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Sara Lance's entire Arrowverse backstory explained

Sara Lance (played by the brilliant Caity Lotz) has been a lot of things in the Arrowverse. A party girl. A victim. A co-conspirator. An assassin. A vigilante. A martyr. A heartbreaker. A sales associate at Sink, Shower, and Stuff. A leader. Most importantly, she is unquestionably a hero. While she was introduced in Arrow, she's now best known as the leader of the time-traveling, ragtag group of lovable losers called the Legends. Her girlfriend is a clone from the future. her best friend and former lover is now the Spectre, and dying is just an inconvenience for her. Sara Lance, named the White Canary by her crimefighting sister Laurel, just doesn't do "normal." Sara is a relentless positive force who faces up to her inner demons, overcomes them, and now helps others with theirs. Let's follow the many twists and turns of Sara Lance's life through time and space, heaven and hell, and all points in between. 

The first death of Sara Lance

Sara, the daughter of Starling City police captain Quentin Lance, is a rebel. Unlike her law-abiding sister Laurel, Sara always wants to push the envelope. As a teen, she picks up a number of useful skills: how to defend herself, how to hotwire a car, and how to drink any man under the table. She meets her match in bad boy Oliver Queen and pursues him despite Laurel shacking up with him. Oliver invites her aboard the ill-fated yacht the Queen's Gambit and she accepts only after a huge fight with Laurel. Of course, she doesn't know that the yacht has been sabotaged by the sinister Malcolm Merlyn, and she is swept out to sea, presumed dead. Her disappearance sends a shockwave through the Lance family. Quentin turns to drinking and drifts apart from his wife, Dinah. Laurel is conflicted because her boyfriend has been cheating on her with Sara, and she can't reconcile her grief and anger. Dinah refuses to believe Sara is dead and alienates her family with this belief. 

The second death of Sara Lance

Sara survives the explosion on the Queen's Gambit, hangs on to some flotsam, and is "rescued" by the ship Amazo. She is conscripted by Dr. Anthony Ivo to assist him in his experiments while he searches for Mirakuru, a serum that enhances strength, healing, and quickness. Faced with a decision to help the twisted Dr. Ivo in his torturous "experiments" or being made into a test subject herself, Sara chooses survival. Oliver Queen is rescued by the ship, and he's as surprised to see Sara as she is to see him. They eventually team up to betray Ivo and sped time on Oliver's island prison of Lian Yu. When the Amazo sinks in a fight, Oliver thinks Sara has been killed yet again. Nope! She washes up on shore, but can't find Oliver. Instead, she's discovered by Nyssa al Ghul, who nurses her back to health and helps train her as a member of the League of Assassins. Sara and Nyssa become lovers during the several years' worth of training Sara receives to become a killer.

Canary time

Sara is drawn back to Starling City in order to make good on a promise and protect a girl named Sin. Of course, the League of Assassins isn't the kind of organization you can get a permission slip from to leave; once you're a member, you're a member for life. Dressed in a black mask and using a sonic device, Sara beats up a bunch of bad guys and kills the Dollmaker, who kidnaps her family. The Arrow tries to stop her from killing him, and he later tracks her down. Ollie and Sara rekindle their romance after having gone through so many similar experiences, but she has a problem: the League (and her lover Nyssa in particular) want her back. After a variety of assassin attacks, kidnapping attempts, and other things that spurned lovers tend to do, Nyssa finally relents after Sara poisons herself. (Fortunately, there was an antidote.) Sara joins Team Arrow, reconnects with her father and (eventually) her sister, and continues her romance with Oliver. 

The third death of Sara Lance

The intensity of Oliver Queen's vengeance-driven mission starts to wear Sara down — and when she thinks someone else is too intense, that's saying something. She decides to leave town for a bit, then pops back in again just in time to help defeat Slade Wilson once and for all, but she later goes back to Nyssa and the League. (On-again, off-again is Sara's M.O.) She returns to Starling City in order to track down rumors of Malcolm Merlyn's return, only to get riddled by arrows shot by a mind-controlled Thea Queen. This time around, death looks like it's going to be a lot more permanent, but a grief-stricken Laurel and Thea have other plans. They demand that Merlyn, now head of the League, resurrect Sara using the life-restoring waters of the Lazarus Pit. Of course, the problem with the Pit is that it restores life to someone's body, but doesn't restore their soul. Sara is a soulless, bloodthirsty killing machine, murdering robbers in her search for Thea. Her future lover John Constantine is called in to bring her soul back, and Sara is finally whole again.

