Culture

The big 'Arrow' question: Can you swallow this Canary?

Commentary: On a show based around the need to "become someone else," have they redeemed the worst character of all? Here's why I'm not just laughing.

You can't really call this a spoiler since they've been building to it all season and behind-the-scenes pictures have been out for months. Still, if you're watching the CW's "Arrow" and haven't seen Episode 10 yet, scroll down at your own risk.

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I'd be sadder if I really believed she's 100 percent dead.

Screenshot by Kelsey Adams/CNET

(Note: The CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. and CBS, and CBS owns CNET. But that's not why I'm watching. I'm watching because superheroes!)

The various Oliver-Laurel love triangles were the most boring part of "Arrow" season 1, and the show got better the further it moved away from there. Now Laurel, played by Katie Cassidy, is back as a central character, and as one of the masked crime-fighters.

Huge mistake or about time? I want to give Laurel's Black Canary a chance, because the show is really hitting its stride in season 3, and the creators have worked hard to rehabilitate her character, but it's a tough sell.

They told us at the start of the show's run that Laurel Lance's first name is Dinah -- marking her as the future Black Canary, crime-fighter and long-time love of Green Arrow in the comics. Still, with Oliver not being called Green Arrow and the dodging around whether his sidekick would be called Speedy, it seemed plausible that "Arrow" would shy away from comic continuity and Sara Lance, Laurel's sister, would be the only Canary.

Sara was tough. She'd been through a hell similar to Ollie's and came out with elite assassin training and a complex secret life. As Canary, Sara, more or less, made sense.

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"I'm the justice you can't run from," says the assistant district attorney.

Screenshot by Kelsey Adams/CNET

Laurel, on the other hand, was a strong-willed but hapless junior lawyer who spent the first two seasons defending the title of worst human being in the world. And this was on a show containing Oliver Queen -- well-meaning murderer, cheater and massive narcissist. (List of top 5 Scumbag Ollie moments here.)

With that kind of competition, not to mention various villains, Laurel had to work hard to be the most hateful person in any scene, but she managed it -- from self-righteously betraying everyone she cared about, to stealing her own father's pain medication with the justification, "You don't understand!"

Oh my god, she's the worst. Or at least she was.

In season 3, we've seen a lot of nice developments. Thea and Roy finding some peace and becoming friends. Felicity finally getting the job she deserves (though that will probably turn out to be horrible and wrong somehow). People having conversations that make something close to logical sense.

And Laurel has been developed around her best feature, her love and respect for Sara. The writers showed the steps on the way to her new role -- admiring Sara in action, wanting to avenge her, wearing her jacket, the temptation to try to protect a woman in her AA group, the reality check of getting physically beaten, and finding a trainer. Laurel's still obnoxious and self-centered, but a lot easier to root for when she turns her determination somewhere positive. Even in "Left Behind," Diggle's trying to comfort her about Ollie but she's focused on finding out who's protecting the city. Learning it's no one, she suits up at last.

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Still basically just Laurel.

Screenshot by Kelsey Adams/CNET

I'm not so sure about the costume. Aside from the borrowed Canary accessories, it looks like generic fetish wear. A darker look makes sense since she's in mourning, but what's with all the buckles? Is it supposed to suggest a body bag?

The fighting style didn't say "boxing" to me, but at least she's not an instant ninja. And she knew she needed to incapacitate the guys with her sister's sonic scream gizmos before whacking them with the pole.

So what do you think, can you buy her as a superhero? I'm no longer hoping she'll fall off a cliff, but I still have trouble imagining her running around on rooftops taking down people with powers. Even with Wildcat's help, Laurel's just a petite office worker with some self-defense training. That doesn't make her a peer of the Arrow, or the Canary, or Roy. That doesn't even make her a peer of Diggle! And he's content with a ski mask.

But the city does have a vigilante vacuum right now, and Laurel's nothing if not confident. When the others come back -- in whatever combination -- maybe they can find a role for her. I'm still hoping Sara will magically return and we'll see two Canary wigs in the fray. Imagine the villains' faces. Now that would be fun.