After Arrow’s first season, the producers were not satisfied with what they had accomplished. In their estimation, they had failed to sufficiently center all of the storylines around Oliver thus making it feel like, as they put it, Laurel and Thea were sometimes off in their own show. In season 2, they tried much harder to tie everything together, using the return of Sara to draw Laurel and her dad closer to Team Arrow and the introduction of Slade Wilson in the present to make the island flashbacks seem more relevant. They are now pulling the same tricks this season, using Sara’s death to define every major character’s story arc to this point and making the flashbacks seem more important because two of its main players (Maseo and his wife) eventually showed up in the present to save Oliver. The problem is that Arrow has a nasty habit of doing a half-assed job with character motivations, and they just generally double down on regrettable storylines, hoping they’ll wear us down until we finally give into liking what they’re doing.
Chief among those storylines right now is the fact that Laurel still has not told her dad about Sara’s death. Vulture.com posted its first ever Arrow re-cap last week, and they’ve somewhat hilariously decided to try to shame this show into putting an end to this ridiculous storyline, posting the following counter at the bottom of every recap until Laurel does the right thing: “NUMBER OF EPISODES LAUREL HAS GONE WITHOUT TELLING HER DAD HIS OTHER DAUGHTER DIED.” After “Midnight City,” that episode counter is up to 10, but Arrow took it to a whole new level.
Laurel Is Using Sara’s Voice Now? | When Caity Lotz’s name popped up in the opening credits I thought, “Oh, cool. They finally got her back for a flashback.” Instead, Quentin Lance has heard that someone in the Canary costume is saving women from Starling City bad guys again. He naturally assumes that Sara’s back when in fact it’s actually Laurel mostly getting her ass kicked until being saved at the last minute by Roy Harper. Rather than use this opportunity to finally let Capt. Lance grieve, Laurel uses a program Felicity created to make her voice sound exactly like Sara’s. So, Caity Lotz was not back for any kind of flashback; she was just doing voice-over work so that we could watch Katie Cassidy speak into a microphone in the Arrow cave and cut to the police precinct to hear Lotz’s voice coming out of Capt. Lance’s phone. They did it again near the end of the episode when Laurel appeared as Black Canary to Capt. Lance, but kept her distance so that he couldn’t tell that the girl using Sara’s voice wasn’t actually Sara.
This is the type of thing that makes Arrow such a frustrating show to watch sometimes. You can never really escape from the storylines you don’t like because they usually end up being too important to simply go away, a side effect of the producers’ post-season 1 goal to better tie all of the show’s storylines together. Heck, even Thea’s stupid DJ boyfriend has now become an integral part of the season, revealed to actually be a spy for the League of Assassins. Thea’s continued ignorance about her role in Sara’s death (you know, the whole “killed her while brainwashed” thing) will clearly continue to be a big part of the season, and apparently so will Laurel’s continued insistence that her dad not be told that Sara is dead. I hate to see it because I love Paul Blackthorne, but at this point I honestly wish they had just killed off Quentin Lance like they teased in the season 2 finale. He’s had nothing to do this season other than be left totally in the dark about Sara, all because Arrow’s producers have a stated preference for family members to be constantly keeping secrets from each other each season. Granted, Quentin totally kept his secrets last season, not telling Laurel that her sister was alive, but Laurel not telling him that his other daughter is dead seems so, so much worse. And that was before Laurel started using Sara’s voice to give him false hope.
NUMBER OF EPISODES LAUREL HAS GONE WITHOUT TELLING HER DAD HIS OTHER DAUGHTER DIED: 10
NUMBER OF EPISODES LAUREL HAS ACTUALLY USED SARA’S VOICE TO FOOL HER DAD: 1
Please stop this, Arrow. It is not at all helping your efforts to rehab this character.
Laurel Lance, Not a Good Black Canary…Not Yet | Last November, The Atlantic described Laurel Lance as a classic wet blanket character:
“This unfortunate phenomenon describes supporting characters who begin their series as possible love interests and/or best friends, but are kept in the dark about important information for no good reason. These characters, as a result, end up making the hero’s life more difficult, which attracts viewer disapproval—and sometimes even hate—instead of sympathy toward them […]During the first season, the writers saddled Laurel with a love-triangle plot. During the second, they sidelined her with a weighty alcoholism arc. Now, during the third season, they’re finally bringing her into Oliver-as-Arrow’s world—but to most fans, it’s too late for character rehab.”
