Arrow: “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” Season 4 Episode 18 Review: The Long-Teased Death is Here

Arrow has never been afraid to kill its core characters. The losses of Tommy Merlyn and Moira Queen were monumental changes to the core of the series and the characters’ outlooks, and their death scenes were both incredibly emotional. “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” is another episode that changes the game in this way, but not before saying an appropriate goodbye to one of the staples of this cast (SPOILERS AHEAD, obviously).

Now we know that the long-teased death for season four is Laurel Lance, a.k.a. Black Canary. On a comics-to-show adaptation level, this is honestly pretty shocking. Black Canary isn’t just a core character in Green Arrow stories, but a DC hero capable of carrying her own titles. Purely on a show level, however, the writers of Arrow have struggled since the beginning to make Laurel’s story interesting. Having her become Black Canary in season three partially fixed that, but it was only recently that this hero finally started to feel like a fully formed character. With her death looming, the writers beefed up her strengths in the courtroom, showing how useful she could be without the mask. But for all the fumbling of her character, her role in Oliver’s quest for peace became significant. The show’s history now plays a part in mining emotion out of death. I have to admit, that look Quentin and Oliver shared after the doctors declared the time of death was possibly the single most emotional moment Arrow has produced.

“Eleven-Fifty-Nine” did a lot of great work getting there, though. Malcolm and Darhk working together. Not knowing what side Andy is really on. The choreography in both Thea vs. Malcolm match-ups. This episode was packed with rich drama and breathtaking action.

But once the whole team was in the same room as Darhk and Andy handed the villain the piece he needed to complete his power-giving idol, there was an undeniable tension that’s been missing from these CW superhero series lately. Would Andy kill his brother? Would Darhk kill Thea after she wounded him? But it was Quentin’s betrayal that had Darhk put an arrow in Laurel’s chest. As he escapes, it was pretty shocking to see Green Arrow take Black Canary to the ER in full costume, but then it also felt inevitable. It was always going to end this way for one of the team members. Fighting foes more powerful than you comes at a cost.

The scenes after Laurel’s wounding had a few things that made them awkward. The doctor telling them that she was going to be fine added an unnecessary tension to the last ten minutes when we should have been already grieving for Laurel. It seemed like the show was about to pull a fast one on us and kill someone else while Laurel was in her hospital bed. Then, while most of Laurel’s speech to Oliver was gut-wrenching and perfect, the “love of my life” bit felt tacked on. I suppose it’s true, now that she’s gone, that Oliver would be that to her, but the show hasn’t sold that that’s how Laurel felt about Oliver at any point recently.

But these stumbles still feel minor in the presence of such layered drama. The Black Canary’s final song was one of love, not just for Oliver but for the friends who helped bring meaning to her messy life. And now, the stakes are high and it’s personal. Team Arrow has to avenge Laurel. Like that, Arrow feels ready to take on the world. Just with one less member. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • I’m dying to see how Oliver handles the death of a team member. Is this Oliver’s Jason Todd? Will he be more protective of Thea?
  • With five episodes left, we’ve got three costumed heroes and three villains. Based on how things built here, we’re most definitely looking at Green Arrow vs. Damien Darhk along side Diggle vs. Diggle and father vs. daughter. Arrow season four may have just snuck up on us!
  • “One last time.”

By Matt Dougherty

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