The White Canary, unstuck In time

Laurel finally makes up with Sara. When she goes back to Nyssa, her old lover tells her that she needs to find her own path. Since she is now fighting crime as the Black Canary, Laurel dubs her little sister the White Canary. Sara stays on for a while in the now-renamed Star City, but she is haunted by the lingering bloodthirstiness of her Lazarus Pit experience. Rip Hunter, captain of the time and space-traveling ship the Waverider, offers her a chance to save the world from Vandal Savage. Traveling back to 1975 and hanging out with notorious criminals Leonard Snart and Mick Rory, she says, "We're in New Orleans in 1975. Who wants to go get weird?" Of course, this sparks a bar fight and other tomfoolery. This is the beginning of a Sara who is simultaneously more carefree but also feels more responsible for those around her. This is the Sara Lance of Legends of Tomorrow.

Back to the Assassins

Rip has his own agenda, of course, and the reason he picks this particular group of losers, nerds, and criminals is that if they're plucked from the timeline, they aren't going to be missed. He can make them sacrificial pawns in his desperate attempt to save his family from being killed by the vicious big bad of the first season of Legends of Tomorrow, Vandal Savage. At one point, Sara gets time-stranded in 1958 with Ray Palmer and Kendra Saunders, so she makes her way back to the League of Assassins yet again. By the time rescue comes, she's firmly part of the League again and has forgotten her past, though she's now in much better control of her bloodlust. Just as she's going to kill Kendra, she recalls her true place in the Legends. Torn between the League and the Legends, guild master R'as al Ghul makes the decision for her: he releases her. Though she's a killer, she wants to show mercy too much to be a real assassin. Sara makes sure to close a particular time loop when she asks him to send his daughter to Lian Yu in 2008. 

Killing Vandal Savage

Another little problem Rip Hunter keeps encountering: he angers his old bosses, the Time Masters, enough for them to send assassins after him. One is a time-kidnapped Mick Rory in the identity of Chronos and another a sharpshooter called the Pilgrim. Eventually, Sara learns that the team's every action is foreseen and manipulated by the Time Masters. In a move that foreshadows her later role and proves to be a typical Legends solution, Sara helps blow up the device that manipulates them. When she returns to Star City, her father tells her that Damian Dahrk has killed Laurel. She's grief-stricken by her loss, but Rip finally reveals that if he hadn't plucked her out of time when he did, Sara would be dead too. Now she has a chance to save the world. In a typically convoluted scheme, the Legends kill off Savage simultaneously in three different time periods, with Sara snapping his neck in 1975. She chooses to stay with the Legends to fulfill Laurel's dream of her becoming "a hero in the light." 

Captain of the Waverider

The second season of Legends of Tomorrow cuts loose and gets silly, freed of the weight of the tedious Vandal Savage and Time Masters storylines. This means Sara Lance gets to have more fun too. Hey, if you're able to seduce Queen Anne of France while saving the timeline from historical anachronisms, then why not? Sara once again gets stranded in time, this time in 17th century Salem. Sara is rescued just as she's about to be burned at the stake for witchcraft (i.e., shacking up with another woman), but the team is in tatters because Rip Hunter disappears. Martin Stein (one half of Firestorm) volunteers to be leader, but that's a disaster when Nazis steal a magic amulet and threaten to make a super serum. Stein says that the level-headed Sara is the best choice to be team leader and captain of the Waverider, and she's held the helm ever since. 

Invasion!

In the middle of season two of Legends of Tomorrow, the Earth is invaded by an alien species called the Dominators. This kicks off the first major crossover between Arrow, The Flash, Legends, and Supergirl. Sara gets to meet Supergirl for the first time (and she finds Kara's fighting ability appealing, to say the least). Sara, Kara, and others are mind-controlled by the aliens to attack the Flash and the Arrow; later, Sara is teleported inside the Dominators' ship and becomes part of a dream scenario with Oliver, John Diggle, Thea Queen, and Ray Palmer. It's an insidious plan, because it gives them all a fantasy of living a "normal" life, apart from superheroics. After the heroes' combined forces save the day, Oliver and Sara share a moment, with Ollie saying that in retrospect, the Dominators gave them a gift. Their lives are so far from normal that just getting a little taste of it was a nice thing. 

