Grief affects people in different ways – with Laurel, it’s about anger; with Roy, it’s about distancing his feelings; with Diggle, it’s about sublimating himself to his duty to the team; and with Felicity it’s insensate numbness. Last week we saw Team Arrow going through the motions of trying to protect Starling City in Ollie’s absence, and becoming increasingly disheartened as the likelihood of his survival shrank. As the team begins to question whether there is any point to continuing with the crusade, Brick continues to increase his stronghold on the Glades.
For a long time, Laurel has tended to seem like the fifth wheel of the show, only there because of the mythos in a similar way to Lana Lang in Smallville. Occasionally there was a moment when she stepped up, but these were more than counterbalanced by her frequent blaming of everything and everyone else for her own problems. I’d lay the blame for this at the doors of the writers (though it may have been intentional to allow her to subsequently rise). However, this week is definitely one of her better episodes. She’s very much not Sara’s Canary, but she’s realised that the reason the Arrow gets results is because he channeled his anger into his work rather than self-destructive behaviour. She has only the rudiments of basic fighting abilities with next to no training in fighting crime, no particular technical skills, and no military background; but is determined to find a way to help in any way she can. A key factor in keeping the lid on crime in Starling has been the fear that criminals have for the Canary, and Laurel wants to do her best to keep that fear alive, even if that tends to involve relying heavily on the Canary cry devices and beating up the bad guys with a staff. By accepting that the team is stronger than its members, it looks like she may have turned the corner from the overgrown child with a stubborn streak she seemed to be in previous seasons.
However, the rumours of the Canary’s presence on the streets again soon reach Quentin. With him probably the only person not to know of Sara’s death, and arguably the one person most deserving of knowing; it’s understandable that he would reach out to the people he knows. What is more questionable is how Laurel’s inability to tell him the truth about it leads her to make the choice to talk to him pretending to be Sara. It also raises the question of how an experienced detective like him could be fooled by such a weak impression (Laurel and Sara are physically very different, even at a distance in a black leather costume). Are we going to learn that at heart he knows it’s not Sara, but is in denial because of what it would mean?
Meanwhile, halfway round the world, Ollie is recovering from his scratch by retreating into a dream reality that diverges from the point when he said goodbye to Felicity.
Speaking of whom, Felicity is, as ever, a gift to the show. Last week we saw he falling to pieces and about to give up , only for Laurel to help her recover. This week, it’s Laurel’s turn to have thoughts about giving up, before Felicity convinces her that rather than fighting crime because they lost someone, they should do it because of those they haven’t.
Thea’s new DJ boyfriend wannabe seems to be more interested in Malcolm than her, and when he reports back to his boss, it raises the question of whether this ties to Ra’s vendetta against Merlyn, or if it’s going to be more complicated than that – we haven’t seen much of Argus in the contemporary parts of the show recently.
Then we have Ray Palmer… apparently the show wanted to use Ted Kord (millionaire genius inventor in the comics… well, until he met Booster Gold, but that’s another story) but were blocked, so they chose Ray instead, and adjusted his backstory accordingly. In some ways, the character is becoming Arrow’s equivalent to Harrison Wells, with it feeling like there’s some underlying meaning to everything he says. With Wells, it gives the impression of a guilty secret; whereas with Ray, it makes him just seem creepy!
Overall, a pretty good episode. Laurel’s decision with respect to Quentin didn’t feel quite right, but that aside, despite the current absence of Amell from contemporary Starling, the ensemble cast performance retains credibility. It’s also a nice touch that the show is no longer ashamed to drop in nods to the comics, with the tv reporter referring to Roy as Red Arrow. It’s a great time to be a fan.