Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Arrow 4x19 Review: "Canary Cry" (Someday I'll Fly Away)

"Canary Cry"
Original Airdate: April 27, 2016

We all cope with grief in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to deal with the loss of someone you loved. Some people get angry. Some people suffer from intense denial. Some lose themselves in sadness. Some simply feel numb. I've experienced all kinds of emotions when I've dealt with the loss of a family member — apathy, numbness, anger, sorrow — and the characters on Arrow are feeling the same emotions that most of us do whenever we encounter death. While there is no right or wrong way to deal with grief, there are productive and destructive ways. A productive way to deal with the death of someone we cared about is by allowing ourselves the space to grieve and to grieve honestly, whatever that looks like. If we do, we will find ourselves on a pathway toward healing. But if we deal with our grief destructively, it can break us and the people around us. We can use our grief to lash out at others, to lash out at ourselves, and ultimately it can be the very thing that changes us, hardens us, and destroys us.

In "Canary Cry," Team Arrow is dealing with the loss of Laurel Lance (not Black Canary, folks. Arrow did not kill Black Canary — they killed Laurel Lance, and I'll discuss the importance of that distinction in a moment). How did they do with their grief? Well, let's dive in and see because some of our characters could probably use a heavy dose of counseling.


Before I get into the plot of the episode, why is it so important to me that everyone understand the fact that Arrow did not — as I have seen many angry fanboys (and girls) claim — "kill Black Canary"? Because in inappropriately placing their blame on the showrunners and inappropriately equating Laurel with Black Canary, they're actually devaluing the character they're claiming to love and support. Look, it's no surprise that Laurel Lance was a divisive character. You can argue all day with people who love her and with those who do not like her at all.

But Laurel was important in the framework of the relationships Arrow has created. Her storylines may have vanished and she may — toward the end of her character arc — not really had much impact on the stories Arrow was telling (it kind of sucks that the show found literally nothing they could do with her character so she merely existed in the background — wasted character potential annoys me) so killing Laurel off was the most logical thing to do in that regard. It made sense. She had no trajectory left, and no possible progression. But don't for a moment think Laurel was unimportant to the characters of the show. I think that sometimes we project our opinions onto our characters. If we didn't like Laurel, she must not be of importance to anyone else in the show, either. If you don't like Felicity, you probably think she's pointless, too. We tend to believe that whatever we feel toward a character is also felt by the fictional characters in the show.

That's not the case. Laurel Lance died as a hero, and she died as a woman that everyone cared about. I might not have loved her, but that doesn't mean Team Arrow felt the same way. Laurel is, if you think about it, the last person who tethered Oliver to the life he once knew and the person he once was. Though we know Sara is alive and thriving on Legends of Tomorrow, Laurel is — in a way — the only family Oliver and Thea had left. And now, with their father and mother both gone, Oliver and Thea only have one another as blood relatives, and their bond will always be the most important one in the show to me (sorry, Oliver/Felicity).

And in spite of their absolutely rocky and sometimes destructive relationship, Laurel cared for Oliver and he cared about her. She reminded him of who he used to be and how far he has come.

This all circles back around to why I'm frustrated with people saying that Arrow killed off Black Canary. No, they did not. Arrow did not do away with a comic book legend — they did away with Laurel Lance. And to make the two inseparable is to reduce Laurel to nothing more than a costume. Laurel was a dynamic character, and her death is about much more than the loss of a black costume and a mask. In not understanding this, in claiming that Arrow has done the unthinkable, has rejected canon (which, FYI, you should all totally read this piece in which the author explains how canon only exists in our heads; it's BRILLIANT), you're saying that Laurel only had value to you because of the costume she wore.

The character of the Arrow on this show has been many people — it's been Ra's, Diggle, and Roy for starters. And yet the death of the Arrow would not be the death of the show. Because there's a fluidity in terms of comic book characters. Your version of Black Canary might have died, but that is YOUR version of her. Perhaps someone reading the Green Arrow comics believes that version to be canon — not Stephen Amell. And perhaps you read those same comics and your version of Black Canary is the written one, not the one on this show. And that's totally and completely fine.