Speared by Destiny

Destiny is a recurring theme for Sara Lance. It makes sense that the sought-after magical doodad of the second season is the reality-altering Spear of Destiny. The big bads are the Legion of Doom: Malcolm Merlyn, Damian Darhk, and Eobard Thawne (the Reverse-Flash), who all want the Spear for their own purposes. At one point, Merlyn captures Sara and makes her an offer that's hard to refuse: In exchange for her giving him an amulet that helps him find the Spear, he'll change the timeline and never interfere with the Queen's Gambit. Sara will have the chance to live a normal life, and Laurel will still be alive. Sara refuses, saying that she was meant for this.

Later, a mind-controlled Rip shoots Sara in the stomach, nearly bringing about a fourth death for the Waverider's new captain. Eventually, the Legion gets the Spear and changes reality. Darhk turns Sara into his personal assassin, but the rest of the Legends snap her back by way of a memory gun. Sara eventually wields the Spear and is given one last temptation: a movie night with Laurel. Understanding that it isn't real, she's still tempted to undo everything that has damaged her. Laurel tells her everything led her to this moment, and the Spear needs someone to help protect reality. Sara returns reality to normal, de-powers the Spear, and the villains are defeated.

From retail to fixing time

The only problem with this happy ending is that as a result of using the Spear, the Legends manage to break time. Rip Hunter forms a new organization, the Time Bureau, and officially disbands the Legends, feeling that they tend to make things worse. Sara is reduced to working a boring retail job until Mick Rory calls her up after finding Julius Caesar on a beach. They get the Legends back together, steal the Waverider from the Time Bureau, and start fixing time anachronisms. Sara's new frenemy is Ava Sharpe, Rip's top Time Bureau agent, and their arguing reveals a simmering, mutual attraction. 

Rip tells Sara that a demon named Mallus is trying to manifest in this reality, and that he can only be stopped by accruing magical totems. Sara is temporarily possessed by a Death Totem but overcomes its influence. Yet again, Sara confronts her former bloodlust and finally comes to terms with it. Sara and Ava break up, but get back together after they both learn that Ava is a clone from the future. Mallus manifests in the body of Damien Darhk and looks like he's going to wreak havoc in this reality. The Legends combine their powers through the amulets to create a "creature of light": a giant, fuzzy toy named Beebo. In a fantastically ridiculous fight, Beebo takes Mallus high up into the air and flattens him, creating a big explosion. Love and hugs conquer all!

Go to Hell, Neron!

The fourth season of Legends Of Tomorrow sees the team dealing with yet another mistake: in letting Mallus emerge, all sorts of other magical creatures also came through at various points in time. The big bad this time is Neron, a lord of Hell who has it out for John Constantine. While dealing with vicious unicorns, evil fairy godmothers, and the mysterious machinations of a government conspiracy, Constantine alters time to rescue an old lover. The result is a series of disastrous timeline crashes where Sara, Ava, and Gideon become the "Sirens Of Space-Time" and all of the male Legends get killed off. The Another timeline sees Sara and the gang get turned into the Puppets of Tomorrow, and they have a song for every occasion. Constantine finally does the right thing and restores the timeline.

Sara and Ava get serious this season, though they have their ups and downs as they try to figure out how to make each other happy. When John turns them into teenagers to help solve a case at a summer camp, this brings them closer. The team manages to beat Neron after rescuing Ray Palmer from Hell, but the new boss of Hell and the end of reality as we know it both loom.

The Paragon of Destiny

Everything comes to a head for Sara Lance in the epic Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. Sara is front and center in the initial defense of Earth-38, but the true revelation is that she's one of the prophesied Paragons who can help defeat the Anti-Monitor. Sara is the Paragon of Destiny, as she proves, again and again, her willingness to accept her role and her fate against all temptation. Reuniting with Oliver (now the powerful cosmic being the Spectre) one last time, she and the other Paragons thwart the Anti-Monitor at the dawn of time. When the multiverse is recreated by the Spectre, Sara is one of just six beings to survive the old one with her memories fully intact. 

The team brings back Beebo and fights the Anti-Monitor one last time on the new Earth-Prime, establishing that the wackiness of the Legends is here to stay. Sara brings Mia Smoak from the future to her father Oliver's funeral. After fighting at her side during the Crisis, she wants to let Mia have a chance to meet her mother Felicity and to say goodbye to the father she never had a chance to grow up with. Sara's sense of empathy, compassion, and loyalty defines her as a leader, a lover, and a friend.