Arrow TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow, “Birds of Prey” (S2/EP17) – Send the Darkness Away

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

Birds of Prey
Laurel: Trust me, I need this drink. I’m so nervous that I’m not thinking straight. I mean, right now I think you look just like my sister, but that can’t be right

 

  • Airdate: 3/26/2014
  • Director: John Behring (Vampire Diaries, Numbers, Arrow, most recently “Three Ghosts”)
  • Writer(s): Mark Bemesderfer & A.C. Bradley (both making their TV writing debut)

Last week, Arrow gave us an unofficial backdoor pilot for a Suicide Squad show while having Oliver push Sara away to keep her safe.  This week, they thought they’d do an unofficial backdoor pilot for a Birds of Prey show while having Roy push Thea away to keep her safe.  Maybe they should try something a little different next time.

THE RECAP –

The Birds of Prey –

While keeping a watchful eye over Detective Lance, Arrow and Canary help the cops apprehend Frank Bertinelli.  With him newly in custody, the DA’s office will again attempt their trial against him, re-hiring Laurel to do it.  But, wait, wasn’t she on the verge of losing her license to practice law?  Yeah….well, shut up about that.  Her former boss made that go away.  Oliver and Sara know that Helena “Huntress” Bertinelli will return to off her dad, and Laurel’s new gig puts her in the line of fire, though Oliver still hopes to somehow save ole ex-girlfriend Helena.

Birds of Prey

Time for the twist: it’s a trap!  Frank is being used as bait by the DA’s office to help capture his daughter, who’s been killing mob people for months.  Poor Laurel was little more than an expendable prop.  However, Huntress came prepared with a secret army of armed goons, and while her dad gets away she uses her hired guns to take everyone at the courthouse hostage.  Laurel has an opportunity to escape with Canary, but refuses to do so in the hopes she could return and talk Huntress down.  Epic fail on her part, though, and Huntress manages to literally throw Canary out of a window.  Arrow and Canary will now deliver Frank Bertinelli, with an assist from Detective Lance, to Helena in exchange for Laurel.  The exchange is ambushed by Mr. Random Rambo cop, who accidentally kills Frank with a stray bullet, yet the death brings Helena no joy.  Oliver gives her his standard “you are not alone” pep talk after she’s in police custody.  Felicity’s heard that one a couple of times now.

Roy Receives Horrible Orders from Oliver –

Basically:

Hey, I failed to push my girlfriend away.  Maybe I can make Roy push his way.
Oliver: Hey, I failed to push my girlfriend away. Maybe I can make Roy push his way.

Oliver orders Roy to break up with Thea, concluding that he might hulk out on her at any moment.  Roy’s all, “But, dude, I love her,” while Oliver’s all, “[Silent, stern frowny face].”  Frowny face wins the day.  Roy sees Oliver’s point after he almost destroys a customer at Verdant.  He quite literally walks straight from that altercation to break up with Thea, who flatly refuses to let him push her away.  So, he has to go full douchebag, and get caught kissing another girl.  Thea still knows he’s just doing it to push her away for reasons unknown, but this time it hurt too much so she breaks up with him.  She later tells Oliver she wish people would just stop lying to her and tell the truth.  #AwkwardOliverMoment

Meanwhile, Back on the Island… –

Slade is just getting started with his torture of Oliver (e.g., he put Shado’s signature tattoo on his back), but his stupid boat is busted.  To get it to move, he needs an engineer, but that guy ran away with Sara and company to the island.  So, via walkie talkie Slade promises not to kill Oliver if Sara delivers the engineer.  She’s not cool with that,  but then that dude pulls a gun on her (and is easily knocked out).  Suddenly, she’s willing to trade.

THE REVIEW

There’s a great moment in the video game Uncharted 2 where Nathan Drake unexpectedly encounters his love interest from the first game while he’s out and about with his new love interest.  So, of course the two women meet, with the ex-girlfriend quipping of the new girlfriend, “Oh, the new model.”  Well….

Old Model
Old Model
New Model
New, More Voluptuous Model

To some degree, Roy is the new model of Slade Wilson just as Canary is most definitely the new model of Huntress.  As such, both represent second chances for Oliver after he inadvertently helped make Slade a monster, and could not pull Huntress back from the darkness consuming her in her thirst for vengeance last season.