My canon version of Batman will always be Christian Bale. My canon version of Spiderman is Andrew Garfield. An no matter how many people in the past, present, or future embody Iron Man, my canon version will always be Robert Downey, Jr. Are those versions canon for you? Perhaps yes, or perhaps no. And that's the point. It would be absolutely absurd for us to think that ten, twenty, or thirty years down the line our grandchildren will not be reading comics or watching movies and television shows with different versions of the characters we once knew — that they won't also be claiming that their canonical version of a character is the only one.

(Literally, this happens with my best friend's parents who watched Doctor Who as they grew up. My best friend's Doctor is David Tennant; theirs is Tom Baker. See? Different canons; same character!)

So what happens when you say that the show killed Black Canary is that you project your personal canon and demand that everyone embrace it. Black Canary, to some people, will be Laurel Lance. To some people, it will be the comic book character only. But you cannot equate the two. You cannot say that everyone's canon needs to be a single epitomization of a character. And the problem these days with Arrow is that people demand that. People demand that the writers do things exactly like they're done in the comics, with Green Arrow and Black Canary getting married. Hey, if you ship those two in the comics, more power to you.

But understand that there is no one true canon and there never will be. In projecting comic "canon" onto Arrow, you're completely missing the point of a show that's an adaptation of the characters from those comics. So no, Arrow did not kill Black Canary. They killed the character who embodied their version of the comic book hero.

Whew. We good?


There are a few things to know about the plot of "Canary Cry," but I honestly don't think they're of extreme significance (everyone plays the blame game except, refreshingly, Oliver; a teenage girl dresses up like the Black Canary because her parents were killed in Darhk's gas chamber; the team decides to do stuff). What's really significant in this episode is how everyone deals with the loss of Laurel. Oliver refuses to blame himself, because he spends the episode flashing back to post-Tommy's death and his interactions with Laurel then.

But Dig, Quentin, and Felicity are the characters experiencing the most shifting grief in the episode. Felicity blames herself for not being there, on the team, to somehow help with getting them out of there before Darhk would have killed Laurel. Oliver reassures Felicity that her guilt is misplaced, but that it's misplaced because in the most difficult, unanswerable circumstances, we cling to any answers we can find. This seems to reset Felicity, and it was a nice scene that allows me to believe in hope for those two as confidantes again. (For the record, I don't want them to get back together before the end of the season but I doubt the showrunners will see eye-to-eye with me on that one. Romance sells sweeps, after all!)

Going into the episode, Dig was the person I knew would be consumed with grief. After all, it was his trust in Andy that led them to Iron Heights and to Laurel's eventual death. If anyone has reason to feel guilt, it's him. And he does. His grief becomes anger — anger at himself, anger at Andy, anger at Darhk, and anger at the injustice of it all. Because Team Arrow keeps swinging and punching and yet, they keep losing. Every single time. Dig lost a good friend because of Darhk, and it's this pain and his perceived hand in it that causes him to lash out in reckless anger at Ruve.

David Ramsey's performance in the moment where Oliver finds and stops him from killing Ruve? So wonderful. There's this intensity there that we haven't seen before (and we have seen a lot of intensity from Diggle), and this raw grief. Oliver confronts Diggle about not becoming the villain of the story, no matter how responsible he feels or how angry he is. Dig's anger is justified, though, when the bad guys keep getting away time and time again. It's painful to watch and even more painful knowing that his friend is gone.

I love Diggle, and I'm glad that Oliver was the one to talk sense into him, but goodness gracious is everyone this season doomed to have an identity crisis? I understand that this is the primary theme of comic book shows, but it feels a lot like spinning wheels lately. One week, Oliver is doubting himself; the next, Diggle is. Thea's already had identity crises this season, and so has Felicity. I'm all for parallelism in themes and stuff, but this episode felt like it had no idea what other layer it could use plot/conflict-wise and decided to fall back on the old "we can't lash out, no matter how bad we are feeling" lesson that Oliver learns about fifty times a season.