I get the sense that The Atlantic is fairly spot-on: At this point, the damage done to Laurel Lance as a character is so severe that many viewers will simply never be won back, especially since her ascent to Black Canary first meant the death of Sara (not all fans feel that way, of course, but a lot of them seem to). However, it really seems like the show is fully aware of how ridiculous it is for Laurel to parade around as Canary after just a couple of months of boxing lessons. In her first encounter with a bad guy in “Midnight City,” she gets her ass handed to her, leading to a thorough talking to from Roy, who holds up the Canary mask and tells her that putting that thing on is no way to grieve. Even when bad guy Brick’s big plan forced Roy and Diggle to accept Laurel’s help she was again a total failure, causing one of three hostages to be fatally wounded and thrown out the back of a moving car. Laurel makes the argument that she needs to be out there as Canary because the bad guys still fear the costume and wig from when Sara wore it, thus hopefully keeping up appearances until Oliver returns. However, you’d guess word would spread pretty quickly that Canary was easily beatable now, and Laurel seems especially despondent after her failure meant someone’s death.
Are you so opposed to the idea of Laurel Lance being Black Canary at this point that nothing will change your mind? Or are you kind of intrigued to see her start out as a pretty shitty Black Canary, someone who needs more training and has to learn the hard way that the real reason to follow in Sara’s footsteps is not to honor her memory but instead to help the helpless (Yes, I totally stole that last line from Angel)? I am surprised to find that I am in the latter category, and seeing Laurel interact with Diggle, Roy, and Felicity has actually been kind of fun. Heck, before this episode Laurel had been around Diggle so infrequently that I was actually surprised when she referenced the fact that Diggle had lost his brother and thus should understand her need to be Black Canary to honor her dead sister. When did we ever see Laurel learn that Diggle had a dead brother? The fact that I don’t immediately know the answer to that question is precisely why it was long overdue for Laurel, Roy, Diggle, and Felicity to get some scenes together without Oliver around.
Felicity and Ray, Just Kiss Already | Well, that happened a lot faster than I expected. When Felicity quit Team Arrow, I thought it would last for longer than an episode. Instead, it barely lasts half of a single episode. I was very interested to see how they’d pull her back from a place of no longer wanting to enable the self-destructive tendencies of those around her. All it took was being saved by Ray from madmen with guns, and then a bit of smooth talking from him afterward to make her realize that though Oliver is supposedly dead there are still plenty of people who are still alive and in need of her help. I would have thought that maybe seeing Ray dang near get filled with bullets as well as the super convenient cell phone footage of Laurel and Roy’s epic fail would have simply given her a “Geese, if I don’t help these people are all going to get killed” revelation. Instead, it was a more altruistic “We help because we can, and it’s the right thing to do” turn, which works fine enough. I would have simply found it more interesting if they’d gone longer with Felicity trying to go straight, so to speak.
As for her nascent romance with Ray, eh. Emily Bett Rickards has plenty of experience at this point with playing scenes where just when you think she might kiss the guy the scene cuts to something else. Ray is meant to be a better version of Oliver, repeatedly shown to be more emotionally available, pursuing Felicity instead of pushing her away, and he presents her with an opportunity to save him in a way she couldn’t with Oliver. It all seems so smart on paper, but I’ve never been able to get past seeing Ray as more or less buying Felicity, stalking her, and coming off as hopelessly and dangerously naïve as opposed to endearingly naïve. This is again one of those storylines I simply can’t get away from because it’s too important to the overall season. Heck, they’re talking about giving Ray his own spin-off show. Ugh.
