As a backbone of Arrow, Sara Lance shortly appeared as a flashback in Season 1, played by a different actress. Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) invited Sara to have a romantic boat trip, despite the fact that he was dating Sara’s sister. They met a storm and the boat sunk, where is the start-point of the entire Arrowverse. One of the greatest characters Sara Lance (Canary/White Canary/Captain Lance/Paragon of Destiny) born, after they replaced actress with Caity Lotz and embodied Sara’s story from Season 2 Episode 4.
Sara is a complicated and controversial character in CW DC universe. She is my favorite, truly well written and developed. I hope my analysis will help people to know her more, from my perspective and on the premise of having knowledge of her story from Arrow (S2E4 to S4E6), Legends of Tomorrow (LoT) and crossovers.
INTRO: Doctor dream to Paragon of Destiny
Sara had lovely and prestigious family, neighboring billionaire Queen family, good childhood, great summer camp experience (LoT S4E4), dream of being a doctor (Arrow S3E9). She was a 21-year-old college student when she jumped on Gambit and hooked up with Oliver Queen, an Ivy dropout. Based on her lie to dad “I gotta get back to Chem Lab" (Arrow S2E5), I assume that she took major in science (meds?) Supposedly well educated and smart too. Also, her days in Amazo freighter and League of Assassins (LoA), where she trained for bio analysis, tech equipments, poisoning, etc., explains why she nailed those skills. It’s sad this aspect has never been brought up in LoT.
Anyway, Sara is generally soft hearted and full of empathy, judging by her career aspiration and major actions. Accidentally being an assassin who takes people’s lives, must make her so conflicted. Fortunately, she reformed herself to a respected captain who saves timeline. She is maternal with autonomous leadership, so naturally become the mum looking after a bunch of screw-ups. Eventually, her quality, backstory, and career as the Captain of time-ship made her a Paragon of Destiny in Crisis on Infinite Earth.
Twisted Relationship between Sara, Oliver and Laurel.
Some people have a hard time to accept the fact that Sara slept with Oliver, who was her sister Laurel’s boyfriend. Well, Sara was the rebel in Lance family, sassy and sarcasm. She spent time with bad friends and had a history of delinquency such as hot wiring cars (LoT S1E9) and being in custody (LoT S1E12). Being a party girl and part-time bartender pre-Gambit, Sara was wild despite of having a police father and a law school sister.
However, on island Lian Yu (Mandarin for Purgatory), Sara told Oliver not to be sorry for inviting her to the cruise. She is the one who accepted and had an “embarrassing crush” on him before Laurel started dating him. One day, Sara and Oliver were in a party, which was broken off by police. Sara believes that Laurel tipped off their dad to sabotage. Sara was grounded for a month, and the next thing she knew was that Laurel became Oliver’s girlfriend (Arrow S2E11). Sara is very street-smart and has a strong instinct, so I take her words that Laurel did that on purpose…This doesn’t justify Sara and Oliver cheating on Laurel, but I understand Sara’s motive. (I am not against Laurel. I love their sisterhood). The one should be blamed most is Oliver. Why invited your girlfriend’s sister and screwed her?
Abusive Relationship, sexually and mentally.
When she survived from Gambit and was rescued to Amazo, where was full of bad guys (unfortunately the crew was depicted in all black male). She was locked up and nearly got gang raped but rescued by the scientist villain Anthony Ivo. Some guess that she might have already been sexually assaulted but just not shown on TV, but based on the scene from Arrow S2E5, I think Ivo did rescue her in time.
However, Sara spent almost 2 years on Amazo with Ivo. When she tricked Oliver under the command of Ivo, but stopped them from killing Oliver, the ship’s captain said to Ivo “Sometimes I wonder who gives the orders here, you…or your little bouzin“ in Arrow S2E6. Based on this line and many hints from flashbacks, Ivo very likely sexually abused Sara (that she probably consented to survive.)
It’s easy to imagine that Sara kinda developed Stockholm Syndrome on Amazo with Ivo. She called him “Anthony" with an intimate tone when she begged him not to kill them. The begging line was “If you ever care about me…" And Ivo replied “But I do care about you, Sara. Which is why I won’t choose to kill you." Then he asked Oliver to choose which one to live, Sara or Shado. However, when Ivo was about to pull the trigger, he firstly moved towards Sara instead of Shado. I guess, as a manic, Ivo couldn’t accept the fact that Sara knew Oliver, betrayed him to protect Oliver and his friend.
