“Arrow Theory: Laurel Is The Villain Of Green Arrow & The Canaries”
Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Arrow, season 8, episode 9, “Green Arrow and the Canaries.”
Could Laurel Lance be the secret villain of Green Arrow and the Canaries? There is evidence in the backdoor pilot and penultimate episode of Arrow suggesting that the former Black Siren’s redemption may not be as certain as was expected following Crisis on Infinite Earths.
“Green Arrow and the Canaries” established a radically different future for Star City than the one which was the setting of the flash-forwards in Arrow season 7. No longer a dystopian nightmare ruled over by a wealthy elite, the new Star City of 2040 appeared to be a high-tech metropolis and the children of the city’s heroes in the modern day were happily living in the lap of luxury. That changed when Laurel Lance arrived with a warning that someone was trying to ruin the last 20 years of peace and utter chaos would come to the city in 2041 if something wasn’t done. This led her to recruit a retired Dinah Drake and restore the alternate timeline memories of Oliver Queen’s daughter, Mia Queen, so that she was once again the street-smart pit-fighter whom Green Arrow selected to continue his legacy.
While Laurel’s motives seemed noble on the surface, the only evidence of an approaching disaster came directly from her. Additionally, there were holes in her story and some questionable behavior over the course of the pilot that called her honesty into question. This raises a troubling possibility: that Laurel is the true villain of Green Arrow and the Canaries and formed the titular team as a way of manipulating her potential opposition while furthering her ultimate goals.
“Green Arrow and the Canaries” opened with Laurel Lance approaching a young woman named Bianca Bertinelli in a nightclub and trying to get her to come with her, just before Bianca was grabbed by several men. As Laurel explained later to Dinah Drake (who had retired to Star City in 2040 and opened a piano bar after Oliver Queen’s funeral) the kidnapping of Bianca Bertinelli was a catalyst and all hell broke loose in Star City three days after her body was found. The peace Oliver Queen sacrificed himself to bring about was shattered and the blame fell on socialite Mia Queen, for some reason.
This led Laurel to approach Mia (who had never met her in the new reality) and restore her memories of the pre-Crisis timeline with a device she said was built by Cisco Ramon to replicate the telepathic abilities of Martian Manhunter. Despite Bianca Bertinelli being a close friend, Mia was reluctant to get back into the hero game, even after learning her fighting reflexes were restored along with her memory. Eventually, she and Dinah both agreed to help Laurel rescue Bianca, only to stumble across a truck transporting drugs, which was then destroyed by a man in a Deathstroke mask.
Laurel claimed to be certain that the new Deathstroke was John Diggle Jr. like in the original future timeline. Yet Mia refused to believe that JJ, whose marriage proposal she had just accepted, could be a vicious killer and criminal in this reality. Mia’s faith was justified, as the new Deathstroke was revealed to be Bianca Bertinelli’s ex-boyfriend Trevor, who had kidnapped her for the purely petty reason that she had dumped him. However, the new Deathstroke was also revealed to be part of a larger criminal conspiracy; in the final scenes of the episode, masked men kidnap Mia’s brother William after knocking her unconscious, and a mysterious figure restored JJ Diggle’s pre-Crisis memories of him leading the Deathstroke gang.
One question Arrow fans had heading into “Green Arrow and the Canaries” was which version of Laurel Lance they would see following Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Laurel Lance of Earth-1 died during Arrow season 4 and was later replaced by her Earth-2 doppelganger. Known as Black Siren, this version of Laurel Lance had grown up without the lawful influence of her police detective father Quentin Lance, falling in with a bad crowd and becoming a metahuman super-criminal after the explosion of STAR Labs’ particle accelerator. While Black Siren later sought redemption for her past under the guidance of the Quentin Lance of Earth-1, she still held a bad attitude regarding the Oliver Queen of Earth-1 and she seemed to favor a rougher sort of justice than most of Star City’s heroes.
“Green Arrow and the Canaries” made it clear that Earth-2’s Laurel Lance survived Crisis on Infinite Earths. This was first suggested when Laurel, in an attempt to annoy Mia, asked “You know I dated your dad, right? — Well, a version of him anyway.” Later, Laurel outright referred to her past while giving Mia a pep talk, relating that “I spent so much of my life choosing the easy path… that meant becoming Black Siren and destroying things and killing people.”
“Green Arrow and the Canaries” reveals only a few small details about the criminal mastermind who was backing the new Deathstroke. Audiences know that this figure is a woman, as Trevor said “You can’t stop what’s coming. She won’t let you,” as he confronted Green Arrow while she and the Canaries were rescuing Bianca Bertinelli. The figure also has knowledge of the pre-Crisis timeline as well as access to the exact same memory-restoring technology as Laurel Lance, as she used both to restore John Diggle Jr.’s memories of leading the Deathstroke gang and killing Zoe Ramirez in the original 2040 timeline.
