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Laurel and Cami: When Character Deaths Are Unnecessary

Laurel and Cami
Laurel from Arrow and Cami from The Originals
Photos: CW

SPOILERS

Every once in a while, a story demands a death. It authentically demands it. Romeo and Juliet both needed to die because thematically their suicides revealed a tragedy that didn’t need to happen. Today, we still remember Shakespeare’s writing because the outcome of this romantic tragedy is so powerful. We remember Romeo and Juliet’s death scenes because the play would not have worked without these deaths. But what happens when the deaths at the hands of writers are unnecessary to the tale being told? That’s the question I want to discuss in regards to the recent deaths of Laurel Lance from the TV Series Arrow and Camille O’Connell from the TV Series The Originals.

LAUREL LANCE

Laurel Lance

In Arrow, Laurel has a secret identity. While District Attorney by day, she’s also the Black Canary by night. In a fight against an evil immortal, Damien Darhk, Laurel is killed at his hand because her father stopped giving into Darhk’s blackmail. But did Laurel need to die to make a point? Not really.

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In fact, the REAL reason Laurel HAD to die was because, at the beginning of the season, the show revealed a mystery of Oliver Queen standing at someone’s gravestone. Meaning, one of the characters on the show would HAVE to die because they set it up as such. But the writers didn’t go in knowing who was going to die, creating an uncomfortable corner that they wrote themselves into. What they did know: the death had to have an impact on Oliver Queen and would (as later revealed mid-season) propel Oliver and Felicity to want to kill whoever killed their unnamed “friend.”

Now I’m not saying that the writing of Arrow ever could be comparable to that of Shakespeare, but at the same time, I do believe the storytelling should at the very least remain authentic. Killing a character off on a show for shock value is no longer authentic to most stories being told on television. Deaths are created for a momentary (certainly only temporary) boost in ratings. We see constant advertisements of “tune in to see who dies.” Or someone won’t make it through the day, but who? Just think of the recent season finale promo of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Fans go into a tizzy speculating the deaths, worrying that their favorite is being offed, something also achieved with the “twist” at the beginning of Arrow’s season that someone was going to die. But, to me, this is fan baiting rather than just telling a story based on truth. In other words, the writing is not being true to itself. I’m a firm believer that stories must be told by the characters, that eventually the truth of where the story should go will always present itself if the writer doesn’t try to contrive an ending or paint themselves into a corner (something that is happening way too often on TV Series these days).

Laurel Lance's death
Laurel dies later in the hospital.

How do we know if a death is contrived merely for shock value or for ratings? WELL, this is why I chose two clear and recent examples. Let me paint a picture of the contrivance in Arrow. Did Laurel’s death work thematically? Mostly. I believe that Darhk would want to kill her to make a point to Quentin Lance, but this could have been achieved just by her ‘almost’ dying. For a short while, Laurel even seemed to have survived the stabbing until she crashed and later died in the hospital. So, she died. That was the writer’s choice. I get that. And at least it sort of made sense (though matching the timeline to the teasing clip of Felicity and Oliver in the limo was just bad. I mean, in an episode about not killing, suddenly the end is about killing Darhk. Ugh).

And then there’s the flashback in the following episode about the romance between Laurel and Oliver after Tommy died, a reveal that made absolutely NO sense to what we had seen on screen prior to this episode. Laurel was suddenly over Tommy and wanted a relationship with Oliver when before we saw something completely different? The story wasn’t even consistent to Laurel’s journey as presented on the show!

Even worse, is that in the spinoff show, Legends of Tomorrow, Laurel’s sister is a time traveler. She COULD have returned to the timeline to change her sister’s death. It was possible. But no. The writers had to keep Laurel dead no matter what, no matter how much this needed to be contrived to achieve what was unnatural to the story and the characters.

In Legends of Tomorrow, Rip Hunter brings Sara back to 2016 five months after she left because he didn’t want her altering the timeline by saving Laurel. Yeah, okay. How fair is that considering she just spent the entire season trying to save his family and undoing their deaths? But what makes this even more annoying is the writers kept throwing in nonsensical reasons WHY Laurel couldn’t be saved just to make sure it stuck. Sara can’t save Laurel because Rip tells her she would fail no matter what. Um, why are we trusting the manipulative liar again especially now that the timeline has been destroyed by Snart’s sacrifice? When you have to come up with reasons, you know it’s just not right. The story is no longer true. Basically, the only reason Laurel had to die was because the writers wanted her to remain dead.