Toxic Relationship with Nyssa.
Amazo sunk during the fight between Oliver and Slade, Sara drowned again. Nyssa, the younger daughter of Ra’s al Ghul of LoA, saved Sara, took care of her and trained her being an assassin for 4 years. Sara was sent to hits, slaying a diplomat’s throat. His children found his body next morning (Arrow S2E5) She threw a knife into a guy’s chest and his little daughter witnessed everything (LoT S3E15). She couldn’t take it anymore, so decided to leave the league without saying goodbye.
Before those hits, Nyssa and Sara were in love. However, I think there’s still Stockholm Syndrome underpinning this relationship in such intense environment for Sara. By Ra’s order, Nyssa chased Sara down, saying that “you swore an oath" and couldn’t understand why Sara needs to leave. Nyssa told her “The only reason you’re alive today is because of me", which is true but quite forcing and threatening. Sara’s response was “I wasn’t with you because you saved me. I loved you" (Arrow S2E13). I’d say Sara has a big heart and indeed loved her, despite a complex psychological stimulation.
Moreover, Nyssa wanted Sara back so badly, even to poison Laurel to lure Sara out and to kidnap Sara’s mother in front of her. Nyssa dropped a horror stalker line: “I tried to warn you but you wouldn’t listen". (Arrow S2E13). In fact, Nyssa totally has the power to release Sara in the name of Ra’s (though may be punished by Ra’s), which she eventually did after being stopped by Oliver, not even because Sara chose to suicide to ask Nyssa to leave her and her family alone. Why she didn’t release Sara in the first place if she really understood her and wanted her to be happy?
I get that Nyssa is a cool assassin with dark background. Brunette and blonde. Calling Sara “beloved”. Full of angst. It’s dramatic and iconic in early Arrowverse, but to be honest, it’s a template for TV same sex love if you think about it. Bottom line, Nyssa truly protected Sara in the league, and she really loves Sara. I appreciate that. But Nyssa tried to hurt Sara and her family, for real, if she’s not coming back to her. All Nyssa cared about was her own interest. Sara poisoned herself, rather to die than going back to her and the league. That’s toxic.
It’s a tragic love with core value disagreement and set in a wrong space-time, so it couldn’t work out. Sara promised to go back to LoA in S2E23, only because she needs Nyssa’s help in the finale. She said to Oliver: “For achieving something unthinkable, you have to be willing to do the unthinkable." She didn’t return there for Nyssa. Also, a part of Sara felt that she belonged to LoA only when she feared about her impulse of killing. That’s also why she returned to Nanda Parbat in LoT S1E9, because there’s nowhere to go and she still had blood lust to solve. I don’t see why some people strongly request to see Sara’s life in the league in LoT, after she already dealt with the issue.
I am glad that Nyssa and Ra’s eventually allowed Sara to go back to Starling and being a vigilante time to time. If they promised that Sara didn’t need to take hits, unlikely though, and if Sara didn’t die in Arrow S3E1, Nyssa and Sara’s relationship could have continued and been improved. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Sara went back to Nanda Parbat trying to save Nyssa in LoT S1E14, but she never say “I love you". Nyssa is exactly her Maggie, a past love. She chose to move on just like the advice she gave to Alex Danvers (Crossover: Crisis on Earth X).
Trauma: “I don’t deserve you."
Sara apparently had a serious issue about “being loved" post-Gambit. The 3 main factors cause this negative thinking are survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and sins. Sara “luckily" got all.
- Survivor’s guilt that she potential got sexual abuse on Amazo and got Shado killed on Lian Yu. Before that, she was just a happy college student; Then she lost her sister, her dad, Snart, Martin, Rip, Oliver…may prevent her from building a deep relationship with others.
- PTSD of death and being the first resurrected human in Arrowvrese in a horror way. She mentioned that she couldn’t sleep, highly vigilant to surroundings, and she drinks a lot (but she loves to drink anyway).
- Sin of assassinating people in front of their children, hurting people after she was resurrected without the soul.
