How Arrow Failed Laurel Lance One Last Time in "Fadeout"

Arrow ended its run tonight with the finale episode, "Fadeout", serving as an epilogue to not only the events of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" but Oliver Queen's life as well. The episode saw the man and hero memorialized by those who knew and loved him best while also showing the various ways he's left his fingerprints on the new Earth-Prime and establishes his rich legacy. Unfortunately, that legacy includes some questionable choices and in the case of Laurel Lance, the handling of Earth-1's version of the character is truly disappointing, but ultimately not surprising.

Spoilers for tonight's Arrow series finale, "Fadeout", below.

The finale reveals the various "fixes" Oliver established when he sacrificed himself to rebuild the Multiverse. He brings back his mother, his sister Emiko, he restores Quentin Lance, and he even brings back his best friend Tommy. It's made clear that Earth-2 Laurel is the Laurel that gets to stay in this new reality, but it's the fate of Earth-1's Laurel that is upsetting, distressing, and more than a little bit cruel.

At Oliver's funeral, Tommy is talking with Earth-2 Laurel and reveals that in this Earth-Prime reality he was married to Earth-1 Laurel. For Laurel-2, that's a hard thing to hear, but Tommy says it's actually a little nice to see her in spite of his loss. On the one hand, it's lovely to hear that Tommy and Laurel-1 did get together but then it sinks in: Oliver gave Tommy a happily ever after that he ultimately shattered. It's not clear exactly when Laurel-1 was taken out of the equation. It's possible that she died in the new timeline exactly as she did in the previous one. But it's also possible that she was just "erased" in favor of keeping Laurel-2 - who is not with Tommy.

Arrow's treatment of the Laurel Lance character is one that has always sat a bit poorly with fans and for valid reasons. It's something that dates back to the show's very beginning with the establishment that Oliver had cheated on Laurel with her own sister (and taken said sister on the boat trip that "killed" them). There are other instances of cheating as well (namely that he cheated on Laurel and got a girl pregnant,) establishing a casual disregard for Laurel in favor of establishing Oliver’s questionable pre-island character. There's also the way the show largely shelved Laurel in favor of elevating Felicity Smoak as Oliver's love interest, in the process giving that character the central female role on the series as well as heroic one.

Of course, even with a reduced role the series doesn't stop maltreating Laurel. She's given hope for a relationship with Tommy only for that to come apart and Tommy end up dead. Laurel ends up an alcoholic and while she overcomes that, the series gives away her canon heroic role to her sister. By the time Arrow finally lets Laurel come into her own, she's largely dismissed by Oliver and ends up with no real journey to her heroism so they can rush her to the point that she's actually Black Canary. Even then, once she’s donned her iconic mantle, she’s still regularly disregarded leading to perhaps the most unsettling turn of all.

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They kill her off in what can only be described as fridging as her death is somehow not even about Laurel but about what it does for Oliver's story. Literally, every moment Laurel-1 existed on Arrow it was in furtherance to Oliver's story of regret and pain rather than allowing the character to have her own arc, her own development the way others on the series did. And Arrow pours salt in that wound, maltreating Laurel-1 a final time by using Laurel-1 as a "reward" for Tommy in Oliver's weird way of fixing things for his friend. If giving Laurel-1 and Tommy a happily ever after had actually stuck, that would have been tolerable but instead of giving the woman he so deeply wronged for so long her own peace, she's just gone. Only this time, she's fridged again to give her Earth-2 counterpart even more existential pain than she already had. Oliver literally chose to keep a woman he could barely contain his contempt for at one time in favor of one he once claimed to love.

Considering Arrow's long history of dishonoring and outright disrespecting Laurel Lance and the Black Canary character, Laurel-1's final fate is extremely fitting for the series finale. But it's also deeply disappointing and it's something that for many fans will leave a long, dark stain on not only Oliver Queen's Arrowverse legacy, but Arrow's legacy as a series as well.

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