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Performers Of The Month - Readers' Choice Most Outstanding Performer of October - Katie Cassidy

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This article was written by Aimee Hicks, Mads, Sam Dinsmoor, and Zandarl. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

Redemption arcs can be the most powerful storytelling tool that writers can utilize. It is human nature to want to believe that there is a tiny spark of good in every person. When portrayed on a television series it gives the audience hope to see a character that was once been deemed evil beyond repair begin the slow arduous journey to redemption. The journey is always full of pitfalls, temptation, and sometimes slipups and watching it play out can be the ultimate emotional rollercoaster ride, but for the story to work, the audience must be made to feel for the character. Writers can write the best redemption arc ever, but if the performer can't pull off the emotional beats then it was all for nothing. Thankfully, for CW's Arrow, they have combined a great story arc with a great performer to create a powerful redemption arc for a character that spent nearly two full seasons as a villainess. In the profoundly talented hands of Katie Cassidy, the audience has been treated to a wild ride ever since Earth-2 Laurel Lance aka Black Siren made her first appearance. Cassidy skillfully breathed life into Earth-1 Laurel before her untimely demise, but Earth-2 Laurel has given her a much more complex character to play. The audience has seen Earth-2 Laurel smile sinisterly as she inflicted unspeakable pain on the heroes and cry real tears over the loss of a man that wasn't even her actual father. From sinisterly evil to heartbreakingly honest, Cassidy has had everything thrown at her and she always takes the material and elevates it far beyond words on paper. These reasons and all the reasons to follow are why Katie Cassidy was named SpoilerTV's Readers' Choice Performer of October for her powerful performance in The Longbow Hunters (7x2). **Note that in an unprecedented first she shares the title this month with Supergirl's Melissa Benoist after a historic tie in the voting.

Credit is well past due for Cassidy’s portrayal of an alternate version of the same character. Black Siren may be "Laurel" but she is not the same Laurel that once appeared on Arrow. She has established this Laurel to be a new character entirely and is recognizably different, which is no easy feat. This is convincingly demonstrated in this episode when Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) confronts Laurel about ditching her security detail. As per usual, Laurel hides behind a veil of snark to keep Dinah at a distance. That veil is fractured when Dinah mentions Quentin (Paul Blackthorne). Cassidy is exceptional at balancing Laurel's caustic demeanor with her true anguish over Quentin's death. Even though Dinah pokes at a sore spot, she doesn't crumble, yet she still allows the mask to slip to let us see Laurel does have real vulnerabilities. Even at the end of the scene when Dinah settles in to play "babysitter", Cassidy displays Laurel's defrosting ice queen with a soft, small smile in Dinah's direction. This is an important scene to dictate the development of this relationship.

Following the same thread, the scene where Dinah confronts Laurel about refusing to be protected by the security detail, Dinah yet again takes issue with how Laurel is choosing to handle things. This time, she learns exactly why Laurel isn't interested in security, she wants to take on Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) alone and get revenge for Quentin's death. Again, Cassidy allows us to see a new side to Laurel's character as she continues to develop and grow. She is determined, and nothing will sway her from her mission to find retribution and put Diaz in his grave. She is excellent at conveying conflicted emotions, as she's had to do it numerous times on this show. Earth-2 Laurel is perhaps the most conflicted of all. When Dinah calls her a "lying murderer", you can see a subtle flash of chagrin in Cassidy's eyes. This is a woman who understands the difficult moral dilemmas Laurel is currently battling. Quentin's death has fundamentally altered her character and finally given her the impetus to change and grow under Cassidy's helm. She understands what is driving Laurel at this moment and why Diaz dying by her own hand is so important to her.