“Birds of Prey” provided us a progress update on both fronts.  Like Huntress, Sara’s Canary is a vigilante whose moral code is more flexible than Oliver’s.  However, “Birds of Prey” is really the first time this has been addressed in earnest since she returned as a present-day character in “Heir to the Demon.”  Last week, these two were all new couple “How do I get my boyfriend to open up to me?” relationship drama.  Now, you have Oliver pleading with her not to kill while she accurately calls him out on his hypocrisy (he had no problem trying to kill Slade Wilson, yet won’t let her use lethal force with Huntress?).  As a result, Sara defied his orders all episode.  Roy, on the other hand, complied, and this is probably far more of a genuine “maybe he really isn’t safe to be around her” situation that it was last week when Oliver tried to push Sara away to keep her safe.   Oliver significantly admits that he is utterly failing in his attempts to train and mentor Roy, though, to be fair, we’ve only seen evidence of that training in maybe one episode.

Birds of Prey

However, Oliver is not directly responsible for the redemption of Sara and Helena in this episode.  His nagging of Sara not to kill is not what stops her from snapping Helena’s neck (comic book nerd alert: we almost saw Black Canary straight up murder Huntress).  It was only a last second plea from her sister, Laurel, which prevented that from happening.  Plus, it seems to be Helena herself, independent of Oliver’s staid “Don’t do it, Helena,” who finally can’t pull the trigger on her father, though due to Rambo cop her chance to do so was very brief.  This was Helena hitting rock bottom, and while Oliver was more supportive of her than their last encounter (when he shot an arrow at her face) our hero of the show had little to do with saving the girl.  In fact, if you removed Oliver from this episode it’s debatable if the Huntress/Sara/Laurel plot line would have drastically changed.

The Roy story line, though the culmination of the “Roy keeps pushing Thea away” story arc, seems as if it was mostly created simply to make Thea vulnerable to an attack from Slade Wilson.  Remember, at the beginning of “Suicide Squad” Diggle informed Felicity that Roy was responsible for keeping an eye on Thea.  So, with Arrow and Canary now stalking family members from rooftops to ensure their safety from Slade what does Oliver do with Thea?  Takes her boyfriend away, and then does nothing to compensate for the loss of that once-guaranteed source of protection.  Plus, wasn’t the idea that one of the only things keeping Roy centered and not Slade Wilson-crazy was the stabilizing presence of Thea in his life?

The real hero of this episode might actually be Laurel who does the irrational by opting against fleeing away from danger but instead heading straight toward it to potentially save some relative strangers because it’s the right thing to do.  Granted, the whole thing so fries her nerves that she almost falls of the wagon due to some seriously conveniently located alcohol bottles, but she’s also the only who seems to try and genuinely sympathize with Helena

Birds of Prey
Your fiance died, my kind-of ex-boyfriend died saving me, you responded by going on a killing spree, I became a drunk – Why aren’t we BFFs?

It is also Laurel’s speech about being inspired by her sister’s strength which in turn gives Sara the strength to try and be a sister worthy of such admiration and love.

Plus, as a nod to the "Laurel as Black Canary" fans there was this familiar pose during combat
Plus, as a nod to the “Laurel as Black Canary” fans there was this familiar pose during combat

That’s all amounts to a bit of a mixed bag, but it was certainly never a boring episode.  This was really an hour devoted to the Lance sisters, and their interactions worked.  However, it was a needlessly messy episode, directing and plot-wise:

  • What the heck was up with John Behring’s shaky cam-heavy directing?  Arrow should not try to look like a Paul Greengrass film.
  • So, was Laurel’s old boss just lying about having magic wand-ed away the problems with her license to practice law?  Or did they seriously just completely drop that whole thing?
  • In a very practical sense, how exactly did the Assistant DA’s deal with the cops work?  How did the DA not know he had hired Laurel to try such a huge case against a mob boss?
  • Since when does Helena have armed goons?  How did they so easily sneak their weapons into the courthouse?  For that matter, how did Helena sneak in so easily as well as sneak out of the courthouse with Laurel during the police raid?
  • Seriously, where the heck did this “anti-vigilante” crusader cop come from?  He clearly gets the beat on where Helena is off to, but rather than mobilize a command squad he runs in for a solo mission, stupidly announcing his presence, “Vigilantes – you are not above the law!”
  • Thea now thinks Oliver is the only one who doesn’t lie to her even though she’s been consistently suspicious of his many obvious lies dating back to the pilot?
  • I don’t think that the lesson Laurel should have learned from Helena’s “let the darkness in” line was to blackmail her boss.  Helena and Sara’s similar inner-darkness is the pit where regret of killing multiple people goes to die.  Laurel’s is pulling a Good Wife-esque move to get her job back.
  • Not every interaction Oliver has with a woman has to have a romantic subtext, but is it at all weird that he pledges to be there for Helena after having previously done so for Felicity, Laurel, and Sara?

