Although it brings to mind the jaunty tune by the French electronic duo, “Midnight City” was no happy-go-lucky hour of Arrow. In Starling City, for Oliver’s friends and allies, there’s no time for mourning, nor is there any time to stop and catch their breath. True, everyone’s green hooded hero was alive and well (ish), but his city was taking a proverbial and literal beating from Danny “Brick” Brickwell. It’s time for a new hero to rise, time for her – yes, her – to take up her mantle as a leather-clad defender of innocents with a talent to wield blunt objects in manner almost as fierce as her temper. Too bad that this Canary is woefully under-prepared for the mantle passed down to her.
When we heard that Laurel would suit up as Black Canary in this “Funeral for a Friend” trilogy post Oliver’s battle to the death, many fans said “too soon!” Fair enough, this time last year Laurel began her near-death spiral of booze, drugs and depression that saw her penniless, fired and alienated from all her friends and family. The term “from zero to hero” is thrown around a lot when it comes to a superhero’s evolution, but Laurel really was at zero in the middle of season two. Her motivation and drive may have ramped up to 11, but her skill is still middling at around five or six.
Fortunately, “Midnight City” establishes very early that Laurel is not quite ready for prime time. We see her go after Sara’s perpetrator of choice: men attacking women, but she can’t make the element of surprise work to her complete advantage. She’s saved by Arsenal, and Roy gets a rare opportunity to get on his high horse. Roy makes the point that where as he was personally trained by Oliver, in addition to having years of experience as a street scrapper, but Laurel’s got a taste for superheroism now, and she will not be easily deterred.
“Midnight City” was decent showcase for two of Arrow’s key costumed characters, Laurel and Roy. Aside from being the disapproving veteran hero, Roy also gets to play a little Dark Knight Detective by following Malcolm Merlyn, who’s still pushing Thea to pack up and leave town with him. Roy does his best to be intimidating, which, considering that he’s a foot shorter than Malcolm, is obviously amusing, and Malcolm’s reaction reflects that, a mix of “you’ve got to be kidding” and “that’s adorable,” like when a chihuahua starts barking at a pitbull as if the little dog is trash talking the bigger one.
Laurel, meanwhile, is trying to puff herself up too. She wields things rather impressively in the interrogation room, but in the field in full Canary regalia she can’t stick the landing while jumping from a fire escape to the top a van. When Brick kidnaps three aldermen, Laurel is able to convince Roy to help her rescue them, but when one of the politicians is killed by Brick in the attempt, everyone is stricken with doubt. Maybe they’re not meant to follow Oliver in his mission, or to follow through with it if Oliver’s not even there.
The self-doubt of our heroes is a fine development, understandable given the circumstances and a contagious one given that Felicity walked away from Team Arrow last week. Fitting then that it’s Felicity that galvanizes everyone again. The turn comes after the death of the alderman and Laurel’s realization that she’s “not strong enough to fight for Sara.”
“Maybe you’re not supposed to,” Felicity replies.
It’s a small scene, but it hints at bigger things. Despite the fact that the two women are past and present romantic interests of Oliver respectively, the writers have shrewdly dodged any hint of making them two points of a triangle. In fact, aside from the fact that they’re all now players in the crime-fighting racket in Starling he started, Oliver is almost an afterthought. The scene is really about the burgeoning camaraderie of these two women and Emily Bett Rickards and Katie Cassidy beautifully underplay it. Hopefully, there may be Birds of Prey-style side adventures in the offing for the two with Felicity serving in the Oracle role.
Felicity also inspired Ray Palmer, who was himself humbled a bit this week. Like Laurel, Ray has the drive, but not necessarily the ability to be the crime fighter he wants to be, at least outside of his still in develop A.T.O.M. suit, which has compress hard light beams and not lasers because that would be crazy. Between Laurel, Felicity and Ray, the heroes of Starling arrive at a turning point this week, although most of them took up the cause out of revenge, they have to learn to fight for the ones still alive, and the ones that still need their help.
Speaking of still alive, we learn that Oliver needs no Lazarus Pit to come back from the dead. Bummer. It’s kind of a cop out to just say, hey, Oliver survived because of the ice and cold and because of his awesome will to live, but that’s where we are so we’ll just roll with it. We’ll also roll with the flashback that shows Oliver and Maseo’s rescue of Tatsu from China White, although it lends nothing to explain how Maseo ended up with the League of Assassins or how he and Tatsu became estranged (even though we’re all noting the conspicuous absence of their child).
I’m calling it now, look for the season to end with the death (or “death”) of Ra’s al Ghul and his replacement as the head of the League by Maseo. There’s only so many times you can defy the Demon’s Head without taking his head or him taking yours. I hate myself for admitting this, but as much as I find the flashbacks infuriating, I am intrigued enough to learn just how deep Maseo’s debt to Oliver goes, and why he’d be okay assassinating the Assassins to protect him.
But while Maseo is loyal to Oliver, he’s also still loyal to the League and to finding the League’s Public Enemy No. 1: Malcolm Merlyn. Thea makes a tremendous leap in foolish courage in the wake of threat she doesn’t understand by convincing Malcolm to stay and fight rather than run away. Too bad Thea isn’t aware of just how close the evil is because her smart alec DJ not-boyfriend is actually a member of the League of Assassins. Although I’d love to learn his League name, Chase strikes me as League material about as much as the guys in The Big Bang Theory do. Helluva a cliffhanger Arrow, Slacker McCool is a member of League. Should have stuck with the Lazarus Pits, they were more believable.