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arrow-birds-of-prey-review

Based on the title alone my expectations were high for “Birds of Prey“. Maybe that’s why this episode left me feeling a little underwhelmed. It wasn’t that “Birds of Prey” was completely unenjoyable, but it was an almost total deviation from this series’ overarching and more compelling plot line for the sake of bringing back The Huntress only to turn her into little more than a mustache twirling villain (that is until the episodes final moments, but still).

Back during the first season, Jessica De Gouw‘s Helena Bertinelli/Huntress was a bright spot among a myriad of forgettable villains and guest-starring allies. Not only was she one of the first comic book characters introduced for Stephen Amell‘s Oliver Queen/Arrow to play off of, she also worked exceedingly well as a dark foil for Oliver’s own vengeful path. A path he eventually righted by realizing constant revenge only begets more bloodshed.

A point made all the stronger when Helena’s mission to kill her father ends in his death, just not at her hands, leaving her feeling unfulfilled. But to back things up a moment, until she realizes her father’s death won’t make her feel any better The Huntress is little better than a cartoon villain. She and her hired goons (Really!) hold hostages at the courthouse, threatening their lives unless her father is turned over. Granted, this all stems from the foiled plot of D.A. Adam Donner who was using Frank Bertinelli as lure for The Huntress, so perhaps she only plays the role given to her in this instance.

Birds of Prey

In the end, however, when Helena is in custody Oliver comes to see her and the two have a very honest conversation where Oliver admits his failings and Helena has the realization revenge ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. A heart wrenching admission, for sure, since she’s not only lost her father but finds herself without purpose and incarcerated. This most definitely won’t be the last we see of The Huntress, but I fear it’s the end for now. And that’s a shame, because a Huntress who has something to prove, some integrity to win back sounds like a far more interesting character than the rehashing we saw for the majority of “Birds of Prey.”

In a related development, there’ been some talk from Arrow exec producer Marc Guggenheim about the hopes to spawn yet another spinoff (there’s already The Flash in development), this time for Huntress. The initial idea would be to explore “the year that she spent between Episodes 117 and 217, from her perspective, traveling the world and hunting for her father.” And as badly as I’d love to see a Huntress series, recapping this time in her life sounds to me like more of the same, and not the further development I’d like to see with the character.

So anyway, an episode called “Birds of Prey” was clearly attempting to draw comparison with the team of the same name from the comics. (By the way, any catch this easter egg: “At the corner of Gail St. and Simone?”) Typically comprised of Black Canary, Oracle, and Huntress, at least two of those characters appear here but instead of being on a team, they’re adversaries. For that purpose, this episode totally delivers on the fight scenes between Sara Lance/Canary (Caity Lotz) and Huntress. The opening sequence featured a great team-up between Canary and Arrow, but Canary vs. Huntress is the headliner.

Birds of Prey

For Sara, her story covers two fronts – her wanting to protect her sister in the present and Ollie in the past, both by any means necessary. But Sara, too, learns that killing is not always the easy answer and in her final showdown spares Huntress’ life (at her sister’s behest). It’s yet another example of the growth within Team Arrow, taking them from a band of directionless vigilantes to a true team of heroes.

Speaking of her sister, Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) trajectory this season has been a train wreck. In the aftermath of Tommy’s death, Laurel became addicted to pain killers and booze, but any and all development of this addiction felt inorganic. It was there simply because the show needed to continue driving a wedge between her and Oliver (How else would they rationalize him shacking up again with Sara?) and wanted to give her her own demons to fight. I guess? I’m still unclear on this whole debacle.

In “Birds of Prey” Laurel is now attending A.A. meetings and is, seemingly, getting her life back on track. When she’s offered an opportunity to come back to work and lead the prosecution against Frank Bertinelli’s it’s a real break for her. That is, until it’s revealed to be a sham. What it does, however, is put Laurel right in middle of the action and provides chances for her to reconnect with Helena and, unknowingly, her sister.

Birds of Prey

In a way, the two act as the two paths open to Laurel: Helena’s is the path of darkness and revenge, while Sara’s is one of redemption. Come episode’s end what Laurel chooses is still a little murky. She knows she wants to go back to practicing law and she knows she’s good at it, but she achieves her reinstatement as a practicing lawyer in the D.A.’s office through blackmail. Basically, this decision hints at Laurel choosing a darker path, but if she’s truly kicked the pills and is back on the job she can hopefully become a more proactive character, no longer in need of constant saving from herself and others. We’ll have to see how this all pans out.

Otherwise, the real kicker in “Birds of Prey” comes from the all too often unbearable Thea (Willa Holland) and Roy (Colton Haynes) B-plot. Oliver has told Roy to break it off with Thea because he fears for her safety, so he does. This sends Thea spiraling into a depression because she now believes everyone is keeping secrets from her. Which they are, especially the brother she’s pouring her heart out to. This is notably not only for the wonderful performance of Holland, something we don’t get the chance to see very often, but also because it sends her out onto the streets, alone, where she’s offered a ride from that charming man she gave an art tour–Slade Wilson (Manu Bennet).

Which leads directly into next week’s episode, “Deathstroke”. Undoubtedly, Oliver will be forced to make some tough decisions and potentially need to kill again in order to save his sister, only adding to his inner turmoil. Definitely going to be a can’t miss episode!

Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8pm on the CW. Catch up with our past recap/reviews!

Category: Comics, Featured, reviews, TV

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