By Matthew Cafaro
How will Oliver & Co. handle the fallout of last week’s staggering ending?
We begin with Felicity, Roy, and Ollie descending into the “Arrow Cave” (I hate that name, but for lack of a better one, there go I) and having meaningless chit-chat only to find Sara’s broken body on a table, and Laurel, covered in her sister’s blood, in a state of shock.
Ollie is surprisingly calm, if shell-shocked. Emily Bett Rickards carries the emotion of the scene, Katie Cassidy less so. The one thing the show-runners have painted themselves in a corner about is the fact that Laurel, who is to become Black Canary and Ollie’s partner in love as well as crime fighting, is the weak link of the show. This is both in how’s she written and how she’s been played by Cassidy, who, out of all of the females in this cast, is the least able to carry big set pieces and emotions. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the hand they’ve dealt themselves. I hope both the writing and the actress can rise to the occasion from here on out, because they’ve killed-off a pretty good character and actress in Sara / Caity Lotz.
Ollie finds is way to the rooftop where Sara was killed and recreates the event. He’s interrupted by Diggle who wants him to know he can talk to him and he’s not in this alone. It is pretty standard “best buddy” of kind of stuff, but David Ramsay always seems to make it work. Laurel and Oliver have decided to not tell Captain Lance his youngest daughter has died (again) for fear it may kill him, which makes a meeting between Lance and the Arrow difficult. It seems there’s a new archer in town killing businessmen. And possibly the Canary.
Felicity gets a nice moment to talk about how small Sara’s hands are in death, when she seemed so strong in life. She also finds out that Roy (the erstwhile Speedy / Arsenal / Red Arrow) knows that Thea is not where she says she is. Felicity then runs to yell at Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer some more. Get a room you guys! Knowing Routh’s other work, it’s nice to see him have some real chemistry with Rickards. Then again, she is so naturally charismatic she would have chemistry with the wood block known as Hayden Christensen.
Through some patented Arrow scare tactics, we find out that the new archer is called Komodo, and he’s an assassin for hire. He and Arrow have a very cool archery joust on motorcycles in which Komodo is able to escape. Yes, I just said archery joust on motorcycles, and it was as awesome as it sounds. The one thing Arrow does so much better than SHIELD (well, it does so many things better than SHIELD) is the stunt work and fight choreography. It’s like the difference between “Star Wars Kid” and the fight between Qui Gon, Obi Wan, and Darth Maul.
Ollie and Felicity talk about why Oliver can’t grieve while everyone is looking to him to be strong. I love these kinds of small moments in Arrow. There’s real emotional truth to this relationship. Like last week, it’s Felicity who walks away from Oliver. She has the strength not to be the “damsel in distress,” or simply the Arrow’s Gal Friday. She’s a strong, intelligent woman who wants more out of life as she tells Ray Palmer at the end of the episode. Television needs more female characters like Felicity Smoak.
Roy shows up in a slightly bigger way in this episode (in that he’s physically in the episode for a longer period of time), but it’s mostly to deliver exposition about why Thea left with her biological father Malcolm Merlyn at the end of the second season, and why Oliver may never see his little sister ever again. Much like with Sara’s death, Ollie takes this news remarkably well. I don’t know if this something just for this episode, or if the Arrow writers are allowing Oliver to become less explosively reactionary and more stoic, as a proper brooding superhero should be.
The final set piece is at Queen Consolidated during new CEO Ray Palmer’s impassioned speech to the well-to-do of Starling City to give their time and money to help resurrect their home which wants to rename and rebrand as Star City (it’s correct name through decades of comic book history). Komodo crashes through the windows to assassinate a target, and Team Arrow is there to stop him. There’s some nifty martial arts and an escape out of a window 50 stories up, but everything hinges on Katie Cassidy’s ability to channel rage and hurt through her character, and she doesn’t really nail the moment as we need her to be able to do. All of the dramatics are for naught, though, as we find out that Komodo did not kill Sara, putting off the mystery for another week, if not for the season if this is to be the whole arc.
We end the episode with Team Arrow burying Sara in her empty grave from eight years before, and Captain Lance never knowing his daughter is dead. This, I’m sure, will go over well when he finally finds out. Ollie and Diggle have a quiet moment down in the cave (cellar?) where Oliver tells him he doesn’t want to die “down here,” meaning in service of his mission, all alone. Digg tells him the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to make a life for himself with friends and family and embrace the idea of having his two separate lives connecting in a way that allows him to be a whole person. Nah… that’s not what Diggle says. He just tells Oliver, “So don’t.” All of that other stuff is super-implied though, amiright?
The stinger is excellent, as it almost always is on Arrow, with Merlyn observing a now highly skilled Thea taking on and taking out two practice swordsman. She calls him “Dad.” And yes, it’s kind of creepy and it will make your skin crawl.
- I’m not the biggest fan of killing Sara Lance, the Canary, no matter how much having her wear the metaphorical fishnets differs from the traditional comic book history of the Black Canary. Although Lotz isn’t the greatest actress, she looked the part of a badass assassin. She reminded me a lot of Katee Sackhoff playing Starbuck on BSG in that she has a muscular body-type, not a Hollywood stick-figure body type. It’s hard to see Laurel becoming the Black Canary, for many reasons, but especially for that one. She’s so slight, while Lotz looked like she was built to kick ass.
- Diggle and Lyla are naming their baby girl Sara. Of course they are. Which is why we didn’t find out her name last week. I should’ve seen that coming a mile away.
- I also don’t like not telling Captain Lance is daughter has died. In the end, it’s needlessly cruel. He should know. Laurel continues making terrible decisions.
- About Thea & Malcolm: I don’t buy that she became a vicious martial artist in five months. He had to have taken her to Nanda Parbat, where “time doesn’t exist” like it does in the outside world to train her. He would’ve had to patch things up with Ra’s Al Ghul, though, so maybe not.
- Five Years Ago: This week’s flashbacks show us that Oliver’s first work as an assassin for Amanda Waller is to kill his best friend, who came to Hong Kong believing Oliver was alive. Of course, he can’t kill Tommy, so Oliver and his trainer / kidnapper devise a way in which Tommy leaves Hong Kong believing Oliver is truly dead. Most of the time, the flashbacks have something to do with the narrative of the present timeline, but this week was more about Oliver having to fully cut ties with the idea of escaping captivity and returning to the ones he loves. At least for now (then).
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @HistoryofMatt