Given the nature of the disaster facing Star City’s future, it’s curious that the Legends of Tomorrow don’t seem to be getting involved. Laurel claims to have gotten all her information on the future of Star City from Sara Lance, who leads the Legends. While it’s possible the relationship between the two women might have grown close enough that Sara might entrust such a mission to her big sister’s doppelganger, Crisis on Infinite Earths made it clear that Sara didn’t think of Black Siren as being her sister, saying that she had no family apart from the Legends. In fact, given how badly Sara was shaken by Oliver Queen’s death, it’s completely unbelievable that she wouldn’t personally take a hand in things and lead the Legends to save the day if there were any chance of Oliver Queen’s legacy being destroyed by a disaster in the future.
At first glance, the idea that Laurel Lance might be responsible for trying to destroy the peace of Star City’s future seems improbable. Arrow season 8 saw her finally gaining the acceptance and trust she had struggled to earn from the rest of Star City’s heroes. What reason would she have for doing such a thing now and how would it profit her?
Establishing the motive for committing a crime is typically the most difficult aspect of a detective’s job. Beyond determining how a suspect benefits from a crime, the means of how the crime was committed and how the suspect had the opportunity to commit the crime must also be established beyond a reasonable doubt. In the case of Laurel Lance, there is one motive which makes sense: jealousy.
One common trait held by every version of Laurel Lance in the Arrowverse is a codependent relationship with Oliver Queen. Black Siren blamed her becoming a supervillain on a series of bad choices that began with her being heartbroken after her version of Oliver Queen died at sea while cheating on her. Siren-X, the evil Black Canary of the Nazi-ruled Earth-X, was said to have an obsessive crush on her world’s Oliver Queen (who was married to Earth X’s Kara Zor-El) and to have gone completely insane after his death. Even the Laurel Lance of Earth-1 showed signs of this, telling Oliver Queen on her deathbed that “I know that I am not the love of your life, but you will always be the love of mine.”
Imagine being Laurel Lance, waking up in a newly reborn Earth. Imagine learning that this world was the result of Oliver Queen’s sacrifice, with several things that went wrong in the old world (such as his best friend’s daughter being erased from existence) being corrected in the new world. Yet for all that is right in this world, you still remember the old one and are still alone with nothing but your memories. And somewhere in the future, Oliver Queen’s children — the son this version of him had while cheating on you and the daughter he had with his soul mate — are living a peaceful, happy existence.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Mia Queen suggested Laurel was angry about what Oliver had accomplished in “Green Arrow and the Canaries.” Mia accused Laurel of trying to ruin her life by making her remember the way her world used to be “because you can’t handle the fact that Star City’s fine and doesn’t need you to be the Black Canary anymore.” While the words were spoken in anger, Mia may have accidentally hit upon the truth. Everything Laurel does in the episode seems to disrupt the peace of Star City’s future and undo everything Oliver worked to establish, starting with a better life for his daughter.
One conversation Laurel and Mia had in “Green Arrow and the Canaries” seems particularly odd unless one considers the idea that Laurel reverted back into her Black Siren persona. As they were puzzling out the identity of the new Deathstroke, Laurel was adamant that it had to be John Diggle Jr. and she called Mia naive for not believing it was possible despite her memories of who JJ was in the original future. She also told Mia, when discussing Oliver’s past as a womanizer, that, “People are who they are… no matter what timeline, universe, or Earth.” This is a decidedly odd attitude for a supposedly remorseful ex-supervillain to hold!
Ignoring the motive, Laurel had the means and the opportunity to enact every crime we saw executed by the power behind the new Deathstroke and fits every clue revealed so far as to their identity. The person who attacks John Diggle Jr. and restores his memories of the original timeline used the same device Laurel used on Mia; apparently a STAR Labs original by Cisco Ramon and not the sort of thing to be mass-produced. Laurel would also have the knowledge of the original time-line needed to know who to go after to bring about the future she wanted. She’d probably know enough about the Legends from talking to Sara to know how to manipulate the timeline while avoiding their attention.
While the idea of one of the established heroes of a new series’ being its ultimate villain may seem far-fetched, it would not be the first time such a thing happened in the Arrowverse. The first episode of The Flash ended with the revelation that scientist Harrison Wells was not who he seemed to be, setting up a season-long arc which ended with him being revealed as the Reverse-Flash. More recently, a similar twist was used to great effect in Doctor Who, with an associate of The Doctor being exposed as the evil Time Lord known as The Master. Given that, it is entirely possible for Arrow‘s Laurel Lance to be the big bad of Green Arrow and the Canaries, trying to set-up the bad future she claims to be averting.
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