According to psychology, people who have this kind of experiences tend to have lower self-esteem. Overall, Sara was joyful and optimistic. Sara is strong and practical, so she positively overcame. She became the Canary. When Sin asks why Sara saved her and she replies with, “No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men” (Arrow S2E5). It’s a subtle implication on what happened to her on Amazo and Lian Yu, but it doesn’t make her hate men. She simply fights and protects others, men or women, from evil.
However, she still bears the scars, especially the sin of being an assassin. She feels that she doesn’t deserve love and forgiveness, especially from whom she cares most. That’s exactly the reason she used to break up with Oliver and Ava. People had sexual trauma tend to develop two types of attitude towards sex, either avoiding it or being reckless on it. Based on Sara’s pre-Gambit life and personality, it’s easy to understand why Sara is very open to sex and even corrupted a village of Salem. To be honest, if they consent and no one gets hurt, why not? If every day could be the last day and many people close to her die, why not? Until she met Ava.
Some people argue that CW should deal with Sara’s PTSD more seriously and show more past. But it has been largely depicted in Arrow. In LoT, these issues were also occasionally touched on throughout S1, S2 & S3E15. Unless the show was in the lead of Sara at the beginning or the title was Sara Lance/Canary, it seems weird to focus too much on that. I do hope Sara gains her superpower in S5 in the context related to her past, because one’s potential is rooted on one’s overall experience but not particular romances.
Excellent Representation of Bisexuality.
I, as a bisexual who falls in the exact middle on Kinsey Scale, really love how fantastic Sara has been portrayed as a bisexual woman. Sara made a joke to younger Stein in LoT S1E2: “That is just the thing. I can’t decide, I love them both.” That’s the first time she implied verbally that her bisexuality after her Oliver and Nyssa romances. Some may feel offended because it sounds like suggesting bisexual are merely indecisive. First of all, it’s obviously a joke. As a 50/50 bisexual, I found it’s funny. Sexuality is generally fluid, especially for bisexual. The truth is, yes, sometimes, I really don’t know what I want. Anyone who has no doubt in life and always determined, teach me, please.
In crossover Invasion! (Arrow S5E8), she was abducted by alien and had a dream of ideal life just like the movie Matrix. She told Laurel that it’s impossible she’d hooked up with Oliver and she prefers girls. Some people seized the moment to claim her a lesbian. No. Kinsey Scale, Sara is definitely a level 4 bisexual: “Mainly homosexual (behavior) and sometimes has heterosexual relationships." Preference doesn’t make her a 100% lesbian. She’s not rarely having relationships with men, so it’s not level 5, either. Moreover, based on the context, she was in a dream of ideal life. She hoped she never hooked up with Oliver, no Gambit and a perfect relationship with her sister. When Laurel doubted the relationship between Sara and Oliver in the dream, it’s convenient that Sara says so to comfort her and it’s true that she’s a level 4 bisexual. Not to mention that she made a strong bisexual statement in crossover Crisis on Earth X afterwards.
I appreciate that CW didn’t make Sara bombarded by typical gay culture/stereotype. She wears tank-tops but also a lot of different outfits, from feminine to masculine, not butch nor lipstick. Both Sara and her current girlfriend Ava (lesbian) change their manner and styles time to time by mood, mission, habit, and preference. I also like how diverse in style the love interests Sara had, brunette, brown, blonde, tall or short. Her preference is more psychological. Sara tends to fall when strong men show vulnerability and attracted to powerful women (Leader of LoA, Queens, Directors), but not all the cases.
She’s got games
Some complain that Sara has more affairs with women. I mean…duh. She’s a bisexual who prefers girls. Let’s count how many hookups she has on screen: Oliver Queen, Nyssa al Ghul, nurse (Sara initially refused), Leonard Snart, Queen of France (she seduced Sara ), women in Salem, Guinevere, unnamed male Time Bureau agent, Alex Danvers, John Constantine, Ava Sharpe. So, 4 men and 7+ women. Out of proportion? Not at all. Not to mention those unknowns.
Some complain that Sara is too flirty and sexualized. Just like I explained about the personality and trauma she has, it’s understandable why she’s open to sex. Meanwhile, she has her taste and principle. If she’s really a walking fucking machine, why she didn’t seduce Amaya, Zari, Halen and all others? She also clearly said to young Mick that he’s not her type (LoT S1E12). For those moral correctnesses, she never hooks up with someone else when she’s in a serious relationship. So what’s wrong with being “a healthy single lady" (quoted Kara Danvers) when single? Why judge Sara so much and ignore other heterosexual couples’ flirts, sex, and kinky stuff?