The question is whether or not these are all just the common nitpickings inherent to comic book genre films and TV shows, or if some of these are legitimate problems.  Plus, how much does any of it matter if you were swayed by the prospect of not one but two butt-kicking fights between Black Canary and Huntress, either due to comic fandom and/or having seen the animosity between those two depicted in Justice League Unlimited?  

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Helena Bertinelli revenge story is over after 4 episodes spread across 2 seasons, and though it started strong it didn’t quite end that way.  She has been replaced at this point by Canary, who is more Anne Hatheway Catwoman to Oliver’s Batman while Huntress is more Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman (i.e., her whole revenge against the bad guy thing).  As such, “Birds of Prey” was more about the Lance sisters than it was anything else, and those two scored some rich character moments amid the action.  However, there were some serious issues with the plot in general which kept me at arm’s length from this episode.  Either way, now that Huntress is set up to begin a potential redemptive story arc can we please get her, Canary, and Felicity in a room together – like, maybe, the watch tower – and get our real Birds of Prey on?

THE NOTES

1. Comic Book 101: Huntress 

Huntresses
The Helena Wayne and Helena Bertinelli versions of Huntress
  •  First Appearance: 1977 (as we know her)

There was a villain who briefly called herself Huntress beginning in 1947, but in costume and every other significant way the Huntress we know didn’t come around until Helena Wayne showed up in 1977.  The daughter of alternate universe versions of Batman and Catwoman, Wayne grew up in a life of privilege, ultimately joining a law firm straight out of school.  However, when her mom died due to the actions of a blackmailer Wayne sought vengeance, creating her own costume and pilfering her parents’ supply for gadgets, used to create her signature crossbow.  After that, she became a crime fighter in her own right, though she might be best known for her close friendship with the impossibly busty Power Girl.  DC killed Wayne off in in the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, and soon thereafter replaced her with a new Huntress: Helena Bertinelli.  Similar to Wayne, Bertinelli’s vigilante lifestyle began due to a death in the family, except for her it was pretty much her whole family mowed down in a mob hit ordered by enemies of her mob boss father.  However, Bertinelli had a far more violent streak, existing as a bit of an unstable hero who would need Batman around to prevent her from simply killing the bad guys.  Batman got her into the Justice League, but her homicidal tendencies ultimately forced her out.  She joined the Birds of Prey in 2003.

My personal first exposure to Huntress was in the Amy Acker-voiced version in the Justice League Unlimited, which depicted the Bertinelli version of the character and upheld her inability to function as a harmonious Justice League team member.

2. Comic Book 101: Birds of Prey

  • First Appearance: 1996

Basically, this is the Justice League for most of the Gotham/Metropolis-based  female superheroes.  It was founded by Black Canary and Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon after she had been paralyzed by the Joker and was re-christened Oracle.  Huntress has become a permanent fixture on the team as well.  Otherwise, like most superhero team-up groups the roster fluctuates wildly.  Catwoman and Poison Ivy have actually served as team members on occasions.

3. Huntress is now to Arrow what Faith was to Angel.  Even her “let the darkness in” line is similar to Angel’s speech to Faith about thinking she could up to the darkness and touch it and not be changed.

4. Ah, TV reality, a place where literally seconds after you’ve delivered a speech about having lost your job you get a phone call from your old boss offering you your job back.

5. The last time Huntress was around she almost killed Oliver’s then-girlfriend, Detective McKenna Hall.  Remember her?  No, seriously, do you?  That seems like so long ago, but it was only exactly 1 year ago.

6. Welcome back – Canary’s sonic scream device!

What did you think?  Like “Birds of Prey”?  Hate it?  Love it? Let us know in the comments section.

All of the pictures used in the above review, unless otherwise noted, came from CWTV.com © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

6 comments

  1. I won’t say I loved this episode but I liked it more than just about anything else this season. The Laurel-Sara-Helena dynamic was fantastic though. I finally, finally sympathized with Helena by seeing her reflection in Laurel and vice versa.

    My problem, like yours, was the plotting problems. So Bertinelli’s in witness protection but he and Donner concoct this scheme to catch Helena? Um. Why? Why the sudden interest in her? Especially since she was in Italy and basically not SC’s problem at that point.

