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Transmutation: A Character Study - Sara Lance (Arrow) (Legends of Tomorrow)

This series of articles exploring these great characters and their story arcs have been wonderful to read this summer. However, of all the amazing characters and the story arcs we've read about I think none have gone through greater trials and transitions than Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), of Legends of Tomorrow.

In just a few short seasons on not one, but two different shows, Sara Lance has been through more life changing events than many of us see in one lifetime. Since we first met Sara on Arrow she has been – a rebellious younger sister; a shipwreck survivor; a torture victim; a cold-blooded assassin; a back-from-the-presumed dead daughter, lover, friend; a masked vigilante; Black Canary fighting alongside Team Arrow; a murder victim; resurrected from death; had her black soul restored; became a legend; became White Canary; died again; was resurrected again; grown into team leadership; and ultimately become team captain who literally held the fate of the world in her hands and unselfishly sacrificed her own happiness for the greater good. I think we can honestly surmise that none of the other TACS subjects can lay claim to the fact that they have been presumed dead, died and resurrected a reported seven times during the course of their series. I'm tired just watching, so I can only imagine how exhausted Caity Lotz who has portrayed Sara since Season 2 of Arrow, must be, after taking this incredible character on this amazing journey.

I can believe that when noted scholar Joseph Campbell first wrote of The Hero's Journey, he could scarcely imagine a character like Sara. In 1949 Campbell wrote in his work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, about the basic narrative pattern and described it as:
"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, Joseph (1949). The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 23)

His words describe Sara's journey perfectly - I don't think I've seen a more tortured, and at times tormented soul than Sara's and yet she continues to press on, driven by her own code of honor and has more than once sacrificed her happiness or future for the common good. A common thread runs deep in Sara, throughout all her trials she remains a fighter and a survivor and has ultimately made the journey to hero. No matter the circumstance she has exhibited an innate quality that has others looking to her for leadership, despite the fact that she herself has doubted her self-worth and is uncomfortable with the word hero.

I recently had the unique opportunity to meet Caity Lotz at a Heroes and Villains Fan Fest Event in Nashville, TN and asked her what events she considers most significant in Sara's journey. She thought for a moment then revealed two events she considered among the most important in Sara's life. I will reveal what those moments are later in this article. But first, let's take a quick look back at who Sara Lance is and the many events that have shaped her character.

Sara Lance is a unique and complicated character and I fear I won't do her character arc justice but am going to try my best by pointing the episodes or scenes that I feel help best describe her journey. We are first introduced to Sara Lance (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) in the pilot episode of Arrow. Tired of living under the shadow of Laurel (Katie Cassidy), her older sister, Sara impetuously takes off for a jaunt on the Queen's Gambit with her sister's boyfriend, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell).

One could make the argument that that was the last time she made such a rash decision considering the life changing consequences that resulted. The ship goes down and Oliver believes he watches Sara being swept out to sea and to her death.Sara does not reappear in Starling City until Season 2 of Arrow, where she returns as the masked, leather-clad and highly skilled Canary (Caity Lotz). After learning about the earthquake that destroyed the Glades, she has come out of hiding to check on the most important thing to her, her family.

Oliver is stunned to learn the vigilante that has been showing up in his city adventures is none other than Sara, whom he believed was dead.Through a series of flashbacks beginning with episode 2x05-League of Assassins, he learns that Sara survived the sinking of the Queen's Gambit only to become a prisoner on the ship the Amazo and under the influence of scientist Dr. Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal), desperate to find an ancient cure known as the Mirakuru. Ivo had promised to help her and protect her from the men on the ship if she helped him. Being the survivor she was, Sara saw she had no choice and accepted his offer. She later learned Oliver had survived and ultimately helps him and another warrior, Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) defeat Ivo's mad schemes, unfortunately, the Amazo blows up and Oliver had believed she'd once again died at sea.

