Thursday, February 2, 2017

Arrow 5x11 Review: "Second Chances" (Will the Real Black Canary Please Stand Up?)

"Second Chances"
Original Airdate: February 1, 2017

It is Pride and Prejudice's famous Mr. Darcy who once said, "My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever." He wasn't big on giving people second chances, as you can imagine. I've known a few of those people in my life — the ones who are your friends until you do one thing that they disagree with or somehow offends them. Then, you have a black mark on your friend ledger with them forever. I'd like to think that I'm a pretty forgiving person. I try my hardest to extend grace to people who hurt me because I know I've been extended grace from others. Sometimes it takes messing up for us to realize how much we need forgiveness in the first place. This week's Arrow focuses heavily on the idea that we each get second chances in life and can choose how we use them. Our new character, Tina, happens to get a second chance at life when the particle accelerator (yes, the very same one) explodes and gives her super powers akin to those of the currently-deceased Black Canary. Meanwhile, in the flashbacks, Talia works to train Oliver to become someone and something else. And finally, Felicity comes face-to-face with her hacktivist past and has to decide how to proceed.


I actually didn't think this week's Arrow was bad. If anything, I was just a tad bit bored about half-way through. But "Second Chances" introduced us to a new woman to fill Black Canary's boots — Tina (whose real name is actually Dinah because of course it is; nevertheless, I'll be referring to her as Tina throughout my reviews). Tina was a police officer and was undercover when something went wrong. A drug lord was about to kill her when the particle accelerator exploded. Though Tina and he survived, the villain shot Tina's partner and lover (Vince). The last thing Tina did before she became a metahuman was scream in agony over the death of her partner. It's really cool and also pretty sad that this is why Tina has her powers — her pseudo Canary Cry. 

Since Tina has been meta-humaned, she's taken it upon herself to kill or maim any and everyone who had a hand in Vince's death, including the drug lord himself. Tina knows that this is what her partner would have wanted and she stops at nothing in the episode to avenge him. Tina is a lot darker in many ways than the typical woman Oliver encounters. Even when he believes he's rehabilitated her with his support and an extended hand of friendship, she turns around and kills the drug lord in cold blood. 

But it's not enough. And Oliver, in spite of his ways, is the one person who understands well the notion that crossing names off a list doesn't make you feel any safer or happier. If anything, it can illuminate the gaping hole we have within each of our hearts. But back to Tina for a moment: as much as I appreciated the actresses' attempt to inject ferocity into her (and Tina was pretty fierce and unabashedly dark), the character herself isn't very intriguing. She's a trope — we've heard her story a million times before. A woman loses a man she loves, then vows to avenge him and goes dark because of it. The only added bonus in Arrow's case is that Tina is a metahuman and is able to use her powers to help in her crusade. Otherwise, I'm hoping that Tina will be able to break out of her stereotypical role now that she'll be integrated into Team Arrow.

Speaking of Team Arrow, they spend the episode tracking down Tina because they're on the prowl for a new Black Canary. But no one is good enough to replace Laurel, in Oliver's eyes. I didn't hate Laurel as a character as much as some people did, but I'm incredibly confused as to why Oliver didn't think people with professional fighting skills, advanced degrees, and who were humanitarian heroes couldn't replace a woman who went to a few private boxing lessons and worked as an attorney. Laurel was human, but for some reason the show wants us to believe that Oliver elevated her to superhuman status all the time. It's an odd choice for the writers to be so fixated on Laurel's death that it is used as a catalyst for the characters to do things they need to do but don't want to. 

Laurel dying has been at the center of the last two episodes (and many more before it), but this episode was different. "Second Chances," as Oliver pointed out is the first time it feels like Team Arrow is trying to replace one of their own — they want someone to pick up the mantle of Black Canary, and are having a difficult time finding the right fit. (Diggle so wonderfully points out that the team isn't replacing Laurel — they don't want a Laurel 2.0. They're just trying to move forward with another team member.) I can't articulate why, but it feels weird that Team Arrow would just traipse about the city, asking people if they'd like to join their super secret team.

Perhaps it's because this is the opposite of the way the team usually functioned — with would-be heroes just stumbling into the Arrow Cave or not really even becoming heroes until after they've trained with Oliver for a long time — bur something just felt off about them begging Tina to wear the mantle of their dead friend. Of course, that's not exactly what they're asking when they approach her. Oliver, if you'll recall, is still trying to atone for the guilt he feels over Laurel's death. He wants to save someone so they can save other people.

What a totally Oliver Queen thing to do.

I get that comic books essentially center around tropes and men rescuing women, but it just struck me that Oliver was so pushy in this episode in helping Tina. (The best part, obviously, is that in the flashbacks it was a woman (Talia) who was trying to redeem and save Oliver. So maybe I'll let this whole "save Tina from herself" thing slide.) I really did enjoy that Tina is unpredictable, though. Oliver expects that once Tina has the drug lord in her sights and at her mercy, she'll let him be prosecuted by the law. She asks him what Vince would do. Tina pauses, hesitates, and then pulls the trigger a few times. She tells Oliver that he would have wanted her to do THAT.

But in the end, Tina does realize the truth in what Oliver was pushing — she needs other people to help her find her way back to the light again. Killing the villain who murdered her lover doesn't make her life better. And I think that Oliver learned something in this episode too. Because he was extended a second chance, he fought for someone else's. Even if his execution is messy, Oliver's intentions are generally good. He wants people to use the chances they were given in order to become better people. And it's not just because he feels guilty over Laurel — it's because that is what a hero is, at their core: someone who sees the best in other people, even when they can't see it in themselves.


