In “Second Chances,” Arrow introduced its new Black Canary, and she’s not being played by Katie Cassidy. Instead, she’s an ex-Central City cop who gained a sonic scream from the particle accelerator, spent the next three years chasing down her partner/boyfriend’s killer and is now buddy-buddy with Oliver and Team Arrow. As played by Juliana Harkavy, this new character is perfectly badass, quick with a quip (turns out, she’s not a fan of Team Arrow’s costume choices) and already willing to call Oliver on his bullshit (or at least try to). The extra kicker is that her name is not Tina Boland, as Oliver and pals thought, but instead Dinah Drake. “Second Chances” was her origin story, and Harkavy acquitted herself very well.

But, but, but…Katie Cassidy was just around like one week ago.

But, but, but…there’s already a Dinah Drake on the show. In the comics, Dinah Drake Lance and Dinah Laurel Lance are mother and daughter, or at least they were until the New 52. Arrow honored this continuity by making Alex Kingston’s character Dinah Drake and Kattie Cassidy Dinah Laurel. Did Arrow simply forget about that? Or this is in some impossibly ludicrous away related to Flashpoint, as in maybe Kingston’s character isn’t named Dinah anymore? Arrow is free to deviate from the comics in any way it wants, but to just deviate from its own continuity without explanation? That’s just lazy.

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It didn’t have to be. As origin story episodes go, “Second Chances” was perfectly workable, nicely tying together the moment the new Canary gained her scream with the moment she lost the love of her life and managing to make yet more “Oliver tires to save someone’s soul because he knows what they’re going through” speeches engaging instead of overly familiar (to be fair, Prometheus has at least added a new wrinkle of self-doubt into Oliver’s proselytizing). Elsewhere in the episode, Felicity re-discovered her hacktivist leanings, Diggle walked away from his legal troubles a free man and flashback Oliver finally settled his vendetta in Russia (at least I think he did) with Talia’s help. Why go out of your way to name the new girl Dinah Drake? She didn’t need that seal of approval.

Of course, the bigger question is why introduce a new character at all? They killed the old Laurel. Thanks to The Flash, they have a spare, albeit an evil spare, but a spare nonetheless. Why add yet another new character to a show which is already drowning in them?

One of the common criticisms of season 5 (voiced quite eloquently by one of this site’s readers in the comments section to an earlier Arrow review) is that the show’s understandable desire to inject new blood into the cast has gone too far, resulting in the marginalization of legacy cast members like Thea and Quentin and de-emphasis on the central trio of Oliver, Diggle and Felicity (the three rarely share the screen together anymore). Moreover, Arrow now has more cast members than it knows what to do with.

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For example:

Curtis (as lovable as he is) too often duplicates Felicity. The team will eventually find out the new DA is actually the masked vigilante they fought a while back, but who cares. Rene has been forced into bonding scenes with Diggle. Rory is kind of just around. The result is a bit of a clusterfuck to the point that when Evelyn turned on them at mid-season not only did it not make a great deal of sense it didn’t really mean much because there just hadn’t been enough screen time to build up any kind of meaningful team relationship between Evelyn and anyone not named Oliver.

I’ve praised this season in the past, largely because it is at least an improvement on last season. Arrow had become almost unwatchable, and now it’s back to being watchable mid-level entertainment. I generally like the new characters, and while it is disappointing to see Quentin and Thea marginalized I also don’t know how much more there is to do with them at this point (although they certainly made good use of Thea’s still untapped dramatic potential in the 100th episode).

And I should be the last person complaining about Arrow effectively replacing Katie Cassidy’s Laurel with a new character, not with all the times I complained about her in the past. While season 4 destroyed Felicity by elevating all of her worst tendencies as a character it left Laurel largely alone, at least once she’d resurrected Sara. The effect was that while Felicity took over the show Laurel improved by simply standing still, as she so often times literally was during team meetings in the Arrowcave. Plus, when given the chance with Black Siren on The Flash Cassidy proved that she actually makes for a fun villain.