Quentin Lance deserves his own section of this review because his grief is unlike the grief of anyone else — a fact he states to Oliver in the episode. How many times can Quentin lose a daughter before he breaks? Well, apparently this is the point of no return. Because this time, there is no Lazarus Pit to bring her back. There is no magic that Nyssa can provide. Laurel is actually gone. And the worst part is that Quentin has lost his rock. The relationship between Quentin and Laurel always seemed to be a lot closer than that of Quentin and Sara. I always had the sense that Sara was closer to her mother (I'm closer to my mom in a lot of ways than my dad).

But Quentin and Laurel understood one another. They were cut from the same cloth — resilient, stubborn, with the same love for people and protecting them. They both suffered from the same addiction, too; their pain was shared. But it was more than that. No matter how rough their relationship, Laurel never left. She always stayed. She was there for her dad even when no one else was — even when her mother left. Laurel was there for her dad through AA meetings and the worst days and the best days. She might not have always said or done the right thing, but these two were a team. They loved and understood one another deeply, even when they didn't agree with each other.

Laurel was Quentin's rock. She was his steady support — his comfort and his constant. And losing her hurts in different ways than losing Sara. When Sara died, Quentin lost his baby. When Laurel died, he lost his rock. And though he spends a majority of the episode in denial, it's plausible because... well, this show did bring back Sara a few times, and everyone who is presumed dead nearly always returns alive. So watching Quentin unravel around Oliver was so difficult to watch and so painful, and yet so beautifully acted.

At the end of "Canary Cry," Oliver gives a moving eulogy for Laurel in which he reveals to the attendants that she was the Black Canary. He does this because Laurel's legacy was on the verge of being tarnished by a sixteen year-old girl in the episode's plot (yeah, a sixteen year-old girl outsmarted and nearly bested Team Arrow... wow, they suck). In order to ensure that everyone knew Laurel died as a hero, he revealed her to be not just a woman who fought for justice in the daylight, but fought for people every moment of every day.

Laurel was not without her faults, but I think that this episode served as a nice reminder that while the mask of the Black Canary can be picked up by literally anyone, it was Laurel's drive and ambition, sometimes to the point of recklessness, that made her the hero she lived and died as.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • Paul Blackthorne was the MVP for this episode. I... don't even have words to describe his brilliant portrayal of a grieving father. It was truly a tour de force.
  • This is the first week in a long time we haven't seen Lian Yu flashbacks. PRAISE THE LORD! NO MORE BLAND FLASHBACK CHICK! Instead, we got (pretty retconned) flashbacks with Oliver and Laurel. They made very little sense since they all took place post-Tommy's death and apparently Oliver and Laurel still had feelings for one another then? I honestly have no idea what the writers were thinking about, but sure, I'll totally believe that Oliver was in love with Laurel before he went away for a few months to the island. Whatever you say, show. I've stopped questioning most things at this point anyway.
  • This episode had amazing performances but overall was kinda "meh." It's not a bad episode, but I found myself being a little bored halfway through, especially when it came to Faux Canary's story.
  • Oliver calls himself "the world's leading expert in blaming yourself." Seems accurate.
  • I get that the Canary Cry is cool because of frequency and all of that, but man it's kind of a one-trick pony. After a few too many uses in this episode, it just became irritating.
  • Nyssa returned and I love her still.
  • "Sometimes we just need a reason when a situation is completely unreasonable."
  • Can we please discuss the fact that Felicity has trackers on everyone? I mean, I guess it's to keep them safe but uh, last season everyone was rightfully horrified when Oliver said he tracked Laurel to do the same thing. And Dig didn't know he had a tracker on him. So how is this any different? No thank you, show. No thank you.
  • "You cannot forget who you are. And we? We can never become them." If we made a BINGO game out of phrases from this show, I'm pretty sure "don't forget who you are" would be on one of them.
  • "She's always been there — she's my rock. ... She WAS my rock." Ohhhhhhhhh, my sweet Quentin. That hurt. It really hurt.
  • "You're just one illegitimate child away from an awesome Oliver Queen impersonation." You don't even deserve this ray of sunshine, Oliver.
  • Alex Kingston made her triumphant, straight-haired, American-accented return! Now go find a way to be on Legends of Tomorrow so you can reunite with Arthur Darvill, please. Thanks.
  • Barry, my sweet prince, returned.
  • "You have to find a way now. For Laurel. For the city. For all of us."
What did you all think of "Canary Cry"? Are you looking forward to the return of Andy Diggle? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts!


