This might seem hopelessly late to the party, but for the first time ever I’ve been paying attention to all the Arrow fans who live tweet their season 4 viewing experience this season. Through this, I’ve learned that fans generally get what Arrow is at this point. They seem delighted to see season 4 promising a creative rebound, but equally delighted to have fun with the show’s more mockable elements, like Oliver’s dearly departed flashback wig or the hilarious plot hole that no one in Star city realizes this new Green Arrow fella is clearly Oliver Queen. There are always some good jokes to be made, like after Oliver told Felicity he’ll fun for mayor one Tweet teased “An arrow in every quiver and two costumes in every Arrowcave!” followed by another “Watch how ALL the campaign photos are gonna be shirtless.”
The one thing I don’t see a lot of people playfully joking about, though, is Laurel Lance. It’s more like straight-up criticism:
Although some jokes make it through:
Some fans can’t stand her and/or Katie Cassidy’s acting whereas others only ever started watching Arrow because of their affinity for Black Canary in the comics and/or for Cassidy’s chemistry with Stephen Amell in that first season. She was once the clear lead female character and now she is but another member of the ensemble, an injustice to some, but exactly where she belongs to others.
In retrospect, the deck was consistently stacked against Laurel. First, she was an obstacle for Oliver because he constantly had to find new ways to hide his secret from her. Then, she was a full-on antagonist before rather quickly becoming an alcoholic. Then her ascension to Black Canary meant the death of Sara Lance, a character beloved enough (though not universally) that the CW is now building a spin-off around her. Even though Arrow took a semi-realistic approach with Laurel’s Black Canary getting her ass kicked because she had no prior training to suggest she could really cut it in combat, there was still resistance to the mere idea of her as a vigilante. To make matters worse, she lied to Captain Lance about Sara’s death for most of the season and consequently converted him back into being somewhat of an antagonist.
That’s a tough road to walk for any actress, yet Katie Cassidy had plenty of strong moments last season, particularly during the mini-arc when Team Arrow had to operate without the presumed-dead-Oliver.
Now look at what they’re having her do this season. Laurel is more or less the plot device used to bring Sara back from the dead (well, technically, the Lazarus Pit is doing that). The show hasn’t even given her the benefit of actually getting to explain her actions. We watch her and Thea head to Nanda Parbat and restore Sara in the appropriately titled “Restoration,” knowing full well that this is only really happening because the producers decided to bring Caity Lotz back and pair her with Brandon Routh and several others on an anthology spin-off.
In fact, this was a big week in the Arrowverse as far as Legends of Tomorrow is concerned. Flash gave us the tragic backstory for Captain Cold, future LoT character, and ended with the cliffhanger that Martin Stein, future LoT character, needs a new partner to form the composite hero Firestorm, yes, a future LoT character. Arrow’s “Restoration” not only restored Sara, a future LoT character, but through mysterious matrix-y computer code invading Felicity’s phone it also started the process of revealing that Ray Palmer, future LoT character, is not dead.
On one level, everything they’re doing with Laurel and Sara makes sense. Of course Laurel, whose grief over Sara was so extreme that she became a full-blown vigilante just to honor her memory, would stop at nothing to bring her back. Of course Thea would want to help, out of guilt over the fact that she’s the one who killed Sara in the first place. Of course Malcolm would initially turn them down, and of course Nyssa would oppose all of them, far more weary and knowledgeable of the Pit than anyone else.
On another level, it makes no sense. Laurel first finds out about the Lazarus Pit through Oliver’s explanation that the side effects from the Pit have left Thea unstable. Her immediate reaction is to dig up Sara, ala Supernatural, and recruit Thea for a Nanda Parbat road trip. Once there, Thea discovers Lazarus Pit side effects are so severe that she’ll have to kill someone once every couple of weeks to stave off the bloodlust. They have no way of knowing how bad it’ll be for Sara since no one who’s been dead for that long has ever been restored in the Pit, yet Laurel ignores all of it and pushes forward.