Cassidy has beautifully resurrected Laurel back into the Arrowverse. This resurrection as the alternate Laurel has given her a much wider scope of emotions to play. This Laurel is far more complex, carrying around her own demons which always seem to be just below the surface, barely being held in check. That range and her demons were on full display throughout this episode and during the moment Laurel and Dinah entered the warehouse. Laurel being so raw and honest is what allowed her to connect with Dinah in order for them to team up against their common enemy. As they entered the warehouse it was anyone’s guess how things were going to go down. Surprisingly, they entered as equals with Dinah taking lead with her gun and Laurel covering their flank. It was an equal partnership at that moment. Up until their prior encounter outside of the warehouse, Cassidy was playing Laurel as dismissive and uncooperative with Dinah. Then, in the midst of their differences they found common ground. Cassidy’s harder portrayal gave way to some softening towards Dinah that saw her tough fierce front slipping. Laurel is used to doing everything on her own and suddenly having someone care enough to back her up without being asked took her off guard. This was a nice scene to show that Laurel isn’t opposed to working with someone, she just needs someone who is willing to work with her. Cassidy had Laurel primed for a fight and that is exactly what she got in the next scene.

Cassidy attacks the scene with confidence and fury. The way she has Laurel survey her surroundings is like a lion searching for its prey. She makes it clear that whoever is in here should fear her more than she should fear them, and she doesn't fear them at all. It's as if she's been waiting for this fight for so long and is ready to get the job done. With all Laurel has gone through with Diaz, she doesn't want to put up with it anymore, and Cassidy shows that. She doesn't skip a beat as Silencer (Miranda Edwards) sneaks up behind her. She just goes immediately into Canary cry mode. When her scream doesn't work, she easily transitions into hand-to-hand combat mode. The determination and ferocity with which she fights tells us this is not a fight she is going to lose. There is a fire in Cassidy’s eyes that captures in stunning clarity that Laurel is ready and willing to take down any opponent that gets between her and justice for Quentin.

But, as Silencer eventually gets the upper hand, Dinah comes in to help. Laurel doesn't say a word but just gets up to fight side-by-side with her. With the power of both of their screams combined they break Silencer's muting device and defeat her. Cassidy stares after an escaping Silencer with such a primal fury, showing us that Laurel doesn't care about the wounds she's sustained and perhaps not even feeling them. Laurel has been through too much in her life that little things like bodily harm don't bother her, and Cassidy wants us to know that. There was also a tiny glint of gratitude in her eyes that Dinah had come to her aid again. It perfectly setup the final encounter that closed out the Canary arc of this episode.

From start to finish this episode represented a complete arc for Laurel. It showed how she took those final steps into beginning to redeem herself and it was critically important that she embarked on this journey with Dinah. They have gone back and forth continually hurting each other. Laurel seeing Dinah come to her aid flipped a switch for her. It seemed to remind her that she isn't in all this alone and there are people that would be there if she allowed them to be. Unlike her Earth, she isn't alone which may be part of the reason she is so hesitant to return. She is beginning to remember the person she once was before her life led her down a dark path. All of this is important to keep in mind when going into looking at the stunning performance that Cassidy delivered in this final scene. This is the scene that effectively launched Laurel's redemption arc. It was essential Cassidy nail every complicated facet of it or everything that came after wouldn't hold the same weight. She delivered a raw performance where not only Dinah but the audience, could see and feel Laurel's sincerity. That ability to project Laurel's raw sincerity is what made this scene come across with so much impact.

From the moment Laurel entered Dinah's office it was clear that there were a lot of things on Laurel's mind. Cassidy kept Laurel's rigid posture and serious looking expression right up until the moment she stepped foot into the office and she began struggling to maintain her tough exterior facade. When Laurel took an innocent jab at Dinah it was clear through Cassidy's portrayal that this wasn't Laurel being a bitch, but instead, it was the direct result of her genuinely having no other idea of how to breach a sincere conversation with her one-time nemesis. Cassidy portrayed Laurel as her snarky uptight self, right up to the time the other officer left Laurel and Dinah alone. This nervous half-smile spreads across her face in a genius acting moment by Cassidy. It showed how uncomfortable Laurel was about this entire situation, but that she was committed to doing what she came to do. Cassidy dropped the tone of her voice and her words flowed in a much softer way than has been heard since Earth-1 Laurel passed. This was clearly the Laurel that Quentin knew was inside this Laurel from the very beginning. When Laurel accepted protection, it wasn't an easy thing for her to say and Cassidy made sure that the audience saw how hard it was for Laurel to give this small thing to Dinah.

