5:00 pm EST, February 1, 2015

‘Arrow’ season 3: Laurel Lance and the hero’s journey

Arrow‘s Laurel Lance is one of the series’ most controversial characters. However, like Oliver Queen, Laurel has been on a hero’s journey of her own.

Joseph Campbell’s famous hero’s journey is a pattern found in stories worldwide, classical and modern, in which “[a] hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man,” Campbell writes in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

On Arrow, Oliver’s hero’s journey culminated in the season 2 finale when he defeated Slade without killing him. And now Laurel Lance, in becoming Black Canary, is in the midst of her own hero’s journey.

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While Campbell describes 17 stages of the hero’s journey, or monomyth, few stories contain all 17. However, we can break the stages down into three categories: Separation, Initiation, and Return. So where does Laurel fit?


Arrow season 3 Laurel Hero's Journey Sara jacket

The Call to Adventure

Laurel was called to adventure the moment Sara fell from the roof in the season 3 premiere. Laurel fiercely loved and admired her sister, and Sara’s death gave her a specific quest: find Sara’s murderer and get vengeance.

Laurel’s background as an attorney who fights for those who can’t fight for themselves, we would argue, is what makes her a prime candidate to receive the call in the first place. She has already gone through a set of trials in fighting her addiction, so she has proven she is capable of both receiving and answering the call.

Refusal of the Call

Many heroes initially fight their call. At first, Laurel leaves finding the truth of Sara’s death up to Oliver and Team Arrow. They are better equipped to deal with the world of the League of Assassins, after all. Plus, they loved Sara as well and will fight for her. However, in a sense, this is Laurel refusing the call to be her own hero as she leaves the quest in the hands of others while she grieves.

Laurel, during this time, attempts — and fails spectacularly — to fight off an abusive boyfriend and eventually starts boxing, but she has not yet taken up the call to arms. It’s not until Oliver has died and Team Arrow appears to have disbanded that Laurel decides to take up the cause herself.

Arrow season 3 Laurel Hero's Journey Mask

Supernatural Aid

Once the hero finally accepts the call, an aid of some sort often appears. Though the supernatural is not figuring into Laurel’s journey thus far, Sara’s memory and legacy serve as a shield for her. The moment she sees Sara’s Canary gear laid out in the foundry, Laurel has made up her mind.

She later tells Diggle that people are afraid of the Canary, and she is using her sister’s reputation to aid her as she takes to the streets. In this way, Sara is her guide.

Crossing the Threshold

The threshold is crossed when the hero ventures into the unknown world of adventure. For Laurel, this occurs when she suits up for the first time in the Canary gear and confronts two men Danny Brickwell has freed from prison.

“I’m the justice you can’t run from,” she tells them, knowing they will not find justice in the courtroom.

Belly of the Whale

In this stage, the hero completely leaves the world he or she knows to undergo transformation. This, we believe, occurs when Laurel refuses to be swayed by Roy or Diggle’s concerns about her taking up the Canary mantle. As Laurel leaves the foundry after being patched up at the beginning of “Midnight City,” she takes Sara’s leather jacket with her — a sign that she is transitioning from Laurel the Attorney to Laurel the Black Canary.


Arrow season 3 Laurel Hero's Journey Down

The Road of Trials

The beginning of the journey’s second stage is where we believe Laurel finds herself in her hero’s journey. She has heard the call to adventure, stepped over the threshold of the unknown, and opened herself up to change. Now, the hero must undergo trials to complete his or her transformation, and frequently the hero fails one or more of the tests.

Laurel has taken to the streets alongside Roy and Diggle. She has found limits to her abilities, was nearly killed by Brick, and saw an alderman killed in front of her. But when she almost gave up, Felicity encouraged her to keep fighting — and to fight for the living. Laurel will continue to struggle, as she hasn’t had the training of her fellow vigilantes, but she will face her trials and overcome them to continue on her hero’s journey.

The future

So what comes next in the hero’s journey? In completing the second stage of the journey, many heroes find his or her true love (Meeting with the Goddess), face off against the greatest power in his or her life (Atonement with the Father), rest or find fulfillment before the return (Apotheosis), and achieve the quest’s goal (The Ultimate Boon).

For this to occur, we expect to see Laurel finally reveal the truth of Sara’s death to her father (Atonement with the Father), learn the identity of Sara’s killer, and find justice for Sara (The Ultimate Boon).


Arrow season 3 Laurel Hero's Journey Black Canary

In the final stage of the hero’s journey, the hero may struggle to return once the quest has been completed (Refusal of the Return), require help to return (Rescue from Without), find balance once returned (Master of Two Worlds), and live in the moment without fear of the future or regret of the past (Freedom to Live).

For this stage, we expect to see Laurel continue to fight — though she may question why she’s still fighting at first after avenging Sara’s death (Refusal of the Return) — alongside Team Arrow (Rescue from Without) for the sake of Starling City and those she loves. In finding balance with getting justice within the courtroom and without, Laurel will master her two worlds and find the freedom to live as one of Starling City’s masked heroes.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET on The CW.

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