They are working really hard to make us believe that this is a completely terrible idea, which makes Laurel’s determination all the more galling. Has she never heard of Pet Sematary? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ve yet to get a glimpse into her thought process. Her decision to attempt this in the first place was saved for a cliffhanger at the end of “The Candidate,” and the drama surrounding the negotiation with Malcolm in “Restoration” was mostly relegated to Thea. Laurel’s argument is that Malcolm should do this because he owes her one, and at some point she also mentions how much it would delight her dad. However, after Laurel’s said her piece she’s off-screen, sleeping in some gorgeous Nanda Parbat visitor’s room, I suppose, while Thea and Malcolm have father-daughter bonding time and then eventually father-daughter killing time.
The act of restoring Sara at the end of this episode is then the culmination of a story arc with Thea and Malcolm; Laurel’s kind of just there, ignoring all the evidence because she’s in that headspace where grief overrules logic (although we’re more guessing about that than knowing for sure). There’s no moment where Thea gets Laurel to open up about why she feels this is necessary, consequences be damned, or a heart-to-heat with Nyssa, who was Laurel’s endearingly instant-BFF last season. Those two dipped French fries in chocolate shakes together, dammit! They should be allowed to have a sit-down conversation about Sara.
The writers have again stacked the deck against Laurel and Katie Cassidy. It’s most likely a side effect of choices made in the interest of economical storytelling. “Restoration” is Thea and Malcolm’s episode. Next week will be Laurel and Quentin’s episode, the time when she gets a heart-to-heart or two and is probably asked by her dad, “Why the hell did you do this if you knew what you were bringing back might not be Sara anymore?” Some of the lingering snark directed at Laurel isn’t really Katie Cassidy’s fault. Sometimes they just set that character up to fail.
But that’s just half of what goes down in “Restoration,” which is an overall solid episode reuniting the original Team Arrow trio and featuring Felicity, ala season 1, putting her foot down and insisting that Diggle and Oliver work their shit out. That might have been the most effective use of Felicity’s angry side I’ve seen on this show, with Amell hilariously playing Oliver’s surprise, reacting as if he’d never seen Felicity lay down the law quite like that before.
In fact, “Restoration” was an amazing episode for Felicity fans. She banged Oliver and Diggle’s heads together and made them actually open up to each other, saving us from any further “Diggle is tracking HIVE without telling anyone about it” machinations. She shot a damn machine gun, and fought off a meta-human, although mostly because he’s a terrible shot.
Seriously, multiple times Felicity and Curtis were standing perfectly still, and each time the imitation Gambit’s super-charged card of doom went right between them. She further bonded with Echo Kellum’s already lovable Curtis (aka, Mr. Terrific), and finally revealed where the new Arrow cave is located: in a secret basement at Palmer Tech. Even when Oliver discovers she was attacked and starts into his concerned boyfriend act she shoots him down with a somewhat nonchalant, “I handled it,” followed by, “Why are you surprised?”
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is the third episode of the season. Oliver is already back and newly minted as Green Arrow. He’s clearly in love with Felicity, and through her influence he’s squashed his bad blood with Diggle. Thea’s already discovered the apparent cure for her bloodlust, but she doesn’t like the price. Diggle has identified the person who hired Floyd Lawton to kill his brother, and all signs point further upward to Damien Darhk. Speaking of which, Damien is quite the nasty, yet charismatic big bad so far. Quentin Lance has been morally compromised. Felicity is, um, a total badass now. Malcolm and Nyssa have finally made an appearance, and Nyssa freakin’ nuked the Lazarus Pit!
It’s astounding how quickly this show has progressed and turned things around in a mere 3 episodes, depending on how many plot holes you’re willing to ignore, of course. The only one who has been ill-served thus far is Laurel. Let’s see if that changes next week.
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