CAMILLE O’CONNELL

Cami in The Originals

Similarly, in The Originals, Camille O’Connell, it seemed had to die no matter what, even if the writing had to contrive it to make it happen. Already killed and turned into a vampire earlier in the season, it seemed as if there was still plenty of stories left to tell for this character (though showrunner Julie Plec claimed: “The responsibility of the storyteller is to recognize when a character has run its course”) such as her being the one vampire to not give into the darkness (the Faramir Lord of the Rings like possibilities would have been amazing). In its place, they rushed this characterization in the end making the execution of Cami’s goodness even as a vampire semi-sloppy and a little too ambiguous. Here, the responsibility of the storyteller arguably failed because the writers couldn’t creatively think of a way to keep the character “relevant.”

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The show in reality, on the other hand, fabulously set up SEVERAL stories to tell about Cami such as her family’s weapons and heirlooms so it wouldn’t even be that hard to have kept the character relevant. Jason Dohring’s character’s investigation into her family could have opened the floodgates into more interesting stories about even her parents. What was their involvement after all? Why didn’t we delve more into Cami’s family tree line when we knew there was a huge history there?? Why not use one of these magical weapons to save her or take down Lucien? The weapons just remain a side note of unimportance when they could have been so much more. This remains a story unexplored and certainly not a good example of a character that had run her course.

Also, IF Cami’s death actually “[respected] the integrity of what the story [was] telling” the writers they “[needed] to do,” according to Julie Plec once more, then why contrive a breakup between her and Klaus when they had so little time left together on the show in the first place? Why have Cami act out of character to steal Klaus’s toy made from white oak? Why turn her into a vampire if they didn’t want to follow through with that story either? Indeed, I saw very little respect given to the character or natural progression of the story.

For instance, when it came time for Cami to die for real, I knew in her final episode she wouldn’t survive because the characters unnaturally made a list throughout the episode of why nothing could save Camille. She had to die come what may just like Laurel Lance even when there were several authentic ways for Cami to live. The writers had to have their shock value (which by the way, isn’t shocking at all when almost every TV series right now is focusing on shocking deaths for ratings).

Even more ridiculous is that after EVERY idea to save Cami has been exhausted (absurdly so) and Cami dies (respectfully, her death was at least well written albeit unnecessary), Elijah and Kol are bitten with the same lethal bite to vampires. SUDDENLY, Freya knows how to save them through the sleeping spell she had learned from Dahlia. Um, okay. Could no one have considered the sleeping spell for Camille? It’s almost laughable.

Cami's death in The Originals
Cami dies in Klaus’s arms.

Aside from the inauthenticity and rushed aspect of Cami’s death is the complete lack of point to her death in the overall story thematically. Sure, Klaus tries to be better but that’s about it. He could have done that for Cami with her still living as Cami tries to find a way to save him. Instead, her death remains pointless, Davina’s death being the one that propels the story forward. Marcel becomes the antagonist and beast because of Davina’s death (another female character mind you), not Cami’s. In fact, the entire climax is about how the Mikaelsons betrayed him because of their choice to save themselves over Davina. The story doesn’t even focus on Klaus’s Byronic rage at the loss of his love. The climax has nothing to do with Camille, so what was the point?

The point my friends is that Laurel Lance and Camille O’Connell had to die just because the writers felt like it. Authenticity was thrown out the window for mere shock value that lasts but a moment to both shows’ overall stories. In the long run, neither death will ever be remembered as great even though there were touching moments in the end for both characters.

All it comes down to is this: if writers need to manipulate a story in order to achieve their desires, perhaps it was time to make a different choice. Perhaps it was time to let the characters speak for themselves, to tell us where the story needed to go rather than the other way around. I truly believe that if Laurel Lance and Camille O’Connell had lived, the story would have been stronger and, of course, more authentic.

A couple of clear TV examples where deaths did work both thematically and authentically include Mitchell from Being Human and Will from The Good Wife. In Being Human, Mitchell dies because he truly can no longer live or else he will keep hurting others as a vampire. Then there was the whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing which foretold his death in a very Shakespearean Macbeth kind of way. It just worked naturally, creatively, and beautifully.