Some people from LGBT community worry that this kind of representation (damaged and flirty) harms the image of bisexual (or gay?). To be honest, saying that is overcorrection and overgeneralization. It’s a superhero show, few has no awful past and who has no charm or several love interests? No matter what kind of sexuality she has, everybody’s different while sharing some similarities. Sara just happens to be a charismatic bisexual heroine, with a happy childhood and some traumatic experiences, who tries to move on and be happy. Do we know this kind of person in life? Of course. Sara can’t represent all bisexuals, nor ours, but some can definitely relate to her.
Sara had/has 4 deep relationships: Oliver, Nyssa, Snart and Ava. As a terrible liar, Sara is sincere and mostly honest with them. Here’s a pattern. Sara’s pace is comparatively slow when she really fancies them. With Oliver, it may start with just a crush, but they developed deep love that imprinted on her, starting the whole journey. We don’t know how Nyssa and her progressed, but Nyssa’s is toxic and eventually resolved into a bittersweet memory. With Snart, it’s short but genuine. They gradually and subtlety built bond throughout LoT Season 1. Snart stopped her from shooting Stein, making her a better person. She was so excited and happy when she saw and touched baby Snart in S1E12. She kissed Snart before he sacrificed himself in LoT S1E15. She cried and called him a hero. So please don’t say she only loves women, or she’s merely a player. That’s nonsense.
Shippers fight over with Sara’s relationships. 4 of them have its adventures. But I’d say it’s Oliver and Ava. Sara broke up with them in the same reason: you are too good and you deserve better. These two are the only person Sara put herself at risk to rescue on screen: She saved Oliver many times and survived with him on Lian Yu. They grew a long-term and solid relationship/friendship. Sara went to Ava’s purgatory to save her, even in a broke-up status. On the contrary, she tried to save Nyssa out of the jail at Nanda Parbat (LoT S1E14). Saying beautifully is that Nyssa tell her: “If you love me, you will leave this place far behind and live a life unburdened by your past." Guess what? Sara left and did put her far behind. What Caity said on 2019 Nyssara panel suggests that Sara doesn’t even know where Nyssa ended up with until Oliver’s funeral. And yes. Sara left Snart sacrificed because she knew it won’t help in that situation. But if that was Oliver or Ava, I believe Sara would try to save them or even sacrifice herself…
I have no hate to Nyssara, but I don’t like its shippers when they hate Sara’s current ship Avalance so much. Even actresses all think Avalance is healthier (Caity and Jes mentioned this several times in interviews/events). After Sara’s death and resurrection, both Nyssa and Sara have gone so far and improved after years, but that ship has sailed. Don’t tell me that Ava isn’t enough, but Nyssa is. None of them are. In real life, who will be enough forever? None of them are perfect. Perfection only exists in love bubble. And don’t tell me that Ava is more abusive than Nyssa was, because the things they’ve done are completely different. Apple and orange. Besides, who won’t change and move forward? Nyssa changed. Why Ava won’t? Hasn’t she, little by little?
For some people, it’s disturbing that Ava is a clone. First of all, clone isn’t machine nor AI. She has her own identity, life experience of 5 years in Time Bureau and 2 years with legends. Research showed that clone isn’t perfect copy, because the way our genes are turned on and off is greatly affected by the environment. This 12th Ava is a survivor of the fittest to perform Time Bureau missions. She behaves like a human, clumsier, but she’s trying to grow her humanity and empathy even with a fake childhood memory. Most of her intentions mean well, otherwise Sara won’t fall in love with her. Indeed, Ava’s condolence card for Oliver is hilarious and true, but sucks. Luckily she didn’t give out. Instead, she used her own way to support Sara (LoT S5E1). Way to learn. Girl.
Besides, Ava is a good fit for Sara since season 3. In season 2, Sara formally became the Captain. Although Sara is still friendly and approachable to her teammates, sometimes she needs to draw a fine line to manage. It’s a huge burden to be a leader, even Sara acts like she is born to it. She needs someone shared the similar status (in a good side) and understands her. Ave Sharpe, Director of Time Bureau, is that person. Their relationship progresses from seeing each other as an eyesore, to be admiring coworkers and friends, to have a real date, to be girlfriends, and then overcome obstacles together several times.