Oliver, Maseo, Katana & The Good Old Days in Hong Kong | We got to see how Oliver and Maseo freed Katana from China White back in Hong Kong, and that Amanda Waller predicted this move, setting Maseo up to trade a fake virus instead of the real thing. However, at that point Maseo would do anything for his family, regardless of the collateral damage, which is all ratcheting up the tension even more for the question of what exactly happened back there to make him leave his wife and join the League of Assassins. This was all fairly fun with some gun stunts in a Yakuza-infested nightclub, but to me it feels like Arrow would have been better off holding back on the reveal that Oliver is still alive for a couple of episodes. Give us a couple of episodes with what’s left of Team Arrow fighting Brick in Starling City until you reach a point where it’s clear they’re not going win without more help. Then combine the flashbacks in “Left Behind” and “Midnight City” into one primarily flashback episode, i.e., reveal that Oliver is alive, explain how and why in the flashback episode, and then have him return to save the day the next episode.
Thea & Malcolm |Again, another storyline you can’t get away from. Everything about these two is now keyed off the fact that she killed Sara due to Malcolm’s manipulation and doesn’t know it. However, it was at least interesting seeing Roy call upon his own personal history with Thea to not physically threaten Malcolm but instead warn him that once she finds out the truth she’ll never see him the same way again. It was also nice for Thea to stand her ground and demand an explanation, albeit one that only told part of the story. It just didn’t really quite land that Malcolm would be totally convinced by Thea that they should simply stay in Starling City and fight. Wouldn’t that thought have already occurred to him? However, it’s clearly the show’s way of putting the pieces on the board and building to a point where Team Arrow has to partner with the Merlyns to fight the League of Assassins, with Thea and Laurel finding out the truth about Sara at some point along the way.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Seeing Laurel take her lumps as Black Canary was surprisingly effective, and a Oliver-less Team Arrow is a fascinating one because it is helping force new character pairings, e.g., Laurel and Felicity actually had a heart-to-heart! Sure, Brick’s big plan is fairly silly, e.g., why would he want to take over the poorest part of the city, but he remains a physically foreboding villain. The flashbacks may have been better served being held back for a showcase episode, but they weren’t exactly terrible. What was terrible, however, was the fact that not only has Laurel not told Quentin about Sara yet she is now using Sara’s voice to deceive him! Please, Arrow, stop with this storyline right now.
1. Let’s ponder the life of Thea’s DJ boyfriend for a moment, shall we? He’s a member of a top-secret, ancient terrorist organization conducting assassinations around the globe. His mission is to infiltrate Thea Queen’s inner circle to keep an eye on her and her dad for the League, but in order to do so he must be a legitimately good DJ, working at clubs throughout Starling City to build up his reputation. I like to think that the League is like the town from Footloose, and this mission was this kid’s first exposure to anything other than classical music. As such, his new passion is music, and what he really wants to do with the rest of his life is play music at clubs, clearly torn between this passion and his devotion to the League.
2. As cute as the whole “They don’t have keys” bit with the helicopter was, I kept thinking that Brick’s men would have some sort of bazooka to shoot the chopper down, or that it would be so loud that there’d be no way for them to sneak in and save the hostages.
3. Brick is a classic action movie villain. Why? Because by all logic he should have shot the good guys multiple times now, but he keeps improbably missing.
4. Reason #10 Why Ray Should Fire Felicity – She interrupted your business meeting to request usage of your helicopter, offering no explanation for the why and how of it all.
5. Reason #1 Ray Won’t Fire Felicity – Because he’s just so in love. Plus, the whole “science, science, science, fix my Iron Man suit, science, science, science” thing, but mostly the love.
Tv.com – We all have things we harp on. Clearly, I simply can’t stand what this episode did with Sara’s voice. This reviewer, on the other hand, really, really, really hated Brick’s “The Glades are mine!” threat and the rich white people totally going along with it: “Starling City’s answer to Brick’s threats basically amounts to it washing its hands of that part of itself. Ray threw money at the SCPD and wanted to call in the National Guard to deal with Brick’s gang. The mayor decided to turn over the Glades to Brick, surrendering the lives of citizens (and voters!) to a crime boss. Thea compared what was about to happen to something from The Purge. Basically, these folks couldn’t really give a damn about the folks who live there. The Glades’ larger social and structural problems, which Sebastian Blood gestured toward last season even if Arrow never fully committed to exploring them, obviously haven’t been addressed.”
I’m done with my ramble. What about you?