She goes on to tell him she was rescued from the nearby island of Lian Yu, by Nyssa Al Ghul (Katrina Law) and taken to recover in Nanda Parbat where she trained and later joined a group known as the League of Assassins led by Nyssa's father, Ra's al Ghul (Matt Nable). She'd spent the past years becoming one of the league's deadliest assassin's Ta-er-Sahfer (yellow bird, Canary). Ironically, however, Nanda Parbat was the first place where Sara was shown she had value and was worthy. It was also the first place she found love. Growing weary of the killing was another reason Sara had returned home, but the League was not ready to let her go. Ultimately Sara leaves to protect her family from the League but has to return when Laurel is in danger. When she returns in 2x13 Heir to the Demon, she finds herself facing Nyssa, whom we learn was Sara's lover on Nanda Parbat. This is noteworthy in that this is one of the first time on TV or film that a DC character was revealed to be bisexual. Nyssa draws Sara out by kidnapping her mother, however, Sara convinces her how far she is willing to go to protect her family by ingesting poison, just one of the many times Sara is willing to sacrifice herself for another. Nyssa releases Sara from the League.

Slade Wilson had also returned to Starling City, seeking revenge on Oliver because he believed Oliver responsible for the death of his lover on Lian Yu. He was using the Mirakuru to build an unbeatable army.

Reunited with her family, Sara still doesn't consider herself worthy of being called a hero, however, during an attack on the city by Slade's men, she rescues a little girl from a burning building. Laurel and the child's thankful mother, tell her she is a true hero. (2x22 Streets of Fire) As Season 2 of Arrow comes to a close Sara gets Nyssa to have the league join Oliver and the team in defeating Slade's army. In exchange, she agrees to return to the League, yet another example of Sara's growth by showing her willingness to sacrifice herself for others.

Sara is reunited with her family briefly in 3x01 The Calm but is then tragically murdered. Then in Season 4 episode- 4x04 Beyond Redemption is miraculously brought back to life by her sister, desperate to have her sister back, who took her to the Lazarus pit in Nanda Parbat.There were consequences however of using the pit, Sara was returned without a soul and blood lust for killing. Oliver calls upon an old friend, John Constantine (Matt Ryan) who helps restores Sara's soul in 4x05 Haunted.

Her soul restored, Sara still feels as if she doesn't quite belong and leaves for Tibet to try and find herself. It's there she's recruited by Captain Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) to join his team of time travelers – the Legends of Tomorrow. It is Laurel who convinces her to join the team telling her she is worthy and has a new start and with a new start a new name and suit as the White Canary. Sara's journey through the first season of Legends of Tomorrow is about finding her place on a team and feeling worthy of the title of Legend. Their quest to stop immortal Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) from destroying the world takes them on adventures through time and history, as each team member learns his/her role. Throughout it, Sara struggles to not only belong but to also rediscover her humanity as she still fights the blood lust brought about her time in the Lazarus pool.

At one point, she finds herself stranded in 1958, so she travels back to the one place she had ever felt like she'd belonged, with the League of Assassins in Nanda Parbat 1x09 Left Behind. However, Ra's could see she was torn between killing and mercy and released her from the League. Sara left him with a message to send his yet to be born daughter, Nyssa to Lian Yu in 2008. So, in an ironic fashion, Sara had saved herself.

Coming together as a team, Sara and the Legends not only find a way to defeat Savage but to also free themselves from the influence of the Time Masters, but not before Sara's world is turned upside down when she learns that Laurel has been killed by Damian Dahrk (Neal McDonough).

Following Savage's defeat and the dismantling of the Time Masters, Rip offered the team the chance to keep working with him to protect the timeline. However, Sara was reluctant to go, wanting to stay and help her father catch her sister's killer. Yet, Lance (Paul Blackthorne) convinces her to keep working with Rip, telling her that, that would be what her sister would want her to do. To continue her important work. Sara agrees to continue in memory of Laurel. Again, choosing to stand for the greater good.