As much as I enjoyed Juliana Harkavy’s performance in “Second Chances,” her presence on the show seems likely to compound the season’s so-many-characters-so-little-time problem, and it speaks to the tendency to now elevate the new over the old.

When I think back on some of my favorite genre TV shows I see how many of them managed to turn characters who started out as villains into snarky good guys. Think Spike on Buffy, Damon and Klaus on Vampire Diaries. Arrow went halfway there with Malcolm, and it could be making a more honest attempt at it with Black Siren right now. Unless Katie Cassidy simply doesn’t want a full-time TV gig right now for scheduling reasons, there’s no reason Arrow couldn’t be hunkering down and converting one of its villains into a compelling anti-hero. That would interest me more than seeing the new Dinah Drake most likely barely getting to know the team. That all being said, this new Dinah does seem pretty awesome. So, really, whatever problems I have with all of this will probably be forgotten with each new scene in which Dinah outshines her co-stars.

THE NITPICKS

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  1. How did Oliver know what Rene told Curtis about the team being about “second chances?” He wasn’t present for that conversation nor did we have any indication he was listening in on coms.
  2. What, really, is the big deal about Dinah going through with killing the meta who killed her partner? By this point, we’re very familiar with Arrow’s go-to themes about the corruptive influence murder has on one’s soul as well as the emptiness of achieving vengeance. But on a more literal level what was the big deal about her killing one man after they’d already killed dozens? As soon as she got her man, Rene immediately wanted to go after her to presumably bring her to justice, ultimately yielding only to Oliver’s commands to stand down. Seriously? Unless this is Terminator 2 and Rene was simply shooting people in the shins he killed his fair share. This was a massacre carried out by Oliver, Rene and Dinah. However, no, you can’t kill that last guy because he’s the one whose name we actually know.
  3. I want to nitpick Rory for not knowing what IRL means, but I actually didn’t either until this past year (feel like that’s something I shouldn’t be admitting on the internet).
  4. Problem: How do we have Oliver meet Talia al Ghul in the past without him ever finding out her full identity since he never mentioned her during the whole Ra’s al Ghul drama. Solution: He’ll just never ask for her last name.

 

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

4 Comments

  1. You really think this Dinah will outshine the cast? Lmfao my goodness. This Dinah is just another annoying aspect of the story they can’t get right and leave it at that. The only character that aced this role was Sara.

    Reply

    1. I don’t know. I thought this new Dinah held her own with them fairly well. I agree about Sara being the best. Overall, I think this new Dinah speaks to some of the worst impulses of the writing this season, but I don’t really fault the actresses’ performance.

      Reply

  2. The day after this episode aired, DC announced that Dinah Drake, the Black Canary, will be added to the Injustice2 game due out in May. I think that explains a lot about why she’s added and that she’ll will be on Arrow through the rest of the season. (They could have redeemed the Black Siren, a character much better suited to Katie Cassidy’s acting style than Laurel but I guess they didn’t want her.) I don’t think the team needed yet another new member but I guess DC did.

    It’s too soon to say if she will outshine the other characters (both Katrina Law and Lexa Doig did/do but they’re better actors) but she absolutely will outshine all the other fighting members of Team Arrow with her canary cry. That’s the problem of bringing in fighters with meta abilities like Rory and now Dinah, all Oliver needs to do is send them out in the field and then sit back in his office and let them take out the bad guys. I have the feeling that Rory will be soon gone (which saddens me because he’s the only new character I actually like) but Dinah is on the show to stay, at least till the new game launches.

    I agree with you about the ridiculousness of the kill/no-kill debate. As Oliver shot down the helicopter, all I could do was think about the innocent people on the street who were going to get killed when it fell on them and burned up. Someone clever pointed out that this show seems to decide based on name who should not be killed. If you have a comic book name, and especially if you’re a male comic book character (poor Plastique), the show says you should live no matter how bad you are. Everyone else is fair game.

    Oliver, Rene and Curtis at the burger joint: I don’t know if it’s a problem with the writing, the fact that Rene and Curtis are not as effective characters as Diggle and Felicity were, or that the interactions aren’t as good but that scene made me long for the old days of Oliver, Diggle and Felicity at Big Belly Burger.