  1. Maybe the tracker was in the suit

    1. Maaaaaaaaaybe. But it seems weird (to me at least) that Felicity just nonchalantly mentioned that she put trackers on everyone when it was such a huge deal last year.

  2. I spent this episode enjoying the performances of the actors. They were given some great scenes to play and did an amazing job. The overall structure of the episode felt a little shaky though, transitions felt odd when fitting together flashbacks and the scene in the limo with Oliver and Felicity that we've seen before.

    I didn't have a problem with Oliver still feeling strongly about Laurel in the post-Tommy's death flashbacks. They did sleep together right before Tommy died. It's just hard to emotionally go back to the season 1 story arc and all the Oliver/Laurel angst after all these years. But I buy that emotion because that is where they were at the end of season 1. I did feel that Oliver leaving felt a little abrupt. Maybe I just wanted him more shut down and distant following Tommy's death because that is how I remember him.

    Given the interaction between Felicity and Oliver this episode (loved the scene in the empty campaign office) the scene in the limo felt abruptly angry. But as it went on I felt more like that anger was about Darhk and feeling helpless than about any anger between the two of them. Which makes sense but I still want Oliver to explain how killing Damian Darhk is not "becoming like them" as he warned Diggle about. I could understand if killing Damian is not based in rage as Diggle's actions are but in a real solid belief that he has to be killed for the good of the city. It's a moral grey area but I don't mind that, I just need a Oliver to explain his thought process a bit more there. It doesn't jibe with the "remember who you are" speeches earlier in the episode otherwise.

    The bit with the Faux Canary didn't quite work although I like Ruve using her as a way to get the city against the vigilantes again and the focus off of the actual criminals. Smart move from the bad guys. And it's nice that Oliver and team aren't the only ones who really hate HIVE. Considering their evil empire they must have plenty of enemies, they can't be completely unknown by all their victims.

    Oliver spent this whole episode being the voice of reason. Nice! He was doing some self-blame but he was very perceptive in understanding why he does it. Maybe all his practise helps him to see the thought processes behind it. In any case, I liked seeing this changing of the status quo. Felicity made a good point that Dig can't give in to the same thing he's always counselled Oliver about. Not that people don't do that all the time.

    Am I supposed to be suspicious of Alex? Did Faux Canary just go after him because of the press conference and his job? Or am I supposed to believe that HIVE has gotten their claws into him (or he's been a traitor for a really long time?) I gotta know because I really don't want to see Thea betrayed by a trusted loved one yet AGAIN.

    Even without the flashbacks we finally get a real mention of what Oliver knows about Damian's magic. Finally! Why doesn't he bring this stuff up before everything goes to hell? If he can use some knowledge from the island in his fight now the Lian Yu storyline will finally feel relevant. I just wish they could do that more effectively earlier in the season.

    1. BECCA. As always, I love your comments!

      t's just hard to emotionally go back to the season 1 story arc and all the Oliver/Laurel angst after all these years.

      Maybe that is why everything felt so retconned. It's nearly impossible at this point to reinvest in the emotional turmoil that was Oliver/Laurel, especially since I'm trying to reconcile a "flashback" version of them with the version of them right before she died last episode. It was weird and hard to wrap my brain around honestly.

      Given the interaction between Felicity and Oliver this episode (loved the scene in the empty campaign office) the scene in the limo felt abruptly angry.

