The news that Katie Cassidy is returning as a series regular in Arrow season 6 to portray Laurel’s Earth 2 doppelganger Black Siren came as much of a shock as her departure in season 4 was. Cassidy has made a few appearances since Laurel died, in a fantasy concocted by the Dominators in the “Invasion” crossover last November, and as Black Siren on Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, but it sounds like the alternate Laurel will have a permanent seat in Team Arrow’s bunker next season. The return of Earth 2’s Laurel, who is more damaged and thus more interesting than her deceased Earth 1 counterpart, is great news for Arrow. This also sets up a potentially combustible working relationship with Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah Drake, Arrow‘s current heir apparent for the mantle of Black Canary.
Arrow‘s fifth season has been a powerful return to form for the venerable series that launched an entire DC Universe of superhero shows on The CW. Utilizing the actions Oliver perpetrated in his past to inform his present – with the revelation that one of his early kills directly spawned the season’s Big Bad, Prometheus – Arrow has stripped Oliver Queen down to his core and forced him to confront the ugliest truth about himself and his willingness to take lives. In short, he likes to kill. Oliver briefly disbanded his crime fighting team, but is now leaning on them more than ever for support and as a source of light as he questions his deepest beliefs and motivations.
The season 5 finale promises a bloody confrontation with Prometheus (including Oliver recruiting his other greatest adversary Deathstroke) that may change the face of the Team Arrow. Looking ahead to season 6 and what the shape Green Arrow’s team will be in, it’s readily apparent that Arrow‘s creative team has been cultivating the components necessary to form one of the most popular units in DC Comics. Therefore, in season 6, Arrow needs to pull the trigger and form the Birds of Prey.
Many heroes – female and male – have filled the ranks of the Birds of Prey in DC Comics over the years, but the most popular core group consists of Black Canary, Batgirl/Oracle, and the Huntress. Arrow has analogues for all three currently in place. The smartest, most resourceful woman in Star City – and a prodigious hacker – Felicity Smoak (codename Overwatch) has basically been Arrow‘s version of Oracle since she was introduced in season one. Dinah Drake, a tough-as-nails cop gifted with a metahuman Canary Cry, is Arrow’s third attempt at a Black Canary and is the closest in concept and spirit to her comic book counterpart. Arrow‘s Huntress has been missing since season 2, but Black Siren is emotionally conflicted and in need of redemption; she substitutes for Helena Bertinelli nicely.
Birds of Prey was a failed series on The CW’s predecessor, the WB Network, in 2002, but the property has been untouched in live action since then. The success of Suicide Squad and the popularity of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn prompted the DC Extended Universe films to lean towards utilizing other DC super villainesses as the cast of the upcoming Gotham City Sirens. There is reportedly a version of Birds of Prey being developed as a DCEU feature film with screenwriter Christina Hodson attached. Arrow‘s own version of the Suicide Squad was curtailed by the DECU, but given DC’s propensity for having a Multiverse across all media platforms, why shouldn’t The CW’s Arrowverse utilize the Birds of Prey concept as well? A Birds of Prey team on Arrow already has a natural enemy to take on: Helix, the insidious global hacking network currently employing Felicity.
The Birds of Prey in the comics often venture away from their home base of Gotham City. Arrow has taken many excursions away from Star City over the years – it’s even been announced that the season 5 finale won’t take place in Star City, ending the in-show running joke of the city being attacked every May. Oliver is as bonded to and feels as responsible for Star City as Batman does for Gotham; the Green Arrow doesn’t stray from his home town for too long. The Birds of Prey would be an ideal excuse to make leaving Star City and exploring the other fictional locales of the Arrowverse more of a regular thing. Dinah already has traveled to towns like Hub City and Midway City; she knows the lay of the land in those places. In addition, Black Siren feels no loyalty to Earth 1’s Star City, and Felicity can hack from Team Arrow’s bunker or from anywhere else.
The fact that Black Canary and Black Siren have identical superpowers is hardly an issue. How many speedsters run alongside each other on The Flash at any given episode? Gypsy and Vibe have identical powers; but their disparate personalities and their awkward sexual tension are what make their interactions entertaining. The stark differences between Dinah and Earth 2 Laurel’s personalities, and the conflicts that would spark between them as a result, are what would count far more than how many ears they can split when they both scream.
How would Birds of Prey work and what would it mean for Green Arrow? There are several ways to approach Birds of Prey in Arrow: the Birds could still be part of Team Arrow but also function as a separate offshoot with their own storylines when required. Supposedly, the flashbacks on Arrow are ending with season 5; the screen time formerly devoted to flashbacks could be utilized for concurrent stories involving the Birds of Prey. Arrow might even take a page from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s playbook and sub-head the Birds of Prey like S.H.I.E.L.D. has been doing in recent seasons (Secret Warriors, Ghost Rider, LMD). Such a plan could even serve as a proof of concept to launch an ongoing Birds of Prey series.
Supergirl has been a hit for The CW as the most prominent female-led superhero series on network television. Legends of Tomorrow‘s second season has markedly improved, due in part to promoting Sara Lance to team leader. The Arrowverse has assembled an incredibly talented and diverse cast of female characters over the years. Birds of Prey could also pull from their growing and fantastic roster of characters and recruit the other female Arrowverse heroes and villains as the story calls for. This would allow these female characters an even greater spotlight, both on Arrow or, if there can still be room on The CW’s schedule already overwhelmed by DC superheroes, in their own series.
Most importantly. characters like Felicity, Laurel and now Dinah have given their skills, talents, dedication, and the bulk of their lives to Oliver Queen’s personal crusade. They will always remain the Green Arrow’s allies, but they also deserve to start apart and on their own. With Felicity, Black Canary, Black Siren, and other heroic ladies like Thea Queen, Gypsy, White Canary, Vixen, and even Killer Frost, the Arrowverse is the gold standard for female superheroes on television – a standard the DC Cinematic Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe haven’t come close to equaling. The superheroines of The CW deserve a greater spotlight and a dedicated brand within the Arrowverse. It’s time Arrow‘s female heroes took flight together and found a worthy crusade to call their own.