    How did no one in the DA’s office where Laurel was doing her case work ever question why she was there if it was all a sham and Donner wasn’t authorized to give her her job back? But I doubt they will ever address it because the writers always seem to just throw stuff out there and expect us to accept it without thinking about it too hard.

    Oliver continues to infuriate me as a human being. He basically told Laurel to eff off and die because she got angry (rightfully) at him and Sara in the midst of a mental breakdown but he’s all “you’re not alone” to Helena, the crazy murderer of innoncent and not-so-innocent people? Really? Just, ugh. I know Oliver Queen was a jerk in the comics but they really can’t keep going there on the show.

    My main takeway from the episode though is… I’m worried what they are doing with Laurel. It’s like they are teasing her going evil in the same nonsensical way they teased it with Tommy when he hugged Malcolm with that odd look on his face when Malcolm welcomed him back into the family last season. And we know what happened to Tommy. At the same time, I’m hoping it was actually a nod to her becoming BC II ie the comment being about darkness.

    But who knows… I don’t even think TPTB know half the time what they are going to do with plots and characters.

    1. I appear to have been a bit more down on this episode than most reviewers. AV Club, TV.com, ScreenCrush, DenOfGeek, CinemaBlend all posted glowing reviews. It’s not the character interactions that gave me pause because most of those were fantastic; it was the plotting which brought the characters together. In general, that’s kind of been season 2’s downfall for me is their increasingly messy plotting, as you’re right – they mostly ask us to just go with it, and not think about it all too much.

      As for Oliver, he’s clearly a flawed character whose failures involving Slade and Huntress were thrown right back into his face this week by Sara. Plus, he’s making no progress with Roy. The last time Huntress came around he tried to kill her, and this week he tried to make up for it in reverting back to a more supportive presence. However, it was Laurel who seemed to make the most progress in that area. It’s probably important now that she’s hit rock bottom that Huntress understand that she’s not so far gone that there’s no one left to be there for her, and Oliver is the most obvious choice, albeit no longer romantically. But after everything which went down with Oliver and Laurel in that area this season it did feel a bit “ugh,” as you put it, even though Amell and De Gouw acted the hell out of that scene.

      1. I liked it when Oliver was a flawed character on a hero’s journey, mentored by Diggle and held in check by Felicity. He made mistakes but the other characters pointed them out to Oliver and to the audience, and he did his best to do better.

        Now, since Sara came back to Starling City, it’s been the Oliver/Sara/Laurel show and it hasn’t put Oliver in a good light. He’s been obsessed by Sara and Slade with a lot of the storyline going to Laurel. The old Team Arrow of Oliver/Diggle/Felicity is a thing of the past and I think it’s made the show less complex and weaker.

        It was also tricky to like Oliver because he was a flawed character, but I don’t find much to like about him these days. I blame the writing, or maybe the show-running because it’s now become the Oliver&Sara show. For that reason, I think Roy is a better fit on the team than Sara, for all that she makes a great Black Canary.

  2. I liked this episode more then couple of last ones but it seems that somewhere in the middle of season something happened, everyone is talking about it… Maybe they introduced too many stories and characters… Also everyone says that Sara is going to die and that Laurel will become BC. I have to be honest, i don’t want that to happen. I like this BC, i like the actress and i like her back story. I also like Laurel but i don’t want her to be BC. I don’t want any more drama and death. Why does everyone have to be a superhero or to have a superpower? I know this is a superhero show, but i started to watch arrow because it’s somehow dark and more realistic than other similar shows, if you know what i mean.

    1. It feels like after Three Ghosts, the show took a sharp turn into the comic books, with villains and superheros and a very crowded cast of characters.

      It also became more two dimensional, it was either fighting or angst. Oliver lost his connection with Diggle and Felicity, the two who held him to the moral fire, and started making stupid decisions, like not telling Moira and Thea that Slade was dangerous, or separating Thea from Roy. It was Diggle in the last episode who said that Roy is guarding Thea so he is going to guard Felicity which makes me think that it never occurred to Oliver that they could be in danger, it was up to Diggle to realize that.

      It makes it even more glaring that Oliver was helping Sara guard Quentin while he was on a raid, Quentin who has been a cop for years, while he lets Felicity, Thea and Moira fend for themselves. I don’t want Sara to die either but since Oliver got together with her, he’s become a lot more stupid.

      Since Christmas, Arrow has been a good comic book show. Before that, it was a good show.

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