In trying to exonerate Diggle, Felicity takes a trip into the dark web and quite literally stumbles right into her past. With Rory watching and listening, she explains who she used to be — goth, a little angry and reckless, and a one-woman hacktivist. As Felicity recounts who she used to be, she does so in the way we all do: with wisdom and a little bit of nostalgia. I think it's easy to remember that time Felicity hallucinated her past self's scathing remarks and think that Goth!Felicity was all bad. But she really wasn't. If Felicity hadn't experienced the harsh darkness in the past that she did, she would not be the woman we know today. I think the one thing that this week's story illuminated is the fact that Felicity is at a crossroads in her life. It's something that we've known for a while now and that the show should have properly portrayed (given the fact that Felicity had to drop a nuclear weapon on a town, watched a friend of hers die, and then also learn her boyfriend died at the hands of her ex-fiance), but is at the center of her story in "Second Chances."

When Felicity is trying to hack the NSA — as you do — she gets a message from someone named Kujo Sledgehammer who says that they have all the information that Felicity needs to exonerate Diggle. But they want to meet in person. Taking Rory along as back-up, Felicity comes face-to-face with her biggest fangirl. Kojo is a bespectacled, Felicity 2.0 who essentially tells our blonde that there's an entire world out there that Felicity could be helping. Her skills are being wasted. Doesn't she even miss those days of hacktivisim? Doesn't she itch for the power and the secrets and the vigilantism? (She doesn't say those things but they're all implied.) Kojo gives Felicity the flash drive containing all of the information she needs for Diggle... and all of the information Felicity needs to return to her hacktivist calling.

The writers of Arrow noted that Felicity would be taking a darker path this year. And I was worried, a bit, that the show would try to turn her into some Sara Lance Jr., with baggage and pain and no hope. But that's not who Felicity is, at her core. Felicity is always going to be a character who hopes and who fights to find the light inside of everyone. She's always been determined to rescue people from themselves and to make an imprint in the world for the better. She's the queen of pep talks and inspirational monologues. And yet, she's also a woman who can choose exactly how she changes the world. 

That's where it's critical that this storyline is handled well. Because Felicity's descent into the rabbit hole that is Pandora — the program that Kojo handed over to Felicity — must be deliberate and delicate. Felicity's darkness is not like Oliver's darkness. My hope is that she slips slowly back into the way she used to be and that she continues to crave the power and freedom that comes with being total uninhibited and totally reckless with the rules for how she delivers justice. Felicity wants justice to be served and my hope is that this season, we'll get the chance to see her explore what that means and what lines she's willing to cross to accomplish her goals.

It'll also be interesting to see some parallelism with Oliver and Felicity's journeys. In the present-day, it seems like Oliver is beginning to learn the value of hope and of practicing what he preaches — in "Second Chances," he was open with Curtis and Rene about the plan he had to help Tina. When is Oliver EVER transparent about his plans? As Oliver is learning how to embrace hope, Felicity is being pulled into darkness. Will they be able to rely on one another and support each other now that their roles are reversed a bit? My assumption is that this inversion is on purpose and is a way for the writers to bring the two together again (maybe not romantically, yet, but at least in storylines). If Oliver and Felicity are able to understand one another — to walk in each other's shoes for a season — then trust can and will be rebuilt.

"Second Chances" introduced us to some new key players who will surely influence Oliver's life. It also delivered us to the gateway for Felicity's new "dark" trajectory. Though the episode was a bit slow in parts, it accomplished its goal of reminding all of us that second chances aren't to be wasted.

Bits & pieces:
  • I loved the fact that Tina's powers and the villain-of-the-week's powers canceled each other out. It was cool to see metahumans who had related powers, especially since I'm not watching The Flash anymore.
  • Normally, I've come to tune out the flashbacks. And this week, admittedly, I did that a little bit. But Talia al Ghul has arrived and she's incredible. I'm always a fan of a woman who can put Oliver in his place, and she certainly does. More than just that, though, is the fact that Talia helps Oliver become the person we meet in the pilot episode. She's the one who gives him his crusade and who helps him suit up. She's so different in a lot of ways from Nyssa, and I'm excited to learn more about her in the future.
  • "Why did you save me?" "Well, from what I could tell, you needed rescuing." I love me an inverted male/female rescue trope. Thanks for that one, Arrow.
  • "It doesn't matter because I am having FUN."
  • Rene enjoying eating crazy stacked burgers is probably my favorite thing this show has done recently. Also, I'm still digging the new Curtis/Rene friendship.
  • "Your belly hurts? Yeah, that's not surprising."
  • Felicity having her own fangirl is adorable.
What did you all think of this week's episode? Sound off in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. I like the new Black Canary, for now, but I´m not ready for an Oliver-black canary love story yet, I ship Olicity too much. I know how the show must handle things,they end up together, but I hope they don´t hook up this season.

    I love Rene, I liked him a lot as an actor before, but his character here is great. And with the new Diggle situation he gets more attention and we know his funnier side, yay!

    If Felicity is having fun, everything is fine! Loved that line, and love how after all this time she can impress Oliver with her skills ("how did you know what to look for if I just told you he may have something?".

    And I like Talia, actually she looks like her father a little phisically right? Let´s hope she give us more interesting flashbacks..... and what if she´s Prometheus? I suspected Chase, but with this Diggle thing... I don´t know what to think anymore. Maybe it was too obvious and with this they mislead us to think he´s good and he can´t be Prometheus... and this is great, Arrow goes back to being more the show it was in the beginning!