Laurel Lance was a lot of things, but one thing is for sure: she was a badass. For Laurel, the badassery started way before she became the Black Canary. Laurel was a badass and a hero from the very first episode of the series. Arrow is known for its complicated characters, often heartbreaking story lines, and all around darkness. However, one of the legacies Laurel seems to have left after her death at the end of season four is that despite being surrounded by darkness, you can still be a hero in the light.
For the first couple of seasons, Laurel did not know the Starling City Vigilante was someone close to her and therefore did not participate in the nightly city-saving activities. However, she was still a hero. As a lawyer at CNRI and later on as Assistant District Attorney, Laurel sought justice and fought for the oppressed, and she did not need a mask and the shadow of darkness to do so. Donning the Black Canary uniform did not make her less of a hero, and it certainly did not make her more of one. At the end of season four, right before her murder, Laurel made the decision to stop being a vigilante and spend her days and nights fighting for justice as the District Attorney. She would help the Green Arrow team, and she would do so in the light of day. This was perhaps the most unfortunate part of her dying when she did. Right when viewers were about to see a side of Laurel that they had not seen in a few seasons, right when we were about to get a hero that looked just like us, she was taken away. No one can replace Laurel, but it does seem like her legacy of being a daytime hero remains.
Thea is perhaps the best example. On a city scale, she works with Oliver in the mayor’s office putting together Anti-Crime Units in the police force and organizing free medical services for the community. She does all of this as Thea Queen, not as Speedy. But maybe her greatest act of heroism so far this season is not her work with the mayor, but the role she plays in the lives of her friends, particularly Quentin Lance. A recovering alcoholic, Lance has returned to drinking after the death of his daughter and breakup with his girlfriend. Thea asks him to be Deputy Mayor and gives him a purpose, gives him a reason to quit drinking again. Sometimes, being a hero doesn’t mean saving a city. Sometimes, being a hero means saving a friend.
Speaking of Quentin Lance, if he takes the position of Deputy Mayor, he will join Thea in fulfilling this aspect of Laurel’s legacy. He may not be brawling with criminals or manning the control station in the middle of the night, but he will be spending his days serving his city by putting ideas into action and making Star City not just a safer place, but a better place to live. Sometimes, being a hero doesn’t mean never falling. Sometimes, being a hero means picking yourself back up when you do.
While the first two episodes feature Felicity and Curtis mostly as Team Arrow, in season four they spent much of their time creating and trying to make available life-changing technology for paralysis. Felicity losing her job at Palmer Tech seems to have stalled those efforts, but that does not mean we won’t see that again. Perhaps season five will show Felicity and Curtis following the footsteps of Laurel not just as nighttime vigilantes, but as geniuses trying to make the world a better place. Sometimes, being a hero doesn’t mean being the strongest. Sometimes, being a hero means making others stronger.
Season five begins with John Diggle away from Star City and back in the military. His commanding officer betrays him and sets him up as the fall guy for a stolen nuclear warhead. Instead of joining up with the corrupt officer, he refuses to take the blame even when faced with dire consequences. Sometimes, being a hero doesn’t mean making a scene. Sometimes, being a hero means doing the right thing even when no one may ever know.
Then there is Oliver. While he is attempting to work in the light as mayor, most of his time and attention remains on his work as Green Arrow. Now, he is training a team to not only watch his back during vigilante activities, but to free up his time to really be the mayor Star City needs and deserves. Sometimes, being a hero doesn’t mean carrying all the weight. Sometimes, being a hero means enabling others to take some of the burdens.
As season five continues, hopefully, the legacy of Laurel Lance won’t be embodied only in a statue. Hopefully, her legacy will be portrayed as the people she loved follow her lead in not remaining in darkness, but attempting to save the city, and each other, in the light.