A while back I wrote a post talking about the many ways the CW’s Arrow has improved since Season 2 began. It’s gotten better about representation, dialogue, and plot in general, but it still fell short in a couple of ways, one of which was LGBTQ+ representation.
This week, that changed in a big way, and I couldn’t be more excited. Spoilers through 2×13 after the jump.
In Wednesday’s episode “Heir to the Demon”, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter Nyssa comes to Starling City to track down Sara Lance, who is still sworn to serve the League of Assassins. Oliver watches as the two approach each other, concerned that the masked assassin is going to try and kill her. Imagine his surprise when the woman instead pulls down her mask and kisses Sara passionately.
It turns out that Nyssa and Sara were together during Sara’s time with the League, and Nyssa has personal as well as professional reasons for wanting Sara to return to them.
I really have to give kudos to the writing staff on this one. Throughout the episode, the reactions of other people are mixed, but not negative. Sara turns to her dad at one point, concerned that he will be judgmental, but he just hugs her and says that he’s glad she had someone who loved her during that hard time in her life. Furthermore, no one—neither Sara nor anyone else—suggests that her relationship with Nyssa was just a phase or trivializes her feelings, and no one asks if she’s gay now or makes nasty comments about how hot two chicks are together.
Nyssa is not totally demonized, either, or portrayed as a psychotic jilted ex. Well, yes, she does kidnap Sara’s mom as leverage, but in fairness, she is the heir to a amoral league of murderers, so, like, that’s probably pretty standard behavior when she doesn’t get her way. She clearly cares for Sara, and at the end of the episode realizes that she has lost her, and releases Sara from her vows to the League.
Unfortunately this probably means we won’t see Nyssa again—hopefully, though, her departure will not mean that Sara’s interest in women will disappear. The episode does end on Sara and Oliver hooking up, but guess what? Interest in other genders does not negate queerness! No matter if she never dates a girl again, it doesn’t mean she’s straight now. No take-backsies. (Either way, it seems like Oliver/Felicity is endgame at this point, so I’m not banking on their relationship being much more than one of casual sex.)
Just a bit of comics backstory for this development: this actually isn’t the first time someone has tried to queer Black Canary, but it is the first time they were successful. Celebrated comics writer and fave of this blog Gail Simone had intended to out her as bisexual during her Birds of Prey run. From her Tumblr.
To me, it was no big revelation that Black Canary might be bisexual. I didn’t even think it was much in question. So I had a story where she faces Talia, I think (sorry, memory a little foggy here), and she was supposed to say, in a Dinah caption, something about how Talia’s wiles weren’t going to work on her like they were working on all the men around them, because she (Black Canary) was, “70% hetero.”
In the end, unfortunately, she was thwarted by a printing error. Yeah, I’m serious. Here’s the rest of that story. Given that Arrow‘s writers seem to be pretty big Simone fans—they actually referenced her comic The Movement in a previous episode this season—it’s very possible that Sara and Nyssa’s relationship was inspired by this story.
Going back to Arrow’s Black Canary in particular, what does this mean going forward? Well, I definitely hope that there will be more discussion of or reference to her not being straight. I was mostly pleased by the fact that there wasn’t a big coming out declaration or scene in the episode because that would have made it seem like a Big Important Issue episode rather than genuine character development. I would, however, have liked to hear someone say the word ‘bisexual’ at least once just to cement the fact that that’s what it was: canonical romantic and sexual attraction to one’s own and other genders.
I would also like to see a scene of Sara and another woman together shot in a way that is not literally subject to the male gaze—the one scene where Sara and Nyssa did kiss was shot entirely from Oliver’s perspective. He wasn’t creepy about it or anything, but he was still the one the audience was connecting to and reacting with in that scene, and I’d like to see a scene where the audience actually gets to experience the perspective of a queer woman.
As far as plot moving forward, now that Sara is permanently back in Starling City and Laurel is spitting mad at her, I don’t think her storyline is going to fall by the wayside. There’s also an episode coming up called “Birds of Prey”, in which Jessica de Gouw’s Huntress character from last season will be returning. (In the comics, the Birds of Prey are a female heroine group whose staple members include Black Canary, Huntress, and Barbara Gordon as Oracle.) Sara’s actress Caity Lotz recently spoke about their interaction in that episode, which hasn’t been shot yet:
Um… you’re definitely going to see the two. You’ll see them together, that’s for sure. And they’ll have some interaction. But you’ll have to see what that is.
That… well, that could mean a lot of things, honestly. But now that it’s canonically possible, my fingers are crossed for all the queerness!