As for Will from The Good Wife, his death happens like many deaths do in real life: unexpectedly. Sure, we would miss his character but the unfinished business and love story between him and Alicia made the death all the more tragic. His demise also led Alicia down a new path to where she could finally walk away from her husband. Everything just sort of clicked as if unfolding in a literary novel. What did Will want to tell Alicia when he called? Would they have ever found their way back to one another? Alicia can only fantasize about it and that makes Will’s death powerful, truthful, and yes, authentic.

Basically, some deaths work while others just don’t. But what can writers do going forward? As Laurel and Cami are just two examples of many deaths in TV that don’t succeed, it’s difficult to explain away all of them. But for these two, in particular, I believe that mistakes can be undone. Creativity allows for change and transformation. Creativity leaves the door open for characters to return in believable ways (especially in supernatural shows). As a whole, creativity will tell you when to listen to the path of authenticity over contrived storytelling. Let the characters speak and breathe for you and your story will, in the end, be a better success.

Do you think Laurel and Cami’s deaths were authentic? How would you bring these characters back if you could? Sound off below…

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By on June 18th, 2016

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely blog and works as a YA Librarian.

More posts by this author.

5 thoughts on “Laurel and Cami: When Character Deaths Are Unnecessary”

  1. The rumor mill has it that CW execs told Plec to thin down the herd – whether it was so they could bring someone over from TVD or just to cut costs who knows – and I could see how they would cut her for that. It might also explain why the second half of Cami’s season felt so poorly done (as a whole).

    Her facing death (both before she decides to turn and in her final hours after being bitten) were some of the best writing on the show, but aside form that, it was all just so poorly done. She felt out of character most of the time, just generally super childish. I know they tried to play it as “you’re a more intense version of yourself,” but the story that Cami told about her childhood doesn’t quite sell it – she had those moments, but they weren’t who she was, so why she’d have that attitude after she did turn just felt she was being written out of character than anything.

    Aside from that though, Cami’s overall arc points to a problem that shows with large ensemble casts tend to have: too many people and not enough time to give them all proper screen time leaving some extremely under-developed.

    True Blood and The Vampire Diaries also had/have issues with this throughout their runs. For example, True Blood never explored the consequences of Jason getting raped by the werepanthers. Enzo hung around TVD in Season 6 basically because Plec knew that Enzo was popular and wanted to keep him around, not because there was a good story reason to do so. Matt for several years now has just gone back and forth between helping and hating the vampires, and realistically, he should have hightailed it out of MF at the same time as Jeremy, if not Tyler.

    Truth of the matter: the producers designated Cami as third tier from the get go: the focus of show has pretty much been 1) the brothers 2) whatever Davina is up to and then in a distant third remembering to check in on characters like Cami. Cami essentially felt like a plot device the whole season. The story arc with Detective Kinney was cringe-worthy and ultimately felt like a way to bring together Klamille. Klamille ultimately felt like a way to get Klaus to improve, though post-finale interviews certainly seem to hint that it may not stick because of the years getting tortured, which would ultimately make her whole arc moot.

    I genuinely liked Cami as a character, but I was also okay when I figured out she was a goner. She deserved better, and I rather see her have met the True Death than continue to have her character butchered.

    Reply
    • So you know what I’m responding to, I’ve quoted out your different paragraphs! 🙂

      “The rumor mill has it that CW execs told Plec to thin down the herd – whether it was so they could bring someone over from TVD or just to cut costs who knows – and I could see how they would cut her for that. It might also explain why the second half of Cami’s season felt so poorly done (as a whole).”

      Rumors are just that. Rumors. And I don’t put stock in them. It’s unlikely we’ll ever know the real reason why Cami was offed. It is unfortunate that it happened. Still, it’s all speculative. However, I agree with Autumn’s above opinions. The choice to kill Cami felt contrived rather than true to the story. That’s where the issue is. As a viewer, I am not interested in behind the scenes politics but rather the story. “IF” Plec was asked to thin the herd, I don’t think Cami was the right choice from a story standpoint. Besides, there are way too many male characters now. One of them could have easily been removed instead.