The most profound moment of the scene came after all that when Laurel almost lost her nerve and left. When Cassidy turned around there was this subdued look that she maintained to convey the struggle going on inside of Laurel. At that moment where her back is to the camera, Cassidy appears to tense up and gives Laurel a burst of courage via a deep exhale in conjunction with her turning around. Fight or flight is on full display here and Laurel is only just barely keeping the urge to flee under control. She is a fierce warrior who doesn't run away from a fight, yet at this moment it was clear she wanted to run away from this situation.

At this moment Laurel was fighting for her own soul. When Cassidy was facing the camera again there was an entirely different look on her face. Her eyes glisten as emotions begin to bubble over in Laurel. When she starts to speak Cassidy's voice cracks with emotion and her eyes fill with unshed tears. In a very smart acting decision, she spoke these lines with very deliberate pauses. One watching could almost see the struggle that she was fighting through to get this apology out. This was real raw emotion, her voice softer than the audience has become accustomed to, but it is also flooded with feeling.

When she apologized for killing Vinnie her voice almost entirely drops out, overwhelmed because of the deep remorse she was feeling inside. That sort of dropout only comes from a performer going to a very real and deep place to pull out such a profoundly real performance. Then, when Laurel declared that she's not the same person that killed Vinnie she found strength in her voice again. She needed not only Dinah to hear her, but in many ways, she herself needed to hear that she is no longer that person. Laurel is at war with the person she was and the person she is trying so hard to be. She needs to one day find forgiveness for herself every bit as much as she needs that forgiveness from Dinah and the others. Cassidy's performance throughout this episode was flawless, but this scene beautifully solidified this performance as a tour de force for this immensely gifted actress.

For all their differences, Laurel and Dinah have a lot more in common than either probably cares to acknowledge. No matter the project she has worked on, Katie Cassidy has this impeccable gift to instantly lock into sync with whomever she shares a scene. One would be hard pressed to find a scene where she didn’t immediately lock into a flawless rhythm with whomever she is playing opposite. In the case of this episode, that scene partner was Juliana Harkavy, and there isn’t enough praise to properly commend both actresses for what they have brought to this contentious dynamic between onetime enemies. They have taken one-time nemesis’s and started to turn the corner into them perhaps one day becoming friends at the very least. Cassidy is a force to be reckoned with on her own but put her with Harkavy, and all bets are off. This episode was a prime display of what these two actresses are capable of together and a perfect example of how effortlessly Cassidy forges bonds with fellow performers. The actresses’ great chemistry has allowed their characters to be the perfect foil for each other. There is no telling what the writers have planned, but it is clear they can’t go wrong by pairing up these two in scenes and shared storylines. Cassidy clearly has a lot of fun playing off Harkavy and it has already provided the audience with some impeccable scenes.

Katie Cassidy departed Arrow for a brief time, but she has come back stronger than ever. While there will likely always be a debate as to how Earth-1 Laurel was developed there is no question that Earth-2 Laurel has been gifted a storyline worthy of an actress of Cassidy's caliber. She elevates the characters and storylines entrusted to her. The level of talent she has is only surpassed by her kindness. She continually goes out of her way to try to make a difference in the world and with her fans. She is also a vocal supporter of SheThority started by her fellow Arrowverse actresses. Continually, Cassidy has proven herself a gifted actress as well as a truly kind person. Katie Cassidy is an immensely gifted actress and it will almost certainly be a pleasure for the audience to watch her take Laurel on this beautifully crafted journey to redemption. In her gifted hands, there is nothing these writers can't do with Laurel Lance and Black Siren.

For all the reasons noted in this article, Katie Cassidy is one of SpoilerTV's Readers' Choice Performers of the Month. Please use the comments to discuss her performance in this episode and regarding her portrayal of Earth-2 Laurel.

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