Ava studied Sara for 5 years when legends were fugitives of Time Bureau. She knows her past indirectly and must hear some from Sara. Ava did mock Sara and legends a lot, especially when they haven’t dated. But when Constantine said that Sara is a damaged, Ava immediately jumped out to defend. It’s not a denial out of ignorance. Ava doesn’t care about Sara’s past and believes it made her a better person, powerful and attractive, not to mention that Ava’s hobby is fancying serial killers. Healthy relationship, I’d say.
Sara always wants to be a better person while not losing herself. That’s why she is attracted to an authority figure, Ava. Just like Sara’s policeman dad and DA sister, they all try to save the world, not to be an assassin killing innocent people. Nyssa and Sara were incompatible as Sara wanted to get rid of LoA. Sara’s a Captain of Waverider and the Paragon NOW. She had got over her past, in certain extent, by going back to LoA for 2 years in LoT S2E9 and fighting her guilt in S3E15. There’s no point, repeatedly, to give her angst from her past, especially with Nyssa, to satisfy epic-tragic love enthusiasts. But if it’s a positive way to bring Nyssa in, reinforces Sara and Ava’s relationship or boosts Sara’s career, I would love to watch.
Chemistry is so subjective. Good acting comes first, but the rapport between actors make their characters more genuine for sure. Stephen Amell is a fan of Caity way back when she’s on Mad Man. At that point, Stephen had the power to influence who got the Canary, then they get along as coworkers. Moreover, it’s obvious that the writers intended to make Oliver & Sara’s love profound and meaningful.
Caity also has influence on casting Jes Macallan. Ava supposed to be annoying at the beginning. Jes successfully infuriated Caity at chem-read by ad-libbing B-word. Jes said that’s why she got Ava. They discuss their character’s relationship a lot and pitched to writers. They improvised interactions such as butt bump (LoT S3E13), legendary kiss (LoT S5E1), “you are my final girl" (LoT S5E4), calling “babe" & “my love"…In private, they watched hockey game, played snow, attended WB director workshop together. They call each other girlfriend, boo, bitch & threaten to divorce. They are good friends.
Screen time with Katrina Law was one episode and some random parts. 99% of Nyssara’s interactions is out of shippers’ imagination. Maybe just like Caity joked, they just had a lot knitting in Nanda Parbat…(Caity knits on the set). On the other hand, Caity and Stephen have been through several episodes and crossovers. Not to mention Caity and Jes worked for 3 seasons by now. However, they are all good actors. All showed good chemistry around characters. Saying one pair over the others is exaggerating.
Listen to how Caity thinks about the current status of Sara and Avalance? Don’t tell me that you understand the character better than the person who plays it…Shippers should watch the Nyssara and Avalance panels on 2019 Clexcon, and you will understand why Avalance is better for Sara at this moment. People have different life stages, either adventurous or domestic, and there are always new challenges. Some think IKEA purgatory is a joke. It’s a metaphor. As Caity and Jes said on Twitter, “only 24% of couples survive a trip to Ikea“. It’s a relationship test based on real life, refreshing the superhero shows. Tests only involving resurrection, fighting enemies or epically slaughter dragons, as many Nyssara shippers want, are just surreal.
For the record, I am not Avanlance shipper. I am Sara Lance and Caity Lotz worshiper. So I just want what’s good for this character. To me, Avalance is grounded, and psychologically well depicted. I mean…what’s wrong with being domestic as regular people do? They still fight together on missions and try to seek work-life balance. Bottom line, even if Avanlance fails, instead of going back to Nyssa, giving Sara a new love interest, man or woman, will be more reasonable.
I am very excited to see what superpower Sara will get after recovering from a magical illness in upcoming season 5 episode. Sara is a skilled and excellent fighter surpassing many others. However, since Arrowverse introduced more and more superpower heroes and aliens, it’s difficult to see her win a big fight in this unfavorable environment. Now she’s the Paragon of Destiny, I hope to see her act more prominently in LoT and the entire Arrowverse. Be a career powerhouse with happy domestic life. Go, Captain.