      “Her facing death (both before she decides to turn and in her final hours after being bitten) were some of the best writing on the show, but aside form that, it was all just so poorly done. She felt out of character most of the time, just generally super childish. I know they tried to play it as “you’re a more intense version of yourself,” but the story that Cami told about her childhood doesn’t quite sell it – she had those moments, but they weren’t who she was, so why she’d have that attitude after she did turn just felt she was being written out of character than anything.”

      I agree that when Cami faced her death it was some of the best written moments of the series! Not to mention Leah Pipes acting was superb in her final episode. I also agree that it was poorly done though I think for different reasons. What was poorly done was the fact that her death was so contrived for all the reasons Autumn mentions in the article. However, I do somewhat disagree with you in your assessment of Cami. I don’t feel she has ever been portrayed as “super childish.” Though their writing of Cami as a vampire was not always strong, so maybe that’s what you mean? Still, she has always been portrayed as incredibly mature – even up to the end. Though perhaps Cami stealing the white oak toy was a bit overdone and badly handled. But it was at least consistent in the fact that Cami sticks up for herself – even to Klaus. But yeah, I hear you, the writing of Cami as a vampire wasn’t always the best. Perhaps part of the problem was that they rushed her arc as a vampire and didn’t make their thematic points about her being good as a vampire clear enough.

      “Aside from that though, Cami’s overall arc points to a problem that shows with large ensemble casts tend to have: too many people and not enough time to give them all proper screen time leaving some extremely under-developed.”

      I don’t think as a character Cami is underdeveloped. The writers have quite clearly shown the audience who Cami is from the beginning. But yeah, Cami’s seasonal arc was incredibly underdeveloped showing some real weaknesses in the writing. As far as ensemble casts go, this is a relatively small one. So, the choice to ignore a few of their castmembers and focus too much on others is definitely on the writers. I believe they have had plenty of time to give Cami more focus about her background this season. They just chose to make different creative choices. Lost shows us how easy it is to give every character their time! It wouldn’t be hard to take away one of the Mikaelson sibling’s flashbacks and instead focus on a flashback/backstory episode for Cami, Davina, or Hayley. Perhaps this is a little bit of a female problem. There is much more focus and time given to the male characters. Sorry for the rant! Haha. But I tend to get annoyed when female characters start to be used as plot devices. No doubt ALL of the female characters this season have been used as such which is a real shame.

      “True Blood and The Vampire Diaries also had/have issues with this throughout their runs. For example, True Blood never explored the consequences of Jason getting raped by the werepanthers. Enzo hung around TVD in Season 6 basically because Plec knew that Enzo was popular and wanted to keep him around, not because there was a good story reason to do so. Matt for several years now has just gone back and forth between helping and hating the vampires, and realistically, he should have hightailed it out of MF at the same time as Jeremy, if not Tyler.”

      Don’t get me started on True Blood! Haha. That show had issues from the start but that show was a hot mess after season 4 pretty much becoming unwatchable. And yeah, The Vampire Diaries have removed characters that shouldn’t have been removed and kept characters around with nothing to do. Less an ensemble problem and more of a writing issue. One that can be remedied.

      “Truth of the matter: the producers designated Cami as third tier from the get go: the focus of show has pretty much been 1) the brothers 2) whatever Davina is up to and then in a distant third remembering to check in on characters like Cami. Cami essentially felt like a plot device the whole season. The story arc with Detective Kinney was cringe-worthy and ultimately felt like a way to bring together Klamille. Klamille ultimately felt like a way to get Klaus to improve, though post-finale interviews certainly seem to hint that it may not stick because of the years getting tortured, which would ultimately make her whole arc moot.”

      I hear you on some of your complaints! Cami was a fantastic character – one the writers really could have taken the time to dig into deeper. I feel the series was always at its best when there was a focus on Cami. She was, in my opinion, the strongest of the female characters. At least after Rebekah left. But yeah, they really did write Cami as a plot device in the second half of this season. However, they’ve done the same thing with all of the female characters. They really need to re-find their focus and remember that the female characters are there! Cami, Freya, Hayley, Davina…all plot devices this season. There to comfort the male characters, there to give motivation, there to further the characterization of other characters, etc…While this is fine in moderation – the second half of season three just turned all of their great females into objects. Such a shame. I believe there is still enough promise to rectify this problem though. First, they need to recognize that it is one.