    I was excited for Felicity’s dark arc led off by getting Diggle out of prison, much ballyhooed by the showrunners, but since she and Diggle didn’t share a single scene this episode and her new friends are a bunch of no-name hackers (see above on the importance of having a comic book destiny), I’m guessing it’s going to be background noise for the Oliver/Rene/Curtis/Dinah/Diggle/Rory Team.

    Unlike Legends of Tomorrow, which does an awesome job balancing it’s huge cast, Arrow works best when there are three fighers and one comms person. Even as awesome as she was, when Sara joined the team in the second half of season 2, Diggle and Felicity were pushed into the background (in one episode Felicity had only 2 lines). When Laurel and Thea joined along with Roy, Diggle, the best fighter, was relegated to driving the get-away vehicles. Even if Rory leaves, it’s still too many characters and no room at all for Thea or Lance. (I vote get rid of Rene, put Curtis into Cisco’s role of engineering and occasional fighter, and turn super-powered Dinah into a recurring character who comes and goes as needed for the current villain. )

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the Injustice2 information. That could certainly have contributed to the decision Arrow made to create its second Dinah Drake, unless I was mistaken about that name having been previously attributed to Alex Kingston’s character. As for why they chose not to go with Cassidy, I do wonder if maybe she’s moving into movies now, or if her own schedule and wants/desires also played into their decision.

      When it was reported that Barrowman, Cassidy and Wentworth Miller had all signed unique multi-show deals making them series regulars across the Arrowverse I think many of us misunderstood just how flexible those deals were, not so much tying any of the actors to the shows but instead formally allowing them to pursue other things while always having the option to come back when they wanted. So, Cassidy went and did a couple of movies and then popped back to Arrow for a couple of episodes (and thus far, that’s it). Miller went off to film the new Prison Break, and will now only end up having been in a handful of Legends episodes when the season is over. Still, though, since we knew Cassidy was under contract, and that Black Siren was finally the prefect role for her it was so easy to expect the back half of Arrow season 5 to convert her into a snarky anti-hero. Alas, they went another way.

      I do like the new Dinah and the actress playing her, and like you said Katrina Law and Lexa Doig were similarly badass. I don’t know how much I buy into the idea of her meta powers presenting a problem to the show, mostly because it doesn’t really seem as if Rory’s powers have elevated him above everyone else when they likely should have. What you say about the problems with dropping Dinah’s canary scream into this team make sense, but I think season 5 has proven with Rory that the writers will seriously downplay the importance of such a power imbalance.

      I, too, fear that Rory might not make it the full season, though my fear is rooted in “well, they don’t really seem to be giving him much to do.” Then again, if I’d followed that same logic I would have expected Roy (it seems like so long ago that he was a character on this show) to have been written off far sooner than he was.

      Good point about the helicopter. That whole entire encounter truly was a massacre, and the crashing helicopter would have logically added some collateral damage to the list of dead henchman. “Someone clever pointed out that this show seems to decide based on name who should not be killed.” Whoever pointed that out was very clever/observant indeed.

      There WAS something off about the burger joint scenes, you’re right. The scenes, specifically the comic interactions between Oliver, Rene and Curtis, just felt forced, almost like we were watching a Flash scene dropped into Arrow with Rene as a Cisco-like comic relief.

      I don’t think they’ve ever really gotten Felicity’s hacker days right, from that big flashback episode to her hallucinations while on pain killers last season. As such, I’m apprehensive about them going down this road again, and suspect you might be right in predicting it will be background noise to the stuff going down with the rest of the team.

      You’re right about Legends. I never thought I would have said this because I’m someone who was really down on Legends’ first season, but Legends season 2 and probably Legends overall does a better job balancing its cast than Arrow, either now or historically. Also, I’m with you on converting Curtis into a Cisco-like engineer, which is what I thought they were doing last week before putting him back into that Mister Terrific costume again this week. I’m not so quick to vote Rene off the island, though. From what I understand, we’ll finally get his backstory in an upcoming episode. I’m willing to wait and see how that goes.

      Reply

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