4YE Pride Month Ships: The Assassin And The Canary, And All the Things They Could Have Been

Photo: The CW

In accordance with Pride Month, our little 4YE family has decided to showcase our favorite LGBTQ couples. Today, let’s talk about the Arrowverse’s finest, Sara Lance and Nyssa al Ghul. There are a lot of things to love about these two ladies, and even more things to complain about. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Throughout five seasons of Arrow and two seasons of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, we learned a little bit about the relationship between these two beautiful strong women, but clearly not enough.

When we first heard about Sara Lance in season one of Arrow, she was the girl that Oliver had cheated with on Laurel, who didn’t survive the sinking of the Gambit. In season two she returned to Star(ling) City, very much alive, and became an integral part of Team Arrow as the Canary. In season two, we also learned that Sara Lance loves both men and women.

Nyssa al Ghul, daughter of the infamous Ras al Ghul, head of the League of Assassins, joined Arrow in episode #2.13, and her introductory scene remains one of the most badass scenes of the show as of today. The assassin came to Star City looking for her beloved, who had left Nanda Parbat without a goodbye. After greeting her with a searing kiss, Sara explained that she could no longer lead a life tied to the League, and that she had to stay with her family. When Nyssa realizes Sara would rather die than return to her life as an assassin, she released her, and retreated.

Towards the end of season two, Sara asked Nyssa and the League for assistance in the fight against Slade and his army of Mirakuru soldiers. In return, she promised to return to Nanda Parbat with her, and in the season two finale, the women set off for happier times.

Then season three happened, and we had to watch Sara succumb to three arrows fired by a manipulated and brainwashed Thea, and fall to her death – this time, it would stick for a while. Nyssa reacted with grief and rage, and in season four, when Laurel decided to bring her sister back from the dead, she tried to stop her.

Sara and Nyssa would only reunite in episode #1.14 of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, when Sara visits her former lover in the cells of the League. Nyssa tells her to move on, and if she really loved her, Sara would get far away from this place. It is the last time we see the two women together.


But how did we get to that point?

We know very little about the time the two women spent together before Sara returned home to Star City. Nyssa and Sara first met on Lian Yu in 2008, after the latter was shipwrecked for the second time. Sara fought alongside Oliver and Slade against Anthony Ivo, before she was caught by the water and once again separated from her friends. Oliver, up until 5 years later, believed that she was truly gone. However, Sara must’ve made it to the shore and survived.

Back on Lian Yu she must have met Nyssa shortly after, who was sent there by her father, Ras al Ghul. In episode #1.09 of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow we learned that it was Sara, who travelled to the past, and asked Ras al Ghul to send his yet to be born daughter to Lian Yu in October of 2008 to ensure that the two women would meet. So it wasn’t necessarily fate that brought them together, but a time manipulation. From then on, Nyssa nursed Sara back to health, Sara joined the League of Assassins and the two fell in love. And the rest is history.

Or is it?

GIF: Tumblr

How did these two women come to know each other? How did they react to the initial attraction between them? How did they fall in love? When did they? How did they come to terms with their sexuality?  What were the ups and downs in their relationship? Unfortunately, those questions have yet to be answered.

The holes in their history are in part what angered audiences. We only ever got to see these two fierce women interact in moments of crisis. They weren’t ever truly allowed a moment of piece and calm, just to be together. We never got to experience their love in the first place. We even had to watch Nyssa marry Oliver in one of the most disastrous plot points that Arrow ever had. The way Nyssa and Sara, both as individual characters, and as a couple, have been treated, is still cause for fury.

Why weren’t we allowed to learn more about their love story and their relationship? Why were we never allowed to see them in love?

Because what we did get to see make us fall in love with them. Both women have the ability to act as cold-blooded assassins when needed, yet, when it comes to each other, they are vulnerable, and incredibly caring. The one kiss Nyssa and Sara shared on screen was magical, and the chemistry between Caity Lotz and Katrina Law is fascinating. They have been nothing but supportive of the relationship they portray on TV, and continue to fight the good fight on social media (and we love them for it). It is a true shame that this particular dynamic has not been used to its full extent on Arrow . Or Legends for that matter.

Will we ever get to see flashbacks to their time at the League together? Will we ever get to see them reunite? Only time will tell …

GIF: Tumblr
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  1. You’re glossing over the toxic nature of their relationship. No doubt they loved each other, or at least Nyssa loved the IDEA of Sara, but the power dynamic between them was always an imbalanced, problematic one, and their interactions in “Heir to the Demon” were 100% abusive from start to finish, including that so-called “magical” kiss where Sara was in fear for her life and Nyssa was, as she admitted on screen right afterwards, contemplating killing her. What you’re rewriting as the two of them sailing off “for happier times” at the end of Season 2 was in reality Sara choosing to sacrifice herself for her family and city. She was miserable about it, and hated herself. Nyssa was not a factor in that decision, and it diminishes Sara’s heroism to imply otherwise.

    LGBTQ rep as a concept is great, but not all queer couples make for great representation. Romanticizing toxicity and suffering, especially to a complete revisionist degree as you’ve done here, just because one girl kissed another helps no one. I have issues with the treatment of both characters as individuals, but ignoring the absolutely terrible way in which Nyssa has treated Sara and the idea of Sara going back to a possessive, abusive relationship when young bisexual women in real life are far more likely to endure abuse and related mental illnesses than their non-bisexual counterparts and receive no help for it, is part of my issue with how Sara is treated by the fandom and sometimes the shows.

    1. Sara did not hate herself for going back to the league in Season 2. In her brief conversation with Laurel in season 3, Laurel she makes it clear that she’s upset that Sara had to go back to the league, and Sara replies that she’s happy with her decision. The canonical comic tie-in shows that Sara and Nyssa were together and happy during that period, Sara confirms that she genuinely loved Nyssa pre-season 2, and Sara is again shown to love Nyssa in season 1 of LoT.

      To link Nyssa to an extratextual domestic abuser is to interpret the character beyond what is provided for in the text while minimizing everything that’s been done to develop her character and storyline. It’s completely revisionist to portray their relationship as being inherently abusive. Nyssa was abusive when she tried to force Sara to rejoin the league, but her actions were written as being the tragic result of her conditioning to follow league rules, not as a result of her perspective on their relationship. The very first conversation that Nyssa and Sara have by themselves portrays Nyssa as being so emotionally stunted that she lacked the basic ability to understand why Sara left her.

      Every episode since then has portrayed the rest of their relationship in a positive light that prioritizes Sara’s agency (up to Nyssa wanting to respect Sara’s wishes not to have the Lazarus pit used on her, and not wanting Sara to stay with her in jail). Simultaneously, Nyssa’s individual development has portrayed her as a hero learning to shake-off the brainwashing of her league history. Regardless of whether or not they ever are together again, their relationship to each other is ultimately more rewarding, not less, because it involves both characters growing and developing so as to successfully navigate the tragic elements of their history together.

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