary at Oliver’s side throughout the series, dishing out some hardcore justice, and end up being the series’ main romantic lead for Oli.  1 of those things happened (Damn you, Felicity!)  When the decision was made to kill off this character near the end of Season 4, most fans responded with a resounding, “whhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?”  Who would end up being the Arrowverse‘s final Canary?
Current Status: Being dead.

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Evelyn Sharp: Evelyn played a Canary copycat at the end of Season 4 and was then brought back into the fold to start Season 5 as Artemis.  Rumors swirled a bit that she might be the next Canary, but most of those thoughts dissipated when Evelyn was revealed to be the mole within team Arrow, working with the shadowy Prometheus all along.
Current Status: Status currently unknown, but wherever she is, she still sucks.

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The Flash — “Invincible” — Image: FLA222a_0541b.jpg — Pictured: Katie Cassidy as Black Siren — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Earth 2 Laurel Lance: Because this show is built within a multiverse, there can be several individual versions of the same character.  Case in point, “Black Siren,” the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance who is very much a villain, very much has a natural canary cry, and very much has her septum pierced.  I had speculated when she was brought back into the fold at the end of the mid-season finale that it was possible that the Arrow writers were trying to rewrite the Black Canary legacy and her love story with Oliver Queen, having the Earth-2 version be the reformed Black Canary we had expected the Earth-1 version to be all along.  Alas, this was not to be.
Current Status: Once again, behind bars…or plexiglass…or whatever can keep her contained.

Does your brain hurt yet?  Just wait.

Enter Tina Boland.

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In the most recent episode of Arrow entitled “Second Chances,” we’re introduced to ex-Central City Police Officer Tina Boland, a metahuman who had been caught in the wave set off by the particle excelerator in Season 1 of the Flash/Season 3 of Arrow.  As the billow of energy hit her, she was screaming at seeing her partner/lover die at the hands of the local mob, hence her meta-ability being a natural “Canary Cry,” a la Earth-2’s Black Siren.  Oliver and Company (this joke never gets old.  Disney quota filled) find her on a revenge mission to take out the crew that killed her late partner.  Oliver sees a shot at redemption, not only at saving a Canary (I mean, I think he’s failed to save like 47 of them at this point), but also saving Boland from going down the dark path he himself took in becoming the Hood/Arrow/Green Arrow.  She slowly warms to the Emerald Archer, yet at the point of redemption, when she has the chance to take in her partner’s killer, she chooses to kill him instead, claiming this is what her partner would’ve wanted  (mirroring Season 1 Oliver in a very epic, awesome, bad ass moment).

Although I thoroughly enjoyed Juliana Harkavy’s portrayal of the metahuman ex-cop out for revenge, I wasn’t sure what the point of this random new character vying for the mantle of the Canary was. Until the end of the episode, when Boland dropped this bombshell:

Her name isn’t Tina Boland, that was just a name she used while undercover.

Her name is Dinah Drake.

*****QUE BRAIN EXPLODING OUT OF MY EARS*****

Here’s why that matters.

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When the powers that be, Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, created the Black Canary in the late 40’s, her name was Dinah Drake, and she was in love with police captain Larry Lance. Originally on Earth-2, Lance died protecting his beloved, who then moved to Earth-1, becoming part of the Justice League of America during DC’s Golden Age of comics, and fully became the Black Canary.

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Once continuity was changed in 1983, it was revealed that Dinah Drake-Lance was not just the original Black Canary, but mother to the current Canary (at the time), Dinah Laurel Lance, who would take up the mantle and also fall in love with the Green Arrow, Oliver Queen.  Throughout continuity for the next 25+ years, this was the case, until DC’s Flashpoint event shook of the DC Universe forever, creating the New 52 continuity.  In this soft reboot of sorts, Dinah Drake was again the one and only Black Canary, having no real relationship with Mr. Queen, married to police detective Kurt Lance, & running the Birds of Prey as the Operative known as Canary.

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Then DC’s Rebirth reboot happened, in an essence combining the characters of Dinah Drake and Dinah Laurel Lance under the name of Dinah Drake-Lance.  The character continued her history of being a bad ass vigilante, and brought back her connection to Oliver Queen.

Back to Arrow.  This new version of Dinah Drake is, for the most part, based off of the New 52 iteration of the character (which shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Much of the Arrowverse is mirrored within the New 52 continuity.)  The new Canary is not just a “new” Canary, she’s essentially the original Canary, updated for the Arrowverse, with the martial arts, detective skills, canary cry, and no nonsense, dissident attitude of her New 52 counterpart.

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Arrow — “Second Chances” — Image AR511b_0007b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Juliana Harkavy as Tina Boland and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

And finally, this is why it should matter to you.  I believe this is the Arrow writers way of calling a mulligan and apologizing to the fandom for the death of Laurel Lance.  It had become painfully apparent that she was killed off just as they could have turned her into, essentially, what Dinah Drake will now become for this show.  Laurel can never be replaced, no matter how many times they bring back Katie Cassidy to play a past or alternate universe version of herself.  The relationship she should have had with Oliver can never be replicated, but bringing in another character steeped in DC’s hallowed comic book lore, albeit with some very obvious tweaks, was the only way to fix Arrow’s Canary problem.  Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah Drake will now be given the role, the importance, that Katie Cassidy’s Laurel should’ve had all along.  There’s no going back now to erase the death of Laurel Lance (even though they did it for Sara…and Thea…and Oliver…), but those handling creative decisions within the Arrowverse made their best determination in years by bringing in Dinah Drake as their new (and hopefully final) Black Canary.

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NOTE:  For those interested in the current situation between Green Arrow and Black Canary, pick up the Rebirth relaunch of Green Arrow, in trade paperback now.  You will not be disappointed.

 

Lou Mattiuzzo is a full time teacher, full time husband, full time Dad & full time superhero enthusiast.  He’s also, for better or for worse, the writer of the Ranked! editorials.

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