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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.