Before we dive into this week’s Arrow let’s agree about one thing: Laurel kinda sucks. No disrespect to Katie Cassidy, she’s done fine work with what she’s been given, but to be honest, what she’s been given hasn’t been very much. The Arrow team is clearly trying to create a more compelling path for Laurel, one that was hinted at in last season’s finale when Sara gave her big sister her Black Canary jacket. Said jacket made a reappearance in tonight’s episode, a moment of epiphany for Ms. Lance, and the audience, that says “Oh yeah, I have a destiny.” With all subtlety of a bat crash through the library window at Wayne Manor, Laurel now realizes that she must become someone else; she must become something else. And that thing is a hot, blonde, leather-clad crime-fighter with the initials B.C.
When it became pretty obvious that the romantic tension between Oliver and Laurel wasn’t working, the writers struggled with any idea bout what to do with Laurel, and the best they could come up with was substance abuse as a source of drama. That’s not to say that drugs are not a legitimate issue, of course, but in TV writing terms, giving a main character a drug addiction usually plays out as predictably as a runaway bride or groom at a wedding. And on top it all, Laurel’s downward spiral began because her boyfriend died. While Oliver had a beautiful arc about honoring his friend by being a better hero, Laurel started popping pills and getting a little too boozy, which resulted in her losing her job and getting more boozy.
And that’s why it was a such a relief early on when Laurel, in mourning the death of her sister Sara, shot full of arrows and knocked off a roof at the end of last week’s premiere, tells Oliver that a bar is the last place she should be in the aftermath. Not knowing where to take Sara’s body, she brings it to the Arrow-cave where the team decides on revenge to cope. Everyone reacts in their own way: Oliver keeps a stiff upper lip because if the leader’s caught grieving, no one else can. Felicity takes out her frustrations on Ray Palmer, who continues to court Ms. Smoak in an employment sense (and maybe a romantic sense). Roy, meanwhile, struggles with telling Oliver the truth about Thea’s silence, holding on to the note she left the night of the siege like the proverbial Telltale Heart.
It’s hard to tell who was the episode’s MVP for acting in this episode, as the death of Sara (Farewell, Caity Lotz. You will be missed. Until your next flashback appearance.) seemed to bring out the best in the actors and their characters. Stephen Amell isn’t merely doing stoic as Oliver in this one, you can see how deeply the death of Sara affects him as he acts out the murder all CSI like at the crime scene. Emily Bett Rickards made Felicity’s ability to cope with humor biting, as her sharp wit is actually sharp enough to cut. As Oliver leans into her about the slowness of a computer search that needs to go faster she says, “You don’t need to tel me like I don’t already know,” which is a very Felicity line, read in a very Felicity way, but with a matter-of-fact chill that says, hey, get off my case.
As for the details of the case, we meet Komodo, a character first introduced to comic readers in the New 52, but in the Arrow version he’s one of a few hired assassins that kills with a bow and arrow. And before you say “League of Assassins” let me tell you, he’s not with the League of Assassins. While Sara’s murder seems undoubtedly tied to the murder-for-hire all-stars brought together by Ra’s al Ghul, Komodo turns out to not be one of them. Instead, Komodo is out to kill a bunch of guys involved in an AmerTek plot to build an oil pipeline in Qurac. DC Comics fans will recognize AmerTek as the arms manufacturers from Steel, and Qurac is a fictional Middle Eastern country that sounds a lot like “Iraq.” As for Sara, no, Komodo had an airtight alibi the night Canary was killed. He was killing two other people in Bludhaven.
It would have been rather pat if Sara’s death had been resolved in one hour-long episode, the main thrust seemed to be to show Laurel, and the audience, just how bad ass she can be. She pulls a Jack Bauer questioning a surviving victim of Komodo, and getting a vital clue in the process to prove that torture still works. When Komodo interrupts Ray Palmer’s Warren Buffett moment, announcing his intention to give away half his fortune, to kill another AmerTek plotter, the Arrow captures him but not before gun-totting Laurel decides to get her Death Wish on. Oliver, shrewdly, took the bullets out of the gun in advanced, which begs the question of how many times a TV character will fall for that trick before they learn to check the clip. It also begs the question if part of Laurel’s Canary training is going to be learning to channel that anger, or whether her revenge-fueled hero’s journey will be as predictable as her drug addiction storyline. Or Death Wish.
It’s hard to say if any of the characters make any peace with Sara’s death. Felicity’s grief sends her to the offices of Ray Palmer because she wants something more. Diggle and Lyla decide to name their daughter Sara in the younger Lance’s honor. And Laurel decides to keep Sara’s death from the still healing Quentin, afraid that the emotional heartbreak will lead to a literal heartbreak, even though she’s deeply disturbed by the idea that her sister is buried in the same graveyard plot put aside for her after the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit. Oliver swears to work tirelessly to find Sara’s killer, but the implications are far more interesting for Laurel, and that’s a sentence I thought I’d never write.
Before wrapping up this week’s Arrow recap, there were a couple of key developments. In the flashback we see that Tommy Merlyn (Welcome back, Colin Donnell!) came to Hong Kong looking for Oliver after he was pinged that someone logged on to his BFF’s e-mail there. Waller ordered Oliver to eliminate Tommy, but Oliver, not wanting to kill his friend, refused, and staged a kidnapping of Tommy as a ransom scheme and the e-mail was meant to lure one of Oliver’s rich friends or family members to Hong Kong. Again, the flashback seemed pointless and the return of Donnell wasted when there were so many other interesting things going on. Like…
Then there was the post-script in Corto Maltese, where Thea Queen (or is that Merlyn now?) is showing that five months in her birth father’s company has taught her to kick all kinds of butt with severe efficiency. Malcolm Merlyn is very proud of his daughter, and she gives him a hearty “Thanks, Dad,” when he gives her praise. Uh oh. Just how messed up is Thea in the puppet strings of Malcolm, or is she putting on a show? One thing’s for certain, Arrow’s ladies are about to get a lot more complicated. And lethal.