One of the key elements of Arrow is that its titular hero is trying to transcend the darkness he had to dive into in order to survive and become a stirring symbol of heroism his city needs. Although Oliver Queen struggles in trying to find a way to walk a higher path, he surrounds himself with people that inspire him to do better, and despite their differences, one of them is Captain Quentin Lance. And in a strange reversal of their relationship through most of the series, it was Oliver that found himself looking down on Lance, as the Captain struggled not only with his own deal with the devil, but his daughter’s too.
Although he was absent from last week’s outing, a lot of Lance was squeezed out of this week’s story. Not only was the Captain facing a betrayal in the ranks of the Star City P.D., and not only did Laurel in the best interest of being truthful with her father reveal her resurrected sister, but Lance also had to come to terms with his collaboration with Damien Darhk once Oliver finds out that the two of them are friendly. When Arrow gives Paul Blackthorne meaty stuff to do, he chews into like a hungry man.
First, let’s deal with the fallout of Laurel’s stupidity. It’s still hard to get over the hamfisted nature in which the writers authored Sara’s return: everyone tells Laurel it was a bad idea to use the Lazarus Pit to resurrect Sara, she’s seen the results in Thea, but dammit, she did anyway, and Malcolm Merlyn went along with it because, hey, you can’t predict what Malcolm Merlyn does. It’s the epitome of form following function, Sara has to be alive for Legends of Tomorrow, so they made her alive. Strange that after a whole summer that they couldn’t figure out a better way to make it happen organically, especially as The Flash is importing people from Earth-2.
Having said that though, it was a powerful scene when this week Lance made to follow Damien Darhk’s advice and kill the daughter he didn’t know anymore. It was hard not to detect a genuine moment of earnestness in Darhk when he said to Lance that the best thing her could do for Sara was send her back to her final rest. Still, despite the cold hard truth that Darhk was offering – and wasn’t it was nice to see Neal McDonough relax the smart-ass evil routine for a moment – Lance can’t deny that he’s a good man with a strong moral compass, and even if there’s something evil wearing his youngest daughter like a suit, he still can’t kill her in cold blood.
For those thinking there was something malevolent in Lance’s dealings with Darhk, it turns out you were doubters. Although it’s a bit weird to think that Lance would look a gift horse in the mouth with Darhk promising money and resources to save a dying Star City, perhaps it’s not unfair to say that desperate man are driven to extremes. In that regard perhaps it’s believable that Lance would fall in with Darhk, and equally believable that he would now have extreme regrets about their arrangement knowing the full extent of Darhk’s ambition.
It was also understandable then that Lance’s confession to Oliver would end up being a cathartic moment. Who else could Lance share with? Who else would understand? Although Lance is bound and determined to blame Oliver and Team Arrow for the things that plague Star City, he must now admit that he’s got some blame too in the city’s current predicament, and that he, like Oliver, took unorthodox action in the name of having no other choice to do so. Oliver for his part could have been a bit more understanding, but for the first time in their relationship, it was Lance that was a disappointment to Oliver, and that alone would shake a hero when he just can’t trust his police associate anymore.
Sadly though, it became fodder for another course of what makes Oliver doubt himself this week. Moving forward with his plan to run for mayor, Oliver is gungho, but after learning about Lance’s connection to Darhk, getting the Captain’s endorsement didn’t just seem like a bad idea, it made Oliver think that if a good man like Lance could be compromised than what good was he going to do as a politician. That was weak tea in terms of creating drama, and fortunately lasted only a moment, but it’s going to be a long campaign for Ollie if things are always threatening to not unfold like an episode of The West Wing.
On the bright side though, everything else was going Oliver’s way, buying Blood’s old campaign office and its convenient hideout underneath which makes for a sweet, new, high-tech Arrow Cave. It seemed a little too high tech and shiny for my liking, and you have to think at some point there’s going to be a subplot about Cisco’s abuse of caffeine pills to do all this pro bono work for Team Arrow, but the show probably wouldn’t put this much effort into creating this hideout if we aren’t going to be here for a while. It will probably grow on me in time, but I miss the charm of the foundry.
The case of the week was almost a secondary consideration to the internal drama of the team, but it did address compellingly just how desperate things are getting in Star City. A group of cops, led by Liza Warner (Rutina Wesley), are stealing from drug dealers and ransoming the narcotics back to them until a pair of plan clothes detectives were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Last week, Oliver threw himself in front of some meta-human tattoo playing cards to prove himself to Diggle, and this week it was Lance who proved himself a team player by talking Warner out of shanking Oliver with a downright Barltet-esque inspirational speech about policing and the pursuit of justice. Maybe, the wrong member of Team Arrow is running for office.
In the end, Lance and Oliver seem to make peace with each other, as Oliver extends an olive branch by asking Lance to become a double agent in Camp Darhk. Lance says that he assumes this means that Oliver trusts him again, and really, can there be a bigger sign of trust than being allowed into the Arrow Cave? Still, this turn in the Lance/Oliver relationship makes me wonder if we don’t have a new contender for the grave six months hence. It would be fitting for the show, after all, if Lance and Oliver finally become true allies only to see Lance lose his life.
In a few other episode notes, you may have noticed that Lexi Alexander directed this week’s Arrow, a return to the realm of superheroes following the less-than-successful Punisher: War Zone in 2008. It seems more clear than ever that the shrunken Ray Palmer is responsible for Felicity’s tech problems, another example of form following function in the lead up to LoT. And a reminder that next week is the arrival of Matt Ryan as John Constantine, so there’s even more reason to look forward to next week’s Arrow.