Whilst comics may drive the initial creation of tv shows, the need to ground it within a real world, together with the building of its own mythos means that it doesn’t take long for a series to move away from its roots. Every so often, there is a moment when the show figuratively takes a breath in order to clear out some of the overhanging plot elements.
Last week, Arrow had reached one of those points – Oliver had returned from a battle to the death with Ra’s al Ghul; Laurel was running around hitting criminals with a stick as the Canary replacement for her dead sister whilst allowing (and actively encouraging) her father to believe Sara was still alive; everyone knows Oliver is the Arrow with the exception of Thea.
From back in season one, the show has highlighted the similarities between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters, and played with showing how Oliver might be worse than them from a certain point of view. Oliver was a killer who gradually turned himself away from killing, for example, contrasted with Malcolm Merlyn who started out as a family man and turned out to be a Ra’s al Ghul-trained mass-murderer. However, whilst the past 3 years have seen Oliver move from being a revenge-seeking urban legend to someone looked up to as a public hero, it seemed a little hypocritical for him to enlist Merlyn as his trainer, criticise him for lying to Thea, then keep lying to her himself.
The villain of the week is Count Vertigo, this episode is largely about putting to bed some of the issues around the Canary plot arc, and in general it succeeds at that goal – by the end of the episode, Laurel demonstrates how much more confident she is in the role, though the journey isn’t free from pain. The use of Vertigo as a means to show us Laurel’s damaged psyche is a nice touch, and lets us see the all-too-brief return of Caity Lotz.
Laurel had maintained that the reason she was keeping Canary active was because the criminals were scared of her (ie Sara’s Canary), but behind it she was hiding the truth from her father in fear that he might suffer a heart attack. Thankfully, whilst there is a moment, Captain Lance survives the truth – at least physically. It is a credit to Blackthorne’s performance that he is able to play the extremes of the rage-infused illusion Laurel sees when dosed with Vertigo, and the heartbroken father who has now experienced his daughter’s death for the second time.
Meanwhile, Oliver follows up his homily to Merlyn last week and reveals his identity to Thea. Surprisingly, this was dealt with relatively easily, with Thea accepting that whilst Oliver had lied to her on many occasions about his activities, he was fighting crime and helping people. That he spent most of the time during season one killing people, we should probably sweep under the carpet. It’s enough to reposition their relationship, though it does raise the question of whether this is due more to his character’s development post-S1, or hers since her time with Merlyn. Her volte-face with respect to Merlyn seemed a little sudden, given how she seemed to have no problem with revelations about him in the past.
So what else does the episode have for us? Team Arrow have spent the last few episodes trying to hold the city together in his absence, and they feel they ought to now play at least a part in decision-making, rather than it always being the Oliver Show. Oliver gets to call Laurel an addict, and whilst she argues against it, she has too much baggage (the drink, the pills, the dressing up in black leather and beating up criminals by hitting them with a stick at night…) to make a credible case. Roy gets to stand up to Oliver (though there’s some careful use of camera angles to avoid highlighting the big difference in heights between the two. Of course, a row in the Arrow Cave wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory Diggle speech, and this week’s is a particularly strong one.
Oh yes… that annoyingly arrogant superstar-DJ ninja warrior assassin at Verdant… he’s in the episode too.