      I don’t know if I’d call Detective Kinney’s plot arc cringe-worthy. He had so much promise as a character and some great moments. But I agree, his story just disappeared. He could have become part of an organization working to help Cami and her role as the human delegate. Or he could have been a villain – pretending this whole time to be the innocent Kinney. But they didn’t follow through with what they introduced in the beginning. Heck, they could have done a whole urban fantasy like arc of solving supernatural crimes. This story did fail. And part of that problem was their choice to kill off Cami. His story was connected to hers – and then they just dropped it. Another reason I agree with Autumn and why it was unnecessary and even ridiculous they killed off Cami. Too many stories were introduced and never given the follow through needed. Season 3 had a lot of issues. The first half was better for sure! But the second half really fell apart in a lot of ways.

      I loved the Klaus/Cami story from the start. Such a beautiful Beauty and the Beast story mixed with Byronic Hero story tropes. The relationship was about much more than making Klaus better. It was about how they were kindred spirits. So much literary influence in the telling of it – that is until they killed Cami off. Even though, they could have continued to make it great. They could have turned Klaus into a raging Byronic upset over the loss of his love. Give him a revenge plot like that of Heathcliff! Instead, they chose to mute Klaus’s character afterwards making him calm in the name of Cami – which was ultimately silly. Not to mention, not what Cami meant. The arc that you mention about Klamille only being there to help Klaus improve was moot from the start. Cami has always inspired Klaus to be better whether dead or alive. So her death was pointless because it did nothing to move the story forward. Davina’s death did that. I hope they do have Klaus be angry when he comes out. He’ll have 3 years to lay there mulling over Cami being dead. He’ll have time to plot. He’ll have time to become the enraged Byronic we all know he is. I want to see his Byronic rage, his Byronic grieving. HOWEVER, in the end I do want him to find redemption. Just not yet.

      I had a different reaction to Cami’s death. I don’t think they butchered her character – even if they took a few missteps. They have taken missteps with every character in the second half of the season. Not just with Cami. They already fixed those missteps with Cami and could have easily gone on with her and continued with these unfinished stories. I love the show but I’ll be honest, I love it less now. Her death was not true to the story. I’m a story person – not a shipper (even though I am a fan of love stories). The choice to kill off Cami wasn’t true to the story. The writers are going to have to come back from these mistakes to improve their story for season 4. I have some theories as to how Cami could return. I do think they should bring her back. Even if not right away.

      Anyway, thanks for your thoughts! You make some good points. 🙂

      Reply
  2. A very interesting subject, one that I think about a lot as I’m not a fan of pointless character deaths.
    I haven’t watched Arrow in a while, but the show disappointed me on a lot of fronts. For instance, Sara’s “many” deaths became annoying to me. If a death of a character is supposed to mean something, why keep pulling the “okay, this person is dead for realz now, oh wait nevermind” trope? It’s too bad that Laurel’s death was super pointless as well.
    This topic reminds me of a K-drama I watched recently where the leading lady was killed off, supposedly to protect her surrogate father from a killer. Except her death didn’t stop the killer… the killer was ready to kill her father as soon as he stabbed her. Someone else intervened and saved him. But everyone in the show touted her death as a sacrifice, when she didn’t save anyone, lol. I didn’t really like her character as I felt the writers completely overlooked her, gave her zero depth, and forced her to do illogical things. Then they gave her a pathetic ending which was super disappointing. These characters deserved better than this, lol!

    Reply
  3. I saw on a comic con interview that Julie decided to kill Cami and Davina because she wanted season 4 to be about the family coming together and that they both would interfere with that… to be honest her death was so well written and interpreted it was heartbreaking.
    But I do think that she could at least stayed until the end of season 4 and then die… they didn’t need to rush her death.
    I saw Julie saying that klaus and Caroline story wasn’t over in TVD season 5 and for what I read a lot of fans were upset about klaus and cami being together so I think she wanted to please them that’s why cami was killed and in the end Caroline comes back.
    Honestly I got a little upset that in the end we didn’t see Elijah reuniting with Hayley having that dance that they talked about and Klaus reuniting with cami all of them finding peace in the afterlife.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I agree. They should have shown them each reunite with Cami and Hayley in the afterlife. The ending didn’t need to be so ambiguous, especially since we already saw how it worked out in The Vampire Diaries.

      Reply

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