      SAAAAAAAAAAME. I would say that for me though, all of the ways they tried to splice the pre-shot scenes into the narrative seemed a little... off to me? They didn't click or flow as well as I think they were meant to. Your explanation makes sense though, and so does your confusion. It seems odd to reconcile the idea of the really calm and compassionate Felicity we saw a few scenes earlier with the really intense and angry one in the limo. I think the show shooting those flashforward scenes first hindered them, honestly. Because story-wise, Diggle HAD to be angry, so Felicity couldn't be. It just makes her reaction in the limo so weird and nonsensical based on everything else we see from her in the episode.

      Oliver spent this whole episode being the voice of reason. Nice! He was doing some self-blame but he was very perceptive in understanding why he does it. Maybe all his practise helps him to see the thought processes behind it. In any case, I liked seeing this changing of the status quo.

      OLIVER QUEEN, UNLIKELY VOICE OF REASON. What a refreshing change of pace.

      Am I supposed to be suspicious of Alex? Did Faux Canary just go after him because of the press conference and his job? Or am I supposed to believe that HIVE has gotten their claws into him (or he's been a traitor for a really long time?) I gotta know because I really don't want to see Thea betrayed by a trusted loved one yet AGAIN.

      I'm kind of confused about that, too. Is it just because she saw that he is now working with Ruve? I really have no idea and as much as I do love Parker Young, it kinda felt like a weird episode to reintroduce Alex again to us.

      Thanks, as always, for your comments! :)

  3. I went in trying to think about what to say to sound reasonable to think and find metaphors and connection. It all sounded wrong so I decided to go off script and just speak from the heart because that is where all this coming from.

    While I can accept changes made due to diffrent mediums as long as the core of the character is intact. You can make her a lawyer, leader of a rock band but as long as the Black Canary is who she is, a hero then I`m okay.

    I say Black Canary because Laurel Lance in this show is the Black Canary there is no distiniction in my opinion. To make them distnict is a great discervice. The Black Canary is not just a mask or a costume it means something more it inspires feelings and memories a legacy. Laurel Lance can not be reduced to a costume because its a part of her its a part of her core her very soul if you will. Just like the Green Arrow is part of Oliver its not something one can part with or dissmised or anyone can pick up.
    While Laurel Lance was not exactaly her comic counterpart she still represents the Black Canary of the comics of her legacy. She is still the same character even if you give her superficial changes. Its even worse here because Black Canary has been adapted from the comics before and aside from minor changes she fits with the knowledge of how the character acts from those comics. Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice and she's not the main focus of either of those shows. So even though I hear people say its a show about Green Arrow not Black Canary, well she was in a show about the Justice League they didn't feel the need to kill her off there and they don't even follow comic canon. I mean John Stewart and Hawkgirl were the founding members of the Justice League on that show not canon at all.
    I do not begrudge Arrow for going its own path all adapations do, what I do begrudge is disrespect and I feel like this show is being disrespectful. I can not speak for anyone else but Arrow did not try to adapt and alter to its own canon, the stories from the Green Arrow mythos that involved her. As a hero in her own right to not have her stories told or character grow in conjunction with the Green Arrow but to be used as a shock death or her story "ended" feels insulting. To suggest that she's only the Black Canary because Sara died and there is nothing beyond that is also insulting and frankly feels like the writers are very cynical about the idea that superheros can inspire people.
    To round out I ask a question if the Black Canary is so distinict and seperate from Laurel Lance to be just a mask. Why did you make Laurel Lance the Canary in the first place, why adapt that character why not make one just for the show. Like Sara Lance, but the show killed her why didn't she just stay dead and nobody picked up her mantle? I don't know those answers. But I what I believe is that Superheros are not their costumes they are symbols and wherever Laruel is on the streets or in the courtroom she is the Black Canary mask or no mask, costume or no costume, Metahuman or non metahuman. You can not seperate a piece of your soul.