As Season 2 of Legends progresses so does Sara's growth. With new team members in place, the team travels to 1942 New York to stop Nazi's from using an atomic bomb to blow up the city, 2x01 Out of Time. Sara also learns from the ship's AI Gideon that Damien Dahrk is also in 1942 New York. While the rest of her team goes in search of the Nazi's, Sara hunts Damien. She has him in her sights, thinking if she kills him here, he won't be able to kill her sister in 2016. But, Ray (Brandon Routh) stops her saying they've learned he has a connection to the Nazi's and they need him to help stop the explosion. Again, Sara puts her own painful needs aside for the greater good. The Legends chase Dahrk to a submarine where he fires a torpedo containing the bomb towards the city. Hunter uses the ship as a shield to stop the torpedo, but not before scattering his team throughout the timeline to protect them.

New team member Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), with an assist from Oliver Queen, is able to locate the ship and takes it through time to reassemble the team. A new team needed a leader and Stein volunteered (Victor Garber) leading the team on a mission to retrieve an amulet from Nazi's, believed to have some sort of powers. 2x02 Justice Society of America. However, during the mission, during which they get the amulet, several team members are captured and the others argue how to rescue them. Stein steps aside, saying the only one who kept their head and made the right decisions during the mission was Sara and that she should be captain.

Sara was now the captain. This was one of the moments that Caity Lotz considers to be one of the most important in Sara's life. Her team had her trust and respect and looked to her to lead them.

Another example of Sara's ability to put others before her own need for revenge comes in 2x05 Compromised. A time aberration has sent them to the 1980's and the White House where they shockingly discover that Damien Dahrk is an advisor to the President. Sara tells a puzzled Dahrk she's not going to kill him. Dahrk is then whisked away by Speedster Eobard Thawne.

Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher), Damien Dahrk and the newest member of the Legion of Doom - Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) were joining forces and were on a mission to find Rip Hunter because he knew where the pieces of the Spear of Destiny, a device that could alter reality, were located.
Preventing the Legion of Doom from capturing Rip and getting the Spear of Destiny would prove to be a great challenge to Sara's leadership skills. There were moments when she doubted herself and the others but was firm in one belief that saving the timeline was sacred. In Turncoat, 2x11, while protecting George Washington Sara suffers yet another death and resurrection when she is shot and killed by Rip and then saved by Gideon.

After capturing Rip, in order to get the old Rip back and find the location of the Spear before the Legion, Sara and Jax (Franz Drameh) enter his mind, 2x. While there, Sara faces perhaps one of her greatest foes, an evil version of the woman she was now. The new, self-assured Captain Sara prevailed and was able to help Rip regain control of his mind.Once back it would seem natural that Rip once again becomes the captain of the ship. However, in what I consider one of the defining moments of Sara's journey, he tells her that she had become a better captain than he ever was, now he had to find out where his place on the team was.

The Legion of Doom had assembled the Spear and changed reality, however, under Sara's leadership, the Legends were able to regain the spear. With the Spear in her possession, Sara was faced with her greatest challenge in her character's journey, 2x17 Aruba. The ability to alter the reality of whoever held the Spear sent Sara to an afterlife where she was able to talk to Laurel. All she had to do was desire for that to become reality and her sister would come back to life. After a heartfelt discussion, Sara tearfully told Laurel that she couldn't choose that path, that the timeline had to be restored, no matter how badly she wanted to be reunited with her sister. In the ultimate sacrifice, Sara chose to restore reality over bringing her sister back to life. This was the second moment Caity Lotz chose as being the most important in Sara's journey. There was a bit of bittersweet irony that both sisters had the opportunity to bring the other back from the dead. Laurel chose to do so because she needed her sister, and Sara, chose not to for the greater good, yet both had made their decisions out of love.

This article has just touched the tip of the iceberg of the massive character arc of Sara Lance. Her journey from that rebellious girl we first met in Arrow, to the world saving Captain of the Legends of Tomorrow are filled with examples of the tremendous growth this character has undergone, and her journey is just beginning. I know there are many examples I have omitted. What are your favorites? Discuss them in the comments and be sure to vote for her at the end of the year!

*WRITER'S NOTE- I'd like to send a special thank you to Caity Lotz, for taking the time to talk to me about Sara at the Heroes and Villains Fan Fest in Nashville in July.


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