    Well that was my ramblings if I offended or dissmised your feelings I apologize. Jen I apologize to you as well I did not want to take over your site. But Arrow should have tried more, explored more and pushed to the limit when possibile. The show is about Oliver Queen and the Arrow but The Green Arrow is more than one man its a mythology. Adding Flash and Legends of Tomorow its about a new version of the DC Universe. Zeus may be King on Olympus but just as there are many stories about him. There are just as many about all the other gods as well. Black Canary is apart of that mythos and her death robbed the show to explore more of it either here or on other shows in this universe.

    That is all I wanted to say, Thank You.

    1. As I've never been a reader of the Green Arrow comics I've never felt particularly attached to any particular portrayal of characters in this TV adaptation. However, I have had beloved characters adapted before and been very upset about it (Don't get me started on how the Lord of the Rings films threw Faramir's character under the bus. I understand why they did it for the story they were telling, and it's a good story they were doing by and large, but it hurt me to see my most beloved Faramir so greatly reduced. But I also own all the LoTR films and generally enjoy them. I just skip certain scenes :) There's nothing wrong with having your favourite versions. There's nothing wrong with criticising a story for weaknesses in character and plot. I just don't want to demand creators make characters the way I want them. There is room in this world for lots of versions of stories.)

      I will agree with you that this show never did a very good job of integrating Laurel's story with the rest of the show. They introduced the concept of Oliver cheating with Laurel's sister right off the bat but then that whole season and most of season 2 Laurel was completely in the dark about who the Arrow was. That left a legacy of separation from the very start. They never built them as an inseparable team. I won't assume that from another medium. They have to SHOW me. Now that could have been changed; I just don't think it was ever done very well. Making the Canary begin as Sara Lance changed the trajectory of this character to a great extent. Once they did that I think they irrevocably connected the idea of grief, sisterhood and the Black Canary. It certainly could have been done differently. We were told that Laurel was always out to save the world. But that wasn't shown as her motivation for being a vigilante - it was always connected to Sara in this version of the tale.

      Now, as I said, I'm okay with that. I just ask a well-developed character from a story. I think the show missed that mark with Laurel and as a consequence the character felt very inconsistent. I think I have a very high tolerance for variation in general though due to years of university study of literature. The variations on characters in the Arthurian mythos for example are extraordinarily diverse. Diversity is not a bad thing. However, wasting a character is a shame. And I can see that the potential for Laurel Lance was wasted. I'll still watch and (sometimes) enjoy Arrow just like I watch and enjoy LoTR. But I also have my criticisms. I think I can do both.

    2. (I say Black Canary because Laurel Lance in this show is the Black Canary there is no distiniction in my opinion. To make them distinction is a great disservice.)


  4. I stopped watching Arrow a few episodes ago, but I still read your review and I try to keep a few things in tumblr until the moment I completely let go, because my curiosity always speaks louder, but I would like to add something in this debate about canon and Laurel/ Black Canary, as HQ fan and fanatical fan of Geek’s world, who loved Star Wars 7, but was bother by some things that the movie presented, the conflict between the "fanboy" and Arrow is not because they have made some changes in this universe, any adaptation has its changes, it’s inevitable and the fans know it (well, most of), the problem with Arrow it’s that was a complete separation between the HQ’s universe and the tv show. Flash, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Gotham, these are tv show who have major changes, but they honor HQ’s stories. As they should be.
    The first problem with Arrow is that they always tried to be a Batman’s copy with arrow and bow (we can’t deny comparisons because they’re evident the entire show) and Arrow never honored Black Canary, they never gave the opportunity for the character to shine. Not even in her own death. Talk about Olicity and that Oliver was the love of her life? Really O.o?
    Civil Wars have so many differences that the HQ, is almost practically a different story, but the essence is the same, and it's amazing, and I'm sure most fans will enjoy, the freedom creative is necessary, but if they going to change or create your own "canon" has to equally good or better, the last good episode of Arrow was the season finale of the